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Family Physicians Descend on Capitol Hill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 15, 2003
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224
The American Academy of Family Physicians and the Organizations of Academic Family Medicine host this annual spring legislative conference for their members to discuss subjects important to patients and family physicians.
The physicians will raise several issues with their elected officials, including:
Medicare prescription drug benefit: The AAFP supports adding a prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program that is available to all seniors. The benefit should be an integral part of the Medicare program rather than a separate private insurance program. However, President Bush’s “Framework to Modernize and Improve Medicare” creates three tiers of benefits based on the plan that the beneficiary chooses. This plan would disadvantage participants who wish to remain in the traditional Medicare program by providing fewer benefits. Beneficiaries choosing the private-sector option would receive significantly expanded drug benefits.
Medicare reimbursement: Physicians are grateful for the extraordinary effort made by legislators last year to develop legislation that resulted in a 1.6 percent increase instead of a 4.4 percent decrease in the Medicare reimbursement rates. However, Congress did not change the formula used annually to update reimbursement rates. The result is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that the rate for next year is likely to decline by 4.2 percent. This volatility is undermining the nation’s faith in Medicare and is likely to reduce the number of health care providers for elderly patients.
Medicare Indirect Medical Education (IME): IME payments from Medicare are critical to teaching hospitals, where they help pay for the multiple patient care missions of these hospitals. The payments help cover the higher costs of providing care to Medicare beneficiaries, who are often sicker than other patients and have especially complicated conditions. Because of recent cuts in the size of the IME payments, teaching hospitals can expect losses of more than half a billion dollars this year. The AAFP and the Organizations of Academic Family Medicine support the “American Hospital Preservation Act,” H.R. 1710/S. 899), which seeks to stabilize IME payments and reverse the projected losses.
Patient safety: Most of the research on patient safety issues has taken place in hospitals. However, the majority of health care delivery occurs in physicians’ offices. The AAFP supports confidentiality protections to encourage voluntary reporting of medical errors to patient safety organizations (PSOs). These protections were included in legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and introduced in the U.S. Senate. Both H.R. 663 and S. 720 would allow patient safety organizations to collect information from physicians in their offices.
Health professions training: The AAFP and OAFM support reauthorization and full funding for the health professions programs under Section 747 of Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. The program has two goals: increase the number of primary care doctors, and raise the number of people who will take care of the underserved. In short, family physicians are trained to provide most of the care that most people need most of the time and this program helps do that.
Medical liability insurance premiums: Family physicians around the nation are experiencing premium increases that range from 30 percent to 60 percent per year. The increases have forced some family physicians to limit their services, especially prenatal care and baby delivery, or even leave the medical profession altogether. The AAFP supports H.R. 5, “The HEALTH Act,” because it contains medical liability tort reforms that have brought stability to California for the past 27 years.
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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 110,600 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.
Approximately one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 240 million office visits each year — nearly 87 million more than the next largest medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.
To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org.
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