Family Physicians Thank Sen. Grassley and His Colleagues For Helping Rural Patients and Physicians
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 15, 2003
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224
"This amendment corrects the geographic disparities under the Medicare reimbursement system in a way consistent with the recommendations and policies of AAFP. The AAFP believes geographic adjustments in the Medicare fee schedule should only exist when they are designed to achieve a specific policy goal, such as encouraging physicians to practice in underserved areas. Without the corrections to be accomplished by the Grassley amendment, family physicians in underserved areas are reimbursed at lower rates. It is often difficult for a physician in a rural area to continue to provide health care and cover his or her costs of operation.
“Sen. Grassley’s legislation would also refine and enhance the existing Medicare incentive payment program, which pays a small bonus to physicians for treating Medicare patients in underserved areas. The language in the amendment responds to criticism of the program raised in a 1997 study by the General Accounting Office.
“Both of these aspects of the amendment would help Medicare patients have the access they need to physicians and quality health care. It’s a simple formula: physicians need to be able to afford to keep their offices open. This amendment will help rural physicians keep their doors open, keep the staff and equipment necessary to provide quality health care, and continue to do what they love to do: help their patients be as healthy as possible.
“I am from the state of Mississippi, and I know that this amendment would help my colleagues in the AAFP who live and practice there and in rural areas across the country. I can tell you we know the difficulties of keeping our doors open in a rural area. We thank Sen. Grassley and his colleagues for understanding as well.
“The legislation is not final. It faces a long and probably difficult conference between the Senate and the House of Representatives before a final bill is achieved. We hope this important amendment will be part of the final legislation. Family physicians from across the country will be in Washington next week to meet with our elected officials and we will certainly be letting them know how important these issues are to our patients.”
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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.