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AAFP, ACP, and AOA Meet with Congress on Medicare Reimbursements to Physicians
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 10, 2005
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224
On November 2, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2006 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule. The physician fee schedule specifies payment rates to physicians for services and procedures. Under current law, the fee schedule is updated on an annual basis according to a flawed formula that irrationally links the updates to the growth in the U.S. economy. Based upon this formula, payment rates for physician will be reduced 4.4 percent in 2006. The 2006 reductions mark the first in several years of projected cuts for physicians participating in the Medicare program. According to the 2005 Medicare Trustees Report, physicians will see their reimbursements cut at a rate of 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent per year through 2013.
On November 3, the United States Senate passed legislation that would provide a 1 percent increase in Medicare physician payments for 2006. This modest increase for 2006 is appreciated, but falls short of the comprehensive reforms that must be adopted. Physician payments continue to lag further behind actual medical practice costs with no apparent end in sight.
"Our organizations, representing over 245,000 primary care physicians nation-wide, are in Washington to express our ongoing concerns about the impact of this cut on Medicare beneficiaries’ access to physician services," stated ACP President C. Anderson Hedberg, M.D., FACP.
Philip Shettle, D.O., President of the AOA added "reform of the Medicare physician payment formula, specifically the flawed sustainable growth rate, is a top priority for each of our organizations. For too many years, physicians have been subjected to an unpredictable and inequitable payment formula that fails to account for increases in the costs of providing care."
“Several times during the past few years Congress has acknowledged that decreased Medicare payments to Family Doctors will likely mean decreased health care for those who need it the most -- the elderly,” said Larry S. Fields, President of the AAFP. “We are here to share the fact that some family physicians are facing actual bankruptcy and many may be forced to close their doors to new Medicare patients and some will have to leave practice entirely if our payments are cut by 4.4 percent. We are extremely hopeful that Congress will once again recognize how important it is to fix the flawed Medicare payment formula and assure health care to our seniors.”
"Medicare beneficiaries rely upon their physicians not only for quality health care, but also for access to other parts of the Medicare program," concluded Dr. Hedberg. "We look forward to working with Congress to maintain access to physician services for the millions of beneficiaries participating in the Medicare program.”
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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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