AAFP Statement: Congress Must Stop ‘Patching’ Medicare and Start Implementing Permanent Solution

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Statement attributable to:
Lori Heim, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“Tuesday’s late-night passage of a 29-day patch to the mandated 21 percent Medicare pay cut — and legislation now before the Senate to extend this patch — buy time. But this doesn’t build physician confidence and trust in a system on which millions of elderly, disabled Americans and military families with TRICARE depend. Instead, it contributes to the growing cost of permanently resolving a problem that has dragged on for nine years.

“That problem is the sustainable growth rate on which the Medicare physician payment formula is based. Because of the way it’s structured, the pay cut demanded by this dysfunctional formula accumulates, as does the cost of permanently solving the problem.

“Without scrapping the unworkable SGR, America’s physicians will continue to labor under an unpredictable system that threatens elderly and disabled patients’ and military families’ access to care. Without implementing a comprehensive reform of Medicare physician payment, Congress is merely adding to the ultimate cost of a permanent solution.

“This annual agony over Medicare and TRICARE patients’ access to care must end. Postponing a permanent solution is false economy. Putting elderly and disabled patients at risk of losing access to medical care is unconscionable.

“Family physicians join their medical colleagues, the AMA, and patient advocates in calling for a permanent solution to this dysfunctional and expensive system. Drop the SGR. Implement the Medicare Economic Index, which reflects cost-of-business inflation and ensures that physicians can afford to care for Medicare beneficiaries. Take care of business. Take care of your constituents.”

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 129,000 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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