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 AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited 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(familydoctor.org).