AAFP Statement: Congressional Inaction Temporarily Reduces Medicare Compensation to 1994 Levels

Friday, June 18, 2010

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

“The American Academy of Family Physicians is outraged that Congress failed to pass legislation before the devastating 21 percent reduction in Medicare payment went into effect.

“By its inaction, Congress has deserted America’s elderly and disabled patients as well as our military service members and families. They have sent family physicians and their medical counterparts back to 1994 compensation levels.

“The AAFP is providing resources to help family physicians reach out to patients and let them know about the impact these cuts will have on access to care. We are asking for their help in telling Congress to immediately and retroactively nullify this cut and implement a permanent, sustainable and equitable Medicare payment system.

“Congress has broken the trust with physicians and 44 million elderly and disabled Americans, and more than 1.45 million members of the military and their families. This is very likely to have direct and significant impact on health care access for these patients.

“Survey after survey has demonstrated that physicians cannot sustain such an abrupt and steep loss. Many family physicians, particularly those caring for patients in rural and medically underserved areas, are in small practices. They have no margin to cover a reduction of this magnitude. Unless the House of Representatives acts quickly on the Senate’s temporary fix, the 21 percent reduction in Medicare payment will cripple family physicians’ ability to continue caring for Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries.

“This afternoon the Senate voted unanimously for a 2.2 percent physician payment fix for six months. However, this agreement must be approved by the House before it can go into effect. The House will not be able to vote on it until Tuesday afternoon, June 22. We anticipate the House will pass it and Medicare payment will be increased by 2.2 percent next week. However, in the interim, physicians will see a 21.3 percent reduction in payment.

“This debacle is a sign of a much larger problem — a terribly flawed SGR formula that has long-term negative effects on Medicare and TRICARE patients. This disregard for our nation’s elderly and disabled citizens, as well as our military service members and their families, is intolerable and must be fixed.”

Editor’s Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Heim, contact Amanda Holt, 800-274-2237, Ext. 5223, or aholt@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 129,000 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only 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(www.familydoctor.org).