AAFP Statement: Congressional Failure to Avert 21 Percent Medicare Cut Puts Elderly, Disabled at Risk

Friday, February 26, 2010

Attributable to:
Lori Heim, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“The American Academy of Family Physicians is deeply angered at congressional failure to avert the mandated 21.2 percent Medicare physician pay cut. This inaction — in the face of virtually universal calls by the medical community and advocates for Medicare beneficiaries — has put elderly and disabled patients at risk of losing access to care and imposed potentially devastating fiscal hardship on physicians.

“America’s family physicians are already straining to make ends meet with Medicare payment rates that have fallen behind inflation. Now they are in a situation in which they must decide between seeing Medicare beneficiaries or putting their medical practices at serious financial risk.

“With each delay since 2003 in addressing the sustainable growth rate formula on which Medicare physician payment is calculated, Congress has increased the cost of its ultimate reform. Now, citing the cost of averting the current law’s mandated payment reductions, Congress has failed to ensure that Medicare can provide America’s elderly and disabled patients with medical care when it is needed.

“Nearly one in four patients seen by family physicians is a Medicare beneficiary. Many of our members, especially in rural and medically underserved areas, are in small practices that have no margin to cover even a temporary reduction of this magnitude. The 21.2 percent reduction in Medicare payment will cripple family physicians’ ability to continue caring for this vulnerable group of Americans.

“Without immediate action, Congress will renege on its promise of ensuring access to health care for their elderly and disabled constituents. The American Academy of Family Physicians calls on Congress to enact Medicare payment that helps keep doctors’ doors open and ensures access to care for millions of Americans who rely on Medicare.”

Editor’s Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Heim, contact the AAFP Public Relations office, 800-274-2237, Ext. 8710.

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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).