AAFP Statement: Family Physicians Applaud Medicare Fee Schedule’s Investment in Primary Care

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Statement attributable to:
Roland Goertz, MD, MBA
American Academy of Family Physicians

The American Academy of Family Physicians applauds provisions of the 2011 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule that invest in the primary care infrastructure, increase patients’ access to preventive care, and move our nation toward a high quality health care system.

The fee schedule launches an important investment in our primary care system and reinforces the primary care infrastructure that will support a high performing and efficient health care system. Research consistently shows that such a system yields both improved outcomes for patients and cost efficiencies for everyone.

We are pleased that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services implemented our recommended changes to the original rule. As a result of those changes, 80 percent of family physicians — up from the 59 percent in the proposed rule — will receive Medicare Primary Care Incentive Payments. This incentive demonstrates health policy makers’ recognition that primary care physicians are the foundation of a high quality health care system and their commitment to building up the primary care physician workforce.

We’re equally pleased that Medicare patients will receive an annual wellness check-up and expanded access to preventive services.

However, current law requires the schedule to simultaneously undermine this progress by slashing overall Medicare physician payment by 25 percent — 23 percent on Dec. 1 and an additional 2 percent on Jan. 1.

We call on Congress to immediately address the scheduled Medicare pay cuts that will undermine patient access to care and threaten family physician offices’ financial viability. Lawmakers must act immediately to stop the pay cut. We urge Congress to approve a 13-month moratorium on the Medicare physician pay cuts and to use that time to develop a longer-term solution that includes increased payments for primary care physicians. Postponing such action will seriously destabilize Medicare, threaten access to care and undercut the nation’s efforts to reinforce primary care.

Editor’s Note: To schedule an interview with Roland Goertz, MD, MBA, please contact Leslie Champlin, 800-274-2237, Ext. 5224, or lchampli@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).