AAFP Statement: Congressional Failure to Address Medicare Payment Deeply Angers Family Physicians

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Statement attributable to:
Glen Stream, MD, MBI
American Academy of Family Physicians

“The American Academy of Family Physicians is outraged that Congress failed to prevent the 27.4 percent Medicare physician pay cut mandated by current law. That failure has presented their elderly and disabled constituents a bitter holiday gift — uncertainty whether their physicians will be able to provide the services they need.

“Regardless of whether Congress will retroactively make up this devastating loss of practice income next year, federal lawmakers’ failure to act will cause grave disruption in physician practices. Nearly one in four patients seen by family physicians is a Medicare beneficiary. For some family physicians, Medicare patients comprise as much as eight in 10 of their patients. No business can sustain such immediate and draconian cuts to their revenue.

“A year ago — when this very same threat of deep Medicare payment cuts was looming — the American Academy of Family Physicians called on Congress to work together to solve the annual Medicare physician payment debacle. The AAFP urged federal lawmakers to pass a three- to five-year SGR update, a 3 percent differential for primary care physicians to begin rebalancing the system on primary care, and a serious assessment of payment models that would put Medicare physician payment on a steady path.

“In the interim, Congress has done nothing.

“Without scrapping the unworkable SGR, America’s physicians will continue to labor under an unpredictable system that threatens elderly and disabled constituents’ 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 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.”

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Stream, 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).