AAFP Statement: President’s Budget Stabilizes Medicare Payments, Plans for Primary Care Physician Workforce

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

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

“The fiscal year 2012 budget proposed by President Barack Obama sets the stage for both stabilizing the Medicare physician payment system and building up the primary care physician workforce.

“At a time when we all see the need for austerity in federal spending, we welcome the administration’s recognition that ensuring access to family physicians is integral to better health for Americans and controlled health care spending nationwide.

“By proposing a two-year, paid-for moratorium on the mandatory Medicare pay cuts under the sustainable growth rate formula, the budget, if enacted, would provide respite from the monthly and sometimes bimonthly threats to the financial stability of family physician practices. As small businesses, these physicians could plan in a more predictable economic environment — a prerequisite for ensuring they could remain open to provide health care to their communities. This budget would lay the groundwork for an eventual legislative solution to the dysfunctional Medicare physician payment formula that has destabilized elderly and disabled Americans’ access to the health services they need.

“The AAFP is disappointed that the budget does not include a requested payment differential for primary care specialists in the payment formula; however, while this budget does not lay out a payment formula, it does preserve the 10 percent Medicare incentive for primary care physicians and general surgeons.

“Moreover, the budget proposes National Health Service Corps funding that maintains a commitment to building up the primary care physician workforce — the underpinning of a high quality, efficient health care system. Combined with provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the NHSC budget supports more than 3,000 new medical school loan repayment programs for new physicians who establish practices in underserved areas. Budget recommendations for Title VII of the Public Health Service Act, again if Congress enacted them into law, would support innovative programs that would produce an additional 2,500 physicians and physician assistants over five years.

“Americans depend on primary care physicians for access to immediate care as well as ongoing and comprehensive health services. Our health care system depends on primary care for coordination of services that prevents duplication and fragmentation and that helps control health spending. The administration’s FY 2012 budget for health care programs is a step in the right direction to reinforcing the foundation of family medicine and the health care system that it supports.”

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