AAFP Statement: Sequestration Hammers Progress Toward Long-Term Health Care Solutions

Friday, March 01, 2013

Statement attributable to:
Jeffrey Cain, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“The American Academy of Family Physicians is dismayed and disappointed that Congress has allowed across-the-board cuts (called “sequestration”) to take effect. Such an approach to fiscal planning is short-sighted and detrimental to the nation’s ultimate goals for high-quality, affordable patient care.

“If Congress hopes to improve the quality of care and rein in its costs, the blunt force of sequestration is not the tool to use. Not only does it fail to produce targeted improvements in efficiency, but it threatens the programs that do work to meet those goals.

“Sequestration will slash thousands of dollars from family physicians’ practice revenue. Because private insurers base their payments on Medicare rates, family physicians will see a domino effect as private insurance payment reflects the cuts imposed by the sequester. As small businesses operating on a razor-thin margin, family physicians will face a stark choice between putting their practices at risk or reducing the number of elderly and disabled patients they can see. Rather than rein in costs, sequestration payment cuts to health care providers will reduce access to needed care, increase the risk that preventable health conditions will develop or will worsen, and increase the chance that patients will ultimately require more intensive and expensive care. Meanwhile, the cuts likely will encourage other providers to shift costs to private payers or patients.

“Worse, it perpetuates our already broken health care system and threatens the progress toward improving care and reducing costs. Sequestration even more severely cuts funding for health professions grants under Title VII, a program that focuses on primary care medical education programs; the National Health Service Corps, which encourages students to go into primary care and practice in underserved areas; and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which generates the evidence necessary to build a high-quality, high-value health care system. Cuts to graduate medical education funding will have a disproportionately negative impact on primary care physician residency training as teaching hospitals shift their limited number of training positions from primary care to more lucrative subspecialties.

“In short, tightening funds for already under-funded primary care education, workforce and infrastructure will slow efforts to rebalance our system on primary care. These outcomes will not build a health care system that meets Americans’ needs, increases efficiency and improves the quality of care. They are, instead, a reversal of what the American public, payers and employers are demanding.

“The AAFP calls on both Congress and the White House to come together to find a balanced approach that will avoid these devastating payment reductions and these harmful and arbitrary cuts to programs that are so important to family medicine.”

Editor's Note
: To arrange an interview with Dr. Cain, contact Leslie Champlin, (800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224, or lchampli@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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