AAFP Statement: Passage of Medicare Bill is First Step to Stabilizing Health Care Access for the Elderly and Disabled

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Statement Attributable to:
James King, M.D.
American Academy of Family Physicians

The American Academy of Family Physicians applauds the Senate’s passage of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (HR 6331). Today’s vote is a first step to ensuring the stability of Medicare, which serves 44 million elderly and disabled patients, and TriCare, which serves 8.9 million military service members and their families.

The AAFP’s 93,300 members now call on President Bush to sign this legislation immediately.

Once signed into law, HR 6331 will buy an 18-month reprieve for elderly, disabled, and military patients by providing a small pay increase to physicians and allowing them to care for Medicare and TriCare patients without sacrificing their offices’ financial viability.

However, this annual agony over Medicare patients’ access to care must end. Each year, the Medicare physician payment formula holds beneficiaries hostage to 11th-hour Congressional negotiations that often have little to do with actual health care for elderly and disabled Americans. Since 2001, the result has been stagnant Medicare payment that has forced family physician offices to struggle with dramatically lower revenues at a time of skyrocketing costs of doing business.

Congress must make good use of the time afforded them by HR 6331. They must pass Medicare reform that discards the destabilizing and flawed sustainable growth formula and – in its place – implements the Medicare Economic Index (MEI) as the basis for physician payment calculations. Only by implementing the MEI, which reflects the cost-of-business inflation and ensures that the physicians can afford to care for Medicare and TriCare beneficiaries, will Congress serve their constituents.

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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).