AAFP Statement: Senate Must Quickly Pass House-Approved Medicare Legislation

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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

The American Academy of Family Physicians is pleased that the U.S. House has passed HR 6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, with such a strong majority. Such a vote reflects the outpouring of physician involvement in this issue.

This vote also demonstrates lawmakers’ understanding that America’s physicians cannot financially sustain the drastic 10.6 percent cut in Medicare compensation required by current law and still serve their elderly and disabled patients. It also demonstrates lawmakers’ concern for the wellbeing of Medicare beneficiaries, because the bill contains more protections for Medicare beneficiaries by providing parity for Medicare mental health benefits and increases in coverage for preventive services.

Without overriding current law, Congress will force physicians into a dilemma between sustaining significant financial losses or turning away Medicare patients. Neither is acceptable to family physicians. They entered medicine to care for people – including our most vulnerable citizens. But they cannot do so if severely inadequate compensation drives them out of business.

With its 18-month postponement of the Medicare physician payment scheduled for July 1, HR 6331 will enable America’s physicians to continue meeting the demand for primary medical care without incurring crippling losses. Moreover, HR 6331 helps strengthen the foundation on which to build health system reform by also expanding the Medicare Medical Home Demonstration project and continuing to help rural physicians compensate for their additional costs of business.

The AAFP calls on the U.S. Senate to quickly pass this legislation and send it to President Bush. Only with fast and determined action will the Senate ensure Medicare patients uninterrupted access to the care they need.

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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).