Family Physicians Endorse Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6252

LEAWOOD, Kan. – Legislation that averts a Medicare physician pay cut in July and provides a 1.1 percent Medicare increase in 2009 promises a measure of stability for both patients and the physicians who care for them.

That was the gist of a letter by Rick Kellerman, M.D., board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians, to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. The June 10 letter endorses the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (S. 3101), a bipartisan bill introduced by Baucus on June 6. The legislation extends the current Medicare payment for 2008 and calls for a 1.1 percent increase for 2009.

“This extension of the update will provide a measure of much needed predictability for family physician practices and should give everyone time to work on a permanent fix to this (current) unsustainable payment formula,” Kellerman writes in the letter.

The AAFP has consistently called for eliminating the existing sustainable growth rate formula by which Medicare payments are calculated. Without changing the system, physician payments are scheduled to plummet by 40 percent in the next five years. Only annual intervention by Congress would prevent such drastic reductions.

Sen. Baucus’ legislation also supports primary care by expanding support for and accelerating the implementation of the Medicare Medical Home Demonstration Project, moves that “are welcome steps toward a health care system that incorporates preventive care and the coordination of health care for those with chronic conditions,” Kellerman writes. “The evidence is clear that a broad use of the patient-centered medical home will make health care more efficient and will improve its quality.”

The patient-centered medical home enables patients to have an ongoing relationship with their primary care physicians who provide whole-person health services. Family physicians can meet 80 to 90 percent of health care needs – from diagnosing and treating contagious illnesses to managing complex chronic conditions, from providing outpatient procedures to delivering babies, and from seeing patients in hospitals and caring for patients in long-term care facilities. They also provide access to and coordinate subspecialty care for patients with serious illness.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that, compared to the U.S. system, countries with a primary care-based health care system have lower costs and populations with better overall health, longer life spans and lower infant mortality rate.

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 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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