AAFP Statement: Senate's Failure to Address Medicare Payment Ill Serves America's Elderly and Disabled Patients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
Friday, June 27, 2008

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

The American Academy of Family Physicians is dismayed and deeply disappointed that the U.S. Senate has failed in its responsibility to enact legislation to prevent a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare physician payment to take effect July 1.

The impact of this failure goes beyond the medical community; it threatens Medicare beneficiaries’ access to health care because it further drives family physicians toward financial insolvency. Access problems for these patients are emerging. In its 2007 presentation to Congress, MedPAC reported that 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries were having trouble finding a new primary care physician. In March, the Medical Group Management Association reported that nearly 24 percent of physicians in all specialties had begun limiting or not accepting new Medicare patients; 46 percent would limit or stop accepting new Medicare patients with implementation of the 10.6 percent pay cut scheduled for July 1.

Family physicians have worked tirelessly on behalf of Medicare patients. Despite those efforts, family physicians have struggled with 20 percent inflation in costs for office space, equipment, supplies, health and administrative staff, medical liability insurance and other costs of business since 2001. During that time, their Medicare compensation for their services has stagnated. No small business – as most family physician practices are – can sustain that kind of loss and remain open to care for people.

It is unconscionable that our elected officials – who were sent to Washington to represent the needs of the American public – cannot act to ensure access to care for millions of their elderly and disabled constituents.

The Senate must get back to work and find a solution that will allow family physicians to serve their Medicare patients. Of all their constituents, elderly and disabled Americans are least able to cope with the instability that Congressional inaction forces on their access to health care.

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 131,400 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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