AAFP Continues to Pressure Congress on SGR Fix

Congressional Action Needed to Block Pending 21.2 Percent Pay Cut

February 17, 2010 04:15 pm News Staff

As the deadline for the postponed 21.2 percent cut in Medicare physician payment rates approaches, the AAFP is rallying support from members via its Speak Out program, urging them to contact their congressional representatives. "Without congressional intervention, Medicare physician payments will be slashed by more than 21 percent -- a cut that inarguably will compromise access to care for Medicare patients," says the Speak Out letter.

In addition, AAFP President Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C., called on members in a Feb. 17 letter to either call or e-mail their senators to explain the "effect these cuts will have on you, your practice and your patients."

"Urge them and their colleagues to take immediate action to establish a permanent solution to the physician payment system," said Heim in the letter.

Congress passed a bill in December that delayed the 21.2 percent payment cut called for by the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula until March 1, but now the "cut is just days away," warns Heim in the president's letter.

Congressional interventions to stop Medicare physician payment cuts during the past few years have amounted to temporary fixes and not a permanent solution to the SGR problem, said Heim. What is needed is a permanent fix to the flawed formula, she noted.

"It is a travesty that Congress continues to kick this can down the road and doesn't address the underlying issue," said Heim in an interview with AAFP News Now. "Everyone agrees there needs to be a permanent fix." But in the meantime, she added "we have to at least have a short-term fix."

"There are too many family physicians who will suffer financial hardship if this 21 percent cut goes through," Heim said. "If Congress cannot provide a permanent fix, then they need to at least make sure they don't allow this cut to go through."