AAFP Encourages Members to Advocate for Long-Term Medicare Payment Fix

Revised Academy Policy Drives Grass-roots Campaign

June 02, 2010 04:30 pm News Staff

The AAFP has launched a grass-roots campaign to convince Congress to pass legislation that would meet the Academy's revised policy for Medicare physician payment and the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula.

The AAFP's executive committee decided last week that if Congress cannot pass a permanent fix for the Medicare physician payment formula, the Academy will not support legislation that provides a temporary patch unless it includes a positive primary care payment differential and a payment extension through at least Dec. 31, 2012.

Now, the Academy has issued two e-mail alerts: one to members of its key contacts program and the other to members of Connect for Family Medicine -- formerly known as Connect for Reform. In both instances, the e-mails call on AAFP members to contact their senators and let them know that Medicare cuts and short-term payment patches are unacceptable.

Although the House passed a bill that would provide a 2.2 percent increase in the Medicare payment rate for the rest of 2010 and a 1 percent increase in 2011, the Senate failed to act on the measure before adjourning for a weeklong Memorial Day recess on May 28. The result was that a 21.3 percent reduction in physician payment called for by the SGR took effect on June 1. The Senate is expected to act quickly on the 19-month update when it reconvenes on June 7, but because it does not meet the newly established AAFP criteria, the Academy will not support the legislation.

"The short-term Band-Aid approach does not provide the stability that people need," said AAFP President Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C. "Month-to-month or 19 months -- it does not suffice."

With the e-mail alerts, "AAFP members and, hopefully, their patients will let Congress know how important it is that we not only reverse the 21.3 percent cut, but that we also look for a longer-term solution," said Heim. "It is going to take the efforts of our members and their patients to convince Congress to do the right thing."

The two e-mail alerts call on AAFP members to "call or meet with your senators this week while they are home for Memorial Day recess. Ask them to rescind your Medicare pay cut and institute a long-term fix to the flawed SGR formula."

The e-mails also contain a link to the AAFP's Speak Out Web page, which provides instructions on how to set up meetings with senators, how to present information during those meetings, and the best ways to convey messages to Senate offices via e-mails and phone calls. The page also includes a template for a letter to the editor that members can submit to their local newspapers.