Task Force Meets to Discuss Unified Strategy for Ensuring Medicare Payment Fix Gets Done

September 07, 2011 07:00 pm James Arvantes

In terms of fixing the Medicare payment system, the AAFP has long called for scrapping the current system or, barring that, enacting a five-year Medicare payment fix that includes a 3 percent higher payment rate for primary care physicians. And during a meeting of physicians called to discuss strategy to ensure the congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or supercommittee, evaluates the overall effect pending cuts in Medicare payment rates would have on health care in the United States, AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., of Waco, Texas, reiterated the Academy's position.

"Everyone around the table discussed their views on the current strategies to persuade the so-called supercommittee to include a repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula (SGR) in its recommendations to Congress later this year," said Goertz about the AMA legislative task force meeting in Washington on Sept. 7. "Our strategy is to fix the SGR and provide a five-year period of stability. We also are asking for a payment rate that is at least 3 percent higher for primary care during the five-year period of stability."

The AMA's task force is working on a unified strategy for engaging with the supercommittee regarding the SGR, which has called for steep reductions in the Medicare payment rate during the past several years. Without congressional intervention, physicians face a 29.5 percent reduction in the Medicare payment rate on Jan. 1, which Goertz and other members of the task force identified as the biggest threat to physician practices.

"We put the 29.5 percent cut at the top of the list, and then we worked down from there to determine which strategies to develop to address (the SGR)," said Goertz.

The meeting included representatives from seven medical societies and seven professional organizations, including the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeions, the American Academy of Cardiology and the American Society of Anesthesiologists. The meeting revolved around question-and-answer sessions with AMA staff and discussion among task force members.

Story Highlights

  • The AMA has formed a task force to discuss a unified strategy for approaching the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction regarding Medicare payment rates.
  • AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., a member of the task force, is advocating a five-year payment fix that includes a 3 percent higher payment rate for primary care physicians during a five-year period.
  • Without congressional intervention, physicians face a 29.5 percent reduction in the Medicare payment rate on Jan. 1.

"There was a good open discussion about the significance of the SGR," said Goertz. "We are all engaged in trying to do what is best for our respective members and the physician community at large."

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has been tasked by Congress to develop a plan to achieve federal budget cuts and possible revenue increases. If the government fails to enact the committee's recommendations by Dec. 23, across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion will be automatically triggered.

Goertz noted that he also stressed the importance of graduate medical education, or GME, funding during the AMA task force meeting. The AAFP is opposed to any serious reductions in or the elimination of GME funding.

According to Goertz and other task force members, there will be an ongoing need for discussion about and refinements to any SGR strategy, as well as a collective effort by the groups represented to engage physicians in contacting their legislators.

"This is a game in evolution, and there are going to be some twists and turns," Goertz said.

Additionally, Goertz noted that he met with a staff member from the House Ways and Means Committee to talk about the newly formed AAFP Primary Care Valuation Task Force, which is reviewing the methods used to evaluate health care services provided via Medicare in order to make recommendations about how to properly value and pay for services provided by primary care physicians.

"The (House Ways and Means) Committee has expressed interest in knowing about (our efforts)," said Goertz. "So the AAFP is on Capitol Hill to explain what we are trying to accomplish with the task force."