Academy Launches Effort to Reform Medicare Payment System as COD Convenes

September 13, 2011 06:05 pm News Staff

As the AAFP's Congress of Delegates, or COD, meets in Orlando, Fla., this week, the Academy continues to rally support for a Medicare payment fix by urging delegates and other AAFP members to send an Action Alert letter that calls for an immediate repeal of the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula to their Congressional representatives.

The AAFP has set up a grassroots advocacy booth at the COD where delegates and others can access and send the Action Alert letter to their representatives straight from the conference. AAFP members not at the COD also can access and send the letter from their own computers.

The SGR has triggered steep reductions in Medicare physician payment rates during the past several years -- reductions that only have been averted by last-minute congressional action. Physicians face a nearly 30 percent reduction in the Medicare physician payment rate on Jan. 1 unless Congress acts to block the cut.

If enacted, the steep payment reduction would cause instability in the physician community, likely disrupting patient access to care. Consequently, the Action Alert contains a section that gives family physicians an opportunity to share their own experiences in family medicine and to explain the effect the pending SGR cut would have on their practices and the threat it poses to patient care.

"The SGR is one of the biggest issues we are going to have to deal with this year," said AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A. of Waco, Texas. "I would ask our members to stay involved and help us convince elected officials that Medicare payment reform needs to happen."

The Action Alert comes as the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Committee or "supercommittee" meets to develop a plan to achieve federal budget cuts and possible revenue increases. If the government fails to enact the supercommittee's recommendations by Dec. 23, across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion will be triggered automatically.

"Right now, the supercommittee is considering ways to cut spending," the Action Alert says. "This is a critical time to send a clear message to Capitol Hill: Fix Medicare's broken physician payment formula now."