Nationwide Campaign Focuses on Repealing SGR, Protecting Key FP Programs

Family Medicine Matters Harnesses Member Advocacy, Engagement

October 14, 2011 04:45 pm James Arvantes

Today marks the start of a nationwide AAFP campaign to rally member and congressional support for issues key to the continued success of family medicine, and the Academy is looking for members' first-hand experiences to provide context for the debate.

The campaign, known as Family Medicine Matters, will employ a variety of methods to generate support for three key issues:

  • repeal of the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula;
  • protection of graduate medical education, or GME, funding; and
  • increasing funding for Title VII health professions training grants to $140 million.

As part of the campaign, the AAFP is issuing Speak Out alerts calling on members to contact their representatives in Washington about the importance of these three issues. In addition, the AAFP is asking members to send in their stories about how the possible 30 percent cut in Medicare payments called for by the SGR will affect them and their patients, what fewer residency programs will mean for their FP training programs, and what funding decreases for family medicine programs will mean for their studies. The AAFP will use these real stories to show lawmakers the challenges facing family medicine by putting actual names and faces on the issues.

Story highlights

  • The AAFP is launching a nationwide advocacy campaign to fight for family medicine issues during the deficit debate.
  • The Family Medicine Matters campaign will focus on the Medicare payment system, graduate medical education funding, and funding for Title VII health professions training grants.
  • The campaign is soliciting stories from Academy members about how cuts in these areas will affect them personally.

The Family Medicine Matters campaign is part of the AAFP's response to the federal government's search for ways to reduce the federal deficit. In August, Congress created the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- also known as the "supercommittee" -- to develop a plan for achieving federal budget cuts and possible revenue increases. If the federal government fails to enact the committee's recommendations by Dec. 23, across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion will be automatically triggered and scheduled to go into effect in 2013.

In the meantime, various congressional proposals have called for severe funding reductions for GME and Title VII health professions training grant programs, which is why Family Medicine Matters is focused, to a large extent, on protecting and preserving the programs. Section 747 of Title VII of the Public Health Service Act is the only federal program that provides funds for training family physicians.

"Issues that are important to family medicine involve some investment by the government," said Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., in an interview with AAFP News Now. "We have to make our case that continuing that investment is very important, despite the budget challenges."

Stream pointed out that the AAFP now has more than 100,000 members. "I think we as doctors sometimes underestimate our ability to influence the political process," he said. "We need to engage AAFP members with the message that our voice is important, and our voice is heard when we reach out to members of Congress."