AAFP Continues to Press Congress for Medicare Payment Solution

Academy Signs on to AARP Letter

October 25, 2011 05:25 pm News Staff

The AAFP continues to press Congress for a long-term Medicare payment fix. In one of its latest efforts, the Academy has signed on to an AARP-circulated letter(www.ama-assn.org) that calls on Congress to repeal the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula, which has triggered steep cuts in the Medicare payment rate during the past nine years.

"We need to move away from the current payment formula that, year after year, relies on congressional action to postpone scheduled payment cuts, including a drastic 29.5 percent cut scheduled to take effect beginning Jan. 1," says the letter, which was sent to the Senate Finance Committee on Oct. 19 and signed by six physician and Medicare beneficiary organizations, including the AAFP.

In the letter, the signatories point out that "Congress has long recognized that the SGR is a poor method for establishing Medicare payment rates for doctors; in each of the last nine years it has voted to override the cuts mandated under the formula.

"New payments methods are needed that maintain access and encourage the delivery of high-quality care. Another temporary patch to avoid next year's cuts does not deliver the stability that people with Medicare need. Stop-gap measures have served to increase the size of future cuts, the cost of long-term reform and the insecurity among people with Medicare about their ability to see the doctor of their choice."

According to the letter, "Addressing the current flawed payment formula is a necessary and far-sighted course of action. As we address this problem, we must also ensure that we keep the Medicare program affordable for beneficiaries, especially given that today the average older person spends nearly 20 percent of his/her income on health care."

The groups also stress the importance of primary care by calling for "a continued focus on physician services, including care coordination provided by primary care physicians, which are key to achieving the goals of better care, better health and lower costs."