Videos, Speak Out Alert Drive Support for Medicare Payment Reform

October 28, 2011 01:30 pm News Staff

The AAFP is urging its members to "Stand up and fight" for Medicare payment reform via customized Speak Out alerts and two new videos in its Family Medicine Matters campaign.

The AAFP is asking members to contact their Congressional representatives about repealing the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula via customized Speak Out alerts. In addition, the Academy is calling on members to ask Congress for a set Medicare payment rate for the next three to five years. This will ensure there is time to study various payment methodologies to come up with something better than the SGR. The Academy also wants Congress to add a 3 percent increase for primary care physicians within that set payment rate for the next three to five years.

The two new videos in the Family Medicine Matters campaign reinforce the Academy's message about the dangers posed by the SGR and the AAFP's Medicare payment reform preferences. The first video features AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., who says, "It's time to stand up and fight for our profession, our practices and our patients. Here's the bottom line: we can't let the politicians make decisions that impact family physicians and our patients without hearing from us first."

The SGR has called for steep reductions in the Medicare payment rate during the past several years -- reductions that only have been averted by last minute congressional action. Unless Congress intervenes, the SGR will cut the Medicare payment rate by nearly 30 percent on Jan. 1.

Stream points out that many family physicians rely on Medicare for 25 percent of their income, meaning that a 30 percent reduction in the Medicare payment rate would translate into a "nearly $12,000 hit for the average family physician."

"Not only that, but many private insurers likely would follow suit and cut our payments," Stream adds. "That would deliver a crushing blow to our practices and our ability to care for our patients.

"I don't have to tell you; family docs are already stretched thin, and we need fair and stable payments," says Stream. "In the past year alone, Congress has temporarily patched the SGR problem five times. No other businesses operate with such uncertainty … why should we be forced to."

The second video features family physician Sarah Sams, M.D., of Hilliard, Ohio, who describes the impact of the SGR on her small family practice. Sams points out that many of her patients are seniors on Medicare. "I am glad I can give them the excellent care they deserve," she says. But the "SGR debacle has really taken a toll."

Sams explains that family physicians catch and treat illnesses early, and they manage many chronic conditions, which can help prevent unnecessary and expensive hospitalizations. Family physicians already get paid less than other specialties, says Sams, adding -- in a direct plea to Congress -- "When you are looking for places to cut the budget, don't look to primary care docs."

"Unless the SGR is fixed, a lot of us will not be able to afford to take new Medicare patients," she warns. "We may be forced to stop taking care of some (patients) that we currently see -- some practices may even go out of business. A lot of people out there -- mainly seniors -- could lose their doctors."