AAFP Launches Renewed Push to Block Impending Medicare Payment Cut, Repeal SGR

January 18, 2012 01:15 pm News Staff

The AAFP has declared Jan. 18 a day of action for Medicare payment reform and is urging its members to contact their representatives and senators in Washington via a Speak Out alert that supports fundamental reform to block an impending Medicare payment reduction by repealing the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.

Congress approved a bill at the end of last year that blocked a 27.4 percent payment cut scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. However, that short-term fix is scheduled to expire on Feb. 29.

"Unless Congress acts, family physicians will receive nearly a third less in their Medicare payments," warns AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., in a letter sent to members. He urges them to join in telling Congress to repeal the SGR once and for all. "Help us paint a picture of how these short-term fixes are seriously affecting family medicine -- making it increasingly difficult to provide much-needed primary care medical care," Stream says.

The Speak Out alert helps members send messages to their respective representatives in Washington and calls on Congress to "work toward a permanent fix to the SGR travesty."

During the past several years, the SGR has continually called for steep reductions in the Medicare payment rate -- reductions only averted by last-minute congressional action. This, in turn, has created a great deal of anxiety and instability in the physician community, posing a direct threat to patient access to care.

"We can no longer accept short-term fixes," says the Speak Out message. "Like any business, our practices need a sense of financial security, and the short-term fixes do not allow us to plan for the future."

The AAFP's renewed push for Medicare payment reform and repeal of the SGR comes as a House/Senate conference committee prepares to meet in Washington to reconcile differences in House and Senate bills that would postpone the Medicare payment cut for a longer period of time.

As the conference committee works toward a legislative solution to the Medicare payment cut, "Congress has the opportunity to repeal this flawed (SGR) formula once and for all," says Stream. "Unless it is repealed, we face only financial uncertainty and budget policies. Our patients and communities deserve better."