AAFP Leaders Launch 'Full-court Press' on Capitol Hill

Meetings Stress Importance of SGR Repeal, GME Reform

February 17, 2012 11:40 am James Arvantes Washington –

AAFP leaders returned to Capitol Hill this week, where they continued to press Congress and the Obama administration for a repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula and greater support for family medicine training programs.

(Clockwise, from left) AAFP Board Chair Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., and President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., stress the importance of a repeal of the Medicare payment formula to Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, during a Feb. 14 meeting.

During a series of Feb. 13-14 meetings with a key House member, House and Senate staff members, and the acting administrator of CMS, AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I, of Spokane, Wash.; Board Chair Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., of Waco, Texas; President-elect Jeffrey Cain, M.D., of Denver; and EVP Douglas Henley, M.D., stressed the importance of repealing the SGR and blocking a 27.4 percent Medicare payment reduction scheduled to take effect March 1.

"There is universal, bipartisan recognition that this cut can't be allowed to go into place," said Stream in an interview with AAFP News Now. House and Senate members may have differing views on how to pay for the SGR repeal, but the "idea that the SGR has to be fixed is universal," he added.

"The AAFP pulled out all the stops and did a 'full-court press' on Capitol Hill," said Cain. "During the past few weeks, we have been activating our grassroots network around the SGR, and we have had our leadership on Capitol Hill to help our representatives understand how vitally important fixing the SGR is to our patients and our practices."

story highlights

  • AAFP leaders continued to press Congress and the Obama administration for a repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) during recent meetings on Capitol Hill.
  • Leaders also stressed the importance of graduate medical education and Title VII of the Public Health Service Act in producing more primary care physicians.
  • AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., noted that CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner was very interested in the Academy's viewpoint on GME reform.

The meetings between the AAFP leaders and legislators took place as a House and Senate conference committee met in Washington to reconcile differences between House and Senate bills that would postpone the Medicare payment cut beyond March 1. Consequently, the AAFP specifically targeted members of the conference committee.

"We are contacting as many people as we can who are serving on the conference committee," said Goertz. "We are speaking with them directly."

The AAFP leaders met with the staff of Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, and called on the offices of Reps. Rodney Alexander, R-La.; Nan Hayworth, M.D., R-N.Y.; and Mike Simpson, D.M.D., R-Idaho.

During their meetings, the AAFP leaders asked the legislators to support Title VII of the Public Health Service Act, the only federal program specifically dedicated to providing funds for training family physicians. In addition, they urged Congress to provide adequate resources for the National Health Services Corps and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research and discussed the role of graduate medical education (GME) in producing more primary care physicians.

The AAFP leaders also met with staff members of Reps. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash., to thank the representatives for co-sponsoring H.R. 3667, the Primary Care Workforce Access Improvement Act of 2011, which would establish a pilot project to allow a portion of GME payments to go directly to community-based primary care residency programs.

According to Stream, when they visited with CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, B.S.N., M.H.A., she was particularly interested in the topic of GME and H.R. 3667. "CMS is concerned that, as a nation, we don't have an adequate primary care workforce, and part of that has to do with GME," said Stream.

He also noted that Tavenner expressed interest in the AAFP Primary Care Valuation Task Force, which was established in July to identify alternative ways to more appropriately appraise the worth of evaluation and management services than the AMA/Specialty Society Relative Value Update Committee currently does.

The meeting with Tavenner allowed AAFP leaders to discover mutual ideas and interests. We will build on that as we go forward, said Stream. "The next step will be getting (Tavenner) some more information about our thoughts about the various GME pieces and the results and recommendations of our valuation task force."

Meanwhile, Stream said the "AAFP will be back on Capitol Hill again and again until Congress gets it right."