AAFP Launches Grass-roots Campaign to Block Pending Medicare Cuts

Academy Urges Members to Speak Out on 30 Percent Reductions

October 03, 2012 06:30 pm James Arvantes

The AAFP has aggressively launched a targeted grass-roots campaign to prevent the enactment of two back-to-back Medicare physician payment cuts that would result in a nearly 30 percent reduction in the Medicare physician payment rate.

[AAFP Advocacy-man walking down Capitol stairs]

The Academy has sent separate Speak Out alerts to its student(www.capwiz.com), resident(www.capwiz.com) and family physician(www.capwiz.com) members urging them to contact their senators and representatives to voice strong opposition to Medicare payment cuts scheduled to take effect as a result of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula on Jan. 1 and the Budget Control Act's (BCA's) sequestration provision on Jan. 2. If enacted, the SGR would cut the Medicare physician payment rate by 27 percent, and the BCA's sequestration provision would result in a 2 percent reduction, making it difficult for many physicians to provide care to Medicare patients.

"Family physicians give American seniors the quality, efficient and comprehensive care that makes a real difference in health," say the Speak Out alerts. "However, possible untargeted across-the-board Medicare budget cuts stand to impede this care delivery."

AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., said the combination of the SGR and sequestration cuts "threatens the financial viability of many family physician practices," potentially decreasing the availability of primary care services for both Medicare and Tricare patients.

Story Highlights

  • The AAFP has launched a grass-roots campaign to block impending Medicare physician payment reductions called for by the sustainable growth rate and the sequestration provision.
  • If enacted, the reductions would result in a nearly 30 percent reduction in the Medicare physician payment rate by early January.
  • The AAFP has issued Speak Out alerts giving members an expedited way to reach their representatives in Washington to voice opposition to the impending reductions.

"Our grass-roots efforts to avert these cuts are timely and important," Stream said in an interview with AAFP News Now. "With Congress in recess and members of Congress in their home districts, now is the time to make our concerns known."

"Medicare's flawed SGR formula has pummeled physicians' financial future with threatened cuts for nearly 11 years," says a letter from Stream to members. "These last-minute patches are not acceptable, and a permanent solution is needed. Family physicians need a dependable payment system to support care delivery."

The letter also describes the sequestration as a "heavy handed and inefficient way of addressing our nation's deficit troubles. The issue should be tackled with a comprehensive and bipartisan approach that results in a solution that supports the health of our communities."

The AAFP is providing letters and talking points to help members deliver their messages to Congress. The Academy also is urging members, when reaching out to congressional representatives, to explain how the impending reductions will affect their patients and practices.

A new analysis from a national consulting firm in Pittsburgh highlights the importance of the grass-roots effort by AAFP members. The Tripp Umbach analysis(www.ama-assn.org) demonstrates the effects of sequestration on the U.S. health care system and the U.S. economy.

The analysis notes that the 2 percent sequester, which is scheduled to remain in effect from 2013 until 2021, will trigger Medicare reductions that will grow from $10.7 billion in 2013 to $16.4 billion in 2021.

Based on the model employed by the analysis, the first year of funding cuts will result in job losses of more than 496,000 jobs. "The employment models show that employment losses increase as the cuts do. By 2021, the loss of 2 percent in Medicare funding … will translate into more than 766,000 fewer jobs in the U.S. economy."

The overall job losses pertain to health care employees as well as other jobs supported by the purchases of health care organizations and their employees -- the so-called multiplier effect, says the report.