AAFP Leads Fight to Shield Primary Care Programs From Budget Cuts, Preserve Medicaid/Medicare Parity Provision

December 05, 2012 05:05 pm News Staff

The AAFP has launched a grass-roots campaign to accomplish the twin goals of protecting primary care programs from possible budget cuts and killing a House proposal that would eliminate a provision in the health care reform law to bring Medicaid payments for primary care services up to Medicare levels for the next two years.

[Keyboard-Act Now]

Congress and the Obama administration are locked in intense negotiations about the Budget Control Act's (BCA's) sequestration provision, which calls for across-the-board payment cuts starting in January. In response, the AAFP has asked its members, via its Speak Out alert program, to contact their legislators to ensure that they do not make cuts to graduate medical education (GME) funding and other programs considered vital to primary care and family medicine.

Another Speak Out alert is rallying AAFP member opposition to a House proposal that would pay for a year-long Medicare physician payment patch by eliminating the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid/Medicare parity provision.

story highlights

  • The AAFP has launched a grass-roots campaign to protect primary care programs from across-the-board budget cuts.
  • As part of the campaign, the AAFP has issued three separate but related Speak Out Alerts urging members to weigh in on the issues.
  • The Academy also is involved in negotiations with Congress to avert a pending 26.5 percent Medicare payment reduction.

"Legislators have until the end of the year to attempt to reach a solution that resolves our nation's budget deficit and stops us from going over a 'fiscal cliff,'" says the AAFP. "We must insist that (legislators) protect critical family medicine programs. We cannot afford for Congress to put family medicine at risk."

The grass-roots campaign provides brief summaries of the issues and provides members with letters they can send to their representatives in Washington. For example, the information on the Medicaid/Medicare parity issue acknowledges that physicians are facing a steep payment reduction on Jan. 1 as a result of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. However, according to the AAFP, eliminating the Medicaid/Medicare parity provision and "withdrawing the promise of primary care for low-income working families cannot be used to avoid the SGR cut."

Another issue is the danger posed by potential cuts to the National Health Service Corps and Title VII primary care training grants. "These programs engage medical students in community-focused improvement projects while emphasizing the importance of the patient-centered medical home," says the Academy.

The AAFP also is asking members to advocate on GME funding, which "helps family medicine residents train to become well-rounded physicians, including valuable placements in communities across America where they deliver cost-effective, coordinated care. Primary care training programs will disproportionately suffer if Congress imposes GME cuts," the Academy warns.

The grass-roots campaign represents one part of the AAFP's efforts to protect programs that are vital to the interests of family medicine during the current budget negotiation process. The Academy also is working to avert the pending 26.5 percent Medicare payment reduction scheduled to take effect as a result of the SGR and an additional 2 percent reduction in the payment rate called for by the BCA's sequestration provision on Jan. 2.

The AAFP also has engaged with its constituent chapters by providing them with background materials and urging them to weigh in on the issues by adding their signatures to a sign-on letter to Congress on which the AAFP and other physician groups are working.