Looming Sequestration Cuts Prompt AAFP to Launch Renewed Grass-roots Push

February 13, 2013 03:05 pm News Staff

The AAFP has launched a renewed grass-roots campaign to block impending budget cuts called for by the Budget Control Act's sequestration provision. The Academy has issued a Speak Out alert to rally AAFP member opposition to the reductions, which are scheduled to take effect March 1.

[Stock Photo-Action Alert Signage-Man Running]

If enacted, the across-the-board sequestration reductions would cut the Medicare physician payment rate by 2 percent and other key primary care programs by as much as 8 percent, threatening access to care for millions of patients, including seniors and disabled Americans. The grass-roots campaign includes a Speak Out letter for members to e-mail to their representatives in Washington and a Web page outlining key family medicine programs that would be hurt by the looming cuts.

These programs include funding for Medicare graduate medical education (GME); the National Health Services Corps (NHSC); the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); and health professions training grants provided by Title VII, Section 747 of the Public Health Service Act, which is the only federal program to provide funds specifically to increase the number of primary care health professionals.

"The cuts called for by the sequestration have the potential to harm Medicare patients, graduate medical education, and even the research that shows how primary care and family medicine improves quality while controlling health care costs," said AAFP President Jeff Cain, M.D., of Denver, in an interview with AAFP News Now. "Our members, through the Speak Out process, can register their concerns with their congressional representatives about the damage these potential cuts will have on primary care and family physician programs."

The Speak Out letter urges congressional members to "work meticulously in the coming days to reach a bipartisan agreement and pass legislation to extinguish the Budget Control Act's sequestration provision. The across-the-board cut threatens access to care for seniors and disabled Americans, increases physician shortages in rural and underserved areas of the country, and hinders family physicians' ability to determine how to deliver quality, cost-effective care."

The Web page that is part of the grass-roots outreach reminds AAFP members that "the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will result in across-the-board cuts to key health programs in the next 10 years if Congress does not act by March 1." The page also provides a brief description of how the reductions would affect five key family physician programs.

For example, "If enacted, (sequestration) could lead to serious care access issues for Medicare patients, as well as medical practice employment reductions. Seniors in the Medicare program would face obstacles connecting with the patient-centered medical home and would be forced to rely on episodic, acute care services, forgoing the more cost-effective, coordinated and preventive care services provided by primary care physicians."