TAFP President issues statement on congressional failure to avert cut in Medicare physician fees
Congress has had more than a year to repeal the flawed Medicare payment formula and avert a 21.2-percent cut to physicians, and they have failed at every opportunity to do so. This crisis is Congress' creation and the politics leading to this failure are maddeningly disingenuous.
Instead of paying claims at the reduced rates starting March 1, it is our understanding that CMS will ask Medicare carriers to hold physician claims for 10 business days in hopes that Congress will act during that time. The notion of buying more time to fix this problem is all Congress has done for the last 9 years,and this is simply unacceptable.
One doesn't need much of a sense of history to see where this is going. In 2006 Congress passed a temporary payment freeze after they let a similar deadline pass, and retroactively restored Medicare payments. While this provided a short-term solution and reversed the cuts, physicians faced cash-flow problems and the administrative burden of having to reconcile their claims.
Worse yet, this cut will have a devastating effect on our seniors' access to care. Should Congress allow this cut to take effect, many physicians will be forced to limit the number of Medicare patients they can afford to see.
The ongoing battle over the Medicare payment formula is emblematic of the larger financing question: Where will Congress find $250 billion to pay for a long-term solution? As AAFP, state chapters, and almost every family physician have been preaching, we can pay for the Medicare payment fix with the savings achieved by defragmenting our delivery system and better coordinating care to ensure Medicare patients receive the right care, at the right time, in the right setting.
You should know that AAFP leaders including President-elect Roland Goertz, M.D., of Waco, have worked tirelessly on Capitol Hill fighting against this devastating cut. Your Academy will continue to work on your behalf to make sure Congress understands the harm their inaction causes to Medicare beneficiaries and those who care for them.
In the meantime you need to be prepared to withstand a possible disruption in your cash flow. The deadline to tell CMS whether you will or will not participate in Medicare in the coming year is March 17.
Kaparaboyna Ashok Kumar, M.D., F.R.C.S.