Elgin physicians initiate grassroots patient campaign to fight Medicare cut

Tags: news, congress, medicare, reform, advocacy

Elgin physicians initiate grassroots
patient campaign to fight Medicare cut

posted 03.18.10

Ken Sherman, M.D., William Biel, M.D., and Marilyn Ruiz, M.D., have enlisted the aid of a powerful contingent in the fight against Medicare’s flawed payment formula: their patients. These family physicians wrote a letter describing the scheduled 21.2 percent cut in Medicare fees, and the history of similar threats from the past several years. They are presenting this letter to each patient that comes in to the office, discussing the problem, and encouraging patients to call or write their representatives in Washington, D.C.

“Our patients are outraged by this, and they’re totally supportive,” Sherman said.

The letter begins by declaring that the formula used to calculate fees in Medicare is broken, and that Congress has refused to implement a permanent solution, opting instead to pass a series of “patches” to postpone the scheduled cuts. “The fact of the matter is that Congress has been playing ‘chicken’ with the doctors of America and you, our Medicare patients,” the letter reads.

The letter then recounts the efforts of AAFP and its physician members to pass a permanent solution to the problem. “Since it is obvious they are not listening to us,” the letter reads, “now is the time for all of our Medicare patients to help us, because if our representatives will not listen to us, surely they will listen to you, the constituents.”

The doctors included a set of talking points along with contact information for senators and representatives. They say the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Our patients, especially our Medicare patients, they’ve been with us for 20 or 30 years, so they’re basically our friends, and they realize that Medicare has problems,” Biel says. “I think they’re glad to see something written out, and a lot of them are glad to finally say, ‘Hey, this is what we can do to help; this is how we can do our part.’”

Both Biel and Sherman say talking about important policy issues with patients is critical, especially when those policies directly affect patients’ access to care.

“My partner, Dr. Kenneth Sherman, should really get the credit. He’s been very politically active for years, and I admire him greatly for that,” Biel says. “We should all be more politically engaged as physicians.”

TAFP would like to know what other family physicians are doing to engage their patients and legislators. Please share stories with Jonathan Nelson at jnelson@tafp.org. Also e-mail Jonathan if you would like to receive a copy of the documents Drs. Sherman, Biel, and Ruiz have distributed.