AAFP, specialty organizations develop strategy to avoid Medicare payment cut

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AAFP, specialty organizations develop strategy to avoid Medicare payment cut

posted 09.13.11

AAFP met with representatives from seven medical societies and seven professional organizations last Wednesday, Sept. 7, to develop a unified strategy to approach the newly formed congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and urge its members to avoid making damaging cuts to Medicare and graduate medical education.

As reported in the last edition of QuickInfo, the joint committee, or supercommittee, has a historic opportunity to address the structural deficit in how the country pays physicians for the services rendered to Medicare beneficiaries. The 12 committee members can identify offsets from all areas of government, rather than only finding offsets within Medicare Part B as has complicated a fix in years past. Similarly, the supercommittee could recommend federal medical liability reform and score those savings toward deficit reduction. They must finalize their plan by Thanksgiving to cut $1.2 trillion in federal spending and Congress must pass the plan by Christmas.

Year after year, Congress has stepped in to avoid a steep cut, automatically calculated through the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, and provide a short-term patch. But each year Congress fails to implement a permanent fix, the cost to fix the problem grows and the cut in physician pay gets steeper. Come Jan. 1, 2012, physicians face a 29.5 percent cut.

AAFP has asked for repeal of the SGR, or, barring that, the enactment of a five-year Medicare payment fix that includes a 3 percent higher payment rate for primary care physicians. Among the societies in attendance were the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Cardiology, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

“There was a good open discussion about the significance of the SGR,” AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., told AAFP News Now. “We are all engaged in trying to do what is best for our respective members and the physician community at large.”

There will be an ongoing need for discussion about and refinements to any SGR strategy, as well as a collective effort by the groups represented to engage physicians in contacting their legislators, he said.

“This is a game in evolution, and there are going to be some twists and turns.”