1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9
Tucson, AZ 85716-3450
Phone: (800) 635-1196

Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc.
A Voice for Private Physicians Since 1943
Omnia pro aegroto

CONTACT: Kathryn Serkes (202 333 3855
[email protected]

December 16, 2005

Oppose Pay Raise, Support More Autonomy Instead

Washington – We don’t want your pay raise, says a leading physician group, responding to the American Medical Association’s effort to stop payment cuts scheduled to go into effect beginning in January 2006, and replace them with a pay raise.

In a memo sent to Members of Congress today, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons writes: “Some other medical groups have been telling you that proposed cuts in physician payments will harm seniors by creating a crisis in access to physicians. But we disagree. There’s already a problem, and it has nothing to do with the new rates.”

In ads and website, the AMA says that its survey shows that 38% of its members will cut the number of new Medicare patients they accept if the first round of cuts goes into effect in 2006. They not only call for a halt to the cuts, but a change in the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) that would provide for pay raises in 2006 and subsequent years.

In its memo, AAPS refutes the AMA conclusions and tells the government they don’t a pay raise, but instead lays out the case for less government interference.

“But those numbers are extremely misleading because it’s not all about the money.

“Surveys conducted by AAPS show many physicians ALREADY refuse new Medicare patients. In fact, about 33%. But even more alarming is that 40% already restrict services the services they’ll perform to current Medicare patients. (See Disheartened Doctors, Patient Problems: AAPS Biannual Survey of Physicians on Medicare and Patients’ Access to Care, Journal of American Physicians & Surgeons, Winter 2004.)

“But here’s what you need to know: the reason they do so is NOT because of money. When asked, it’s the government ‘hassle factor.’ The two leading reasons given were ‘billing and regulatory requirements, and hassles and/or threats from Medicare carriers/government.’ Payment rates were down the list.

“So it’s really about FREEDOM, not the money. “And what the AMA survey doesn’t show is that those trends have been in play for about a decade. We’ve conducted our survey every two years since 1995 – not just to show a trumped-up “crisis” about current rate schedules. In fact, our survey shows that doctors would rather treat uninsured patients for FREE than to treat Medicare patients.

“So it’s clear that tweaking the reimbursement rates by a few percentage points by taking money away from hospitals or putting more financial pressure on an already collapsing system won’t alleviate the other serious problems that are leading to physician discouragement with Medicare that are directly impacting patients access to care.

H.R. 580 Seniors' Health Care Freedom Act of 2005, and Say “NO” to Government Cookbook Medicine

“We oppose the various bills playing with the Sustainable Growth Rates (SGR), such as HR 3617, HR 2356, HR 1162 and S. 1574. Instead of changing the SGR, we support H.R. 580, the Seniors’ Health Care Freedom Act of 2005” that would allow the use of private contracts under the Medicare program. This is a win for patients, doctors and taxpayers as well.

“Our survey shows that 63% of doctors would be more willing to treat Medicare patients if unrestricted private contracts were allowed.

“Also, we oppose any mandatory “Pay for Performance” provisions that would tie Medicare payment to physician compliance with government practice guidelines. This would be a radical break from Section 1801 of the Social Security Act that prohibits federal officials from interfering in the practice of medicine.

“In conclusion, it’s not always “about the money” for doctors, and it’s too bad other groups are perpetuating that stereotyped image of “rich, greedy” doctors. What doctors really need is freedom to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients. That will truly serve our seniors and help preserve access to the best care.

“Otherwise, the best and the brightest will continue to leave the program.”

NOTE: AAPS survey posted at http://www.AAPSonline.org.