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Internists Say Physician Payments Should Not Be Frozen
Statement attributable to:
George M. Abraham, MD, MPH, MACP, FIDSA
President, American College of Physicians
WASHINGTON, D.C. January 14, 2022 –The American College of Physicians (ACP) is disappointed that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) voted yesterday on recommendations to effectively freeze physician payments in the upcoming year. This recommendation comes at a time when physicians are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and confronting a crushing wave of patients with new COVID-19 infections.
MedPAC’s recommended plan would jeopardize access to primary care physicians and could create access problems for other specialties. In effect, a freeze on payment rates would amount to a payment cut when inflation is factored in. According to research from the American Medical Association, physician payments over the past 19 years have not kept pace with practice expenses or the Consumer Price Index. If yesterday’s recommendation from MedPAC moves forward it would further exacerbate this problem.
We have long recognized the value that primary care medicine provides to individual patients, communities, and our health care system. Despite this knowledge, our country continues to overinvest in health care as a commodity and underinvest in primary care as a relationship—even though we know that high-quality primary care leads to improved health outcomes for our patients. Today, the United States allocates between 4 and 6 percent of its health care resources to comprehensive and continuous primary care – significantly less than other countries and significantly less than what is needed for the United States to achieve a high-functioning health care system that delivers quality and value to individuals and communities.
All of this comes as physician practices have spent the past two years combating the COVID-19 pandemic and they are currently facing the highest rate of infections we ha
ve seen. Physicians and their practices are facing increased calls from patients who need help to find testing. They are trying to treat patients who are not sick enough to need to go to the hospital, but who do need medical assistance from their physician; they are counseling patients who still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines and trying to help those who want to be vaccinated to do so; all while they have needed to seek personal protective equipment to help keep themselves and their staff safe, had to redesign practice workflow or spaces to keep patients safe, and had to deal with the health impact of infections on themselves and practice staff.
ACP would like to work with MedPAC to develop an alternative that would achieve its goals of producing stable and predictable physician payment updates, protecting beneficiaries’ access to care, and creating an environment that encourages payment and delivery reforms.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 161,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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