AMA unites patients, docs, policymakers to 'Fix Medicare Now'

Ardis Dee Hoven, MDArdis Dee Hoven, MD

Determined to spur Congressional reform of the Medicare physician payment system through whatever viable means available, the American Medical Association (AMA) has rooted the new FixMedicareNow.org digital forum at the heart of its current grassroots venture.

Described as a tool to embolden physicians and patients alike to confront policymakers about the fractured, defunct Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, the FixMedicareNow website — launched Sept. 10 — offers various information portals brimming with videos, infographics and other interactive resources. Patients and providers are encouraged to share their own personal stories of SGR struggle through written word or video within the site’s take-action platforms, as well as read the assertions of their colleagues. A third channel exists to incorporate policymakers into the discussion fold.

“The ‘Fix Medicare Now’ website has three different channels – each designed to serve a distinct audience,” explained AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, to PhysBizTech. “The SGR issue is important to physicians, patients, and policymakers, and the site is created to serve all three audiences in one place. If a legislator or Hill staff member accesses the site through the policymaker channel the take-action buttons don’t appear, and the patient stories and other resources that stress the importance of passing a legislative solution are prominent.  For physicians and patients, the take-action feature is highlighted so it’s easy for them to make their voices heard with their elected officials.”

The hope of the FixMedicareNow campaign hinges upon an eventual removal of the SGR formula, which threatens access to care and Medicare innovations, the AMA argues. And although physicians seem to take up just a minimal portion of the Medicare spending pie — comprising only 16 percent — given more flexibility to pursue other care models without SGR restraint is sure to garner significant cost savings from the doctor sector. What's more, the Congressional Budget Office etimated that the cost to eliminate Medicare’s SGR payment formula is about half the price of repeal last year and much has been done via committee investigation. For starters, in August, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill to repeal SGR, enhance healthcare quality and make new models of care delivery and payment available. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the U.S. Senate Finance Committee are also on deck to issue their own versions of the legislation in the coming months.

While much bi-partisan progress has been made on the SGR repeal front over the past year, this doesn’t mean the dialogue should dry up, Hoven noted. It’s important that lawmakers continue to hear from the various healthcare communities as a means to keep the issue more personalized and on the forefront of change.

“There’s been more bipartisan progress this year on permanently repealing the SGR than we’ve ever seen before. FixMedicareNow.org is a resource to help physicians stay actively involved in ending the SGR — harnessing their power as a group to show grassroots momentum with emails, phone calls and social media calls to action. Physicians can also share their own stories to demonstrate that real people are hurt by this failed system,” Hoven said.

“We want physicians and patients to share their stories to show that both groups are hurt by the flawed SGR formula. It’s important that lawmakers see that real people need Medicare reform now,” Hoven concluded.

Access the website’s physician portal here.