Opinion: Why primary care is undervalued

The Florida Times-Union, September 26, 2011

If a new lawsuit is to be believed, a decline in the supply of primary care physicians is more than chance. It is being caused in large part from payment schedules designed to favor specialists at the expense of the doctors on the medical front lines. The issue was brought to the forefront by a group of primary care doctors based in Augusta, GA. This group, the Center for Primary Care, provides primary care to one-fourth of Augusta's population. In the suit filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the doctors allege that a valuation process managed by the American Medical Association is influential in setting Medicare reimbursement schedules that undervalue primary care. The AMA committee that comes up with the value is dominated by specialists, they claim. Medicare is the largest single payer in the American health care system. So when Medicare sets rates, the impact spreads throughout healthcare system.




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