In a speech to the Association of American Medical Colleges, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pushed for an extension to the so-called doc fix to stop an expected 23% cut to Medicare payments for physicians.
“On Thursday, I attended a Cabinet meeting where the president stressed that preventing these potentially disastrous cuts must be one of our top priorities,” Sebelius said, according to written remarks of her speech. “The American Medical Association has proposed a 13-month extension. And I hope that Congress will act quickly to pass it, so that our doctors and seniors can have some peace of mind while we work on a long-term fix.”
The AMA urged Congress to stall the cut to the nation's physicians
after the CMS released a rule that addressed the issue last week.
Sebelius' remarks also highlighted the need for more primary-care physicians in the U.S., as she said 60 million Americans live in areas with a shortage of these doctors. While the nation's medical schools are “on pace to educate 30% more students in 2019 than in 2004,” that still won't be enough to solve the problem, Sebelius said.
To that end, she mentioned initiatives that are intended to train 16,000 primary-care providers in the next five years, such as almost doubling the size of the National Health Service Corps, as well as “making it easier for minority students to fulfill their dreams of joining a health profession,” and establishing a new National Center for Health Workforce Analysis as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That center, along with the new National Health Care Workforce Commission, will help examine supply and demand in health professions, Sebelius said.