Washington D.C. – Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18) joined a bipartisan group of Members of Congress to introduce the Keep Physicians Serving Patients Act of 2019. Under current Medicare policy, outdated geographic price indexes have resulted in inadequate payments for physicians practicing in rural areas, creating a disincentive for physicians to continue to practice in these communities. The Keep Physicians Serving Patients Act adjusts the geographic practice cost index (GPCI) to better reflect the cost of labor and the practice of medicine in rural communities. 

“Ensuring Medicare providers in rural communities like those I represent in central and west-Illinois are not unfairly impacted from lower payments based on an outdated geographic practice cost indexes (GPCI) is vital,” stated Rep. LaHood. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan group to introduce this important piece of legislation, which will modernize the GPCI formula, accounting for the unique practice needs of rural providers, and ensure physicians can continue serving patients in need regardless of where they live.”

Rep. LaHood joined Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE), Congresswoman Abbey Finkenauer (D-IA), and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) to introduce the legislation.

“Rural communities have unique needs when it comes to health care. Physicians and health systems in rural Wisconsin provide high-quality care, but the flawed Medicare reimbursement formula is harming Wisconsin providers and putting pressure on rural health systems. I’m proud to work on this bipartisan bill to fix the GPCI formula and give rural communities a fair shake when it comes to Medicare reimbursement,” added Rep. Kind. 

You can read the full legislation here.

Medicare’s current practice expense and physician work geographic practice cost indexes (GPCI) adjust payments to physicians in regional communities based on the relative cost of practicing. GPCI’s are based on the relative cost of physician practice, day-to-day work, and medical liability compared to the national average cost.  In rural communities, physicians receive less in baseline GPCI payments, compared to physicians practicing in urban areas. As an example, in Illinois, physicians in Chicago and the Chicago suburbs receive more in Medicare payments than physicians throughout the rest of the state. Due to outdated and inaccurate data, the indexes have underestimated the cost of practicing in rural communities, leading to a reduction in services for patients.

The Keep Physicians Serving Patients Act will permanently set a GPCI minimum in regions across the country to ensure all physicians are properly compensated for the services they are providing to patients. The GPCI minimum payment is set to expire in 2019, which brings the possibility that rural area providers could see even lower payments. This bill permanently extends the current GPCI minimum to ensure providers will be able to maintain their current payment rates. Setting a GPCI minimum not only helps providers across the country, but also helps rural communities recruit and keep providers in rural areas. By improving the way physician work and practice expense GPCIs and setting a GPCI minimum, patients will receive better access to vital medical services and communities across the country will be able to attract and keep talent.

National endorsing organizations include: American Academy of Dermatology, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Neurology, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Radiology, American College of Rheumatology, American College of Surgeons, American Gastroenterological Association, American Optometric Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Podiatric Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Urological Association, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, National Rural Health Association, Society of Thoracic Surgeons