Proposed Medicare Payment Changes Face Opposition
The American Medical Association and other physician groups during the August congressional recess plan to launch a campaign to convince lawmakers to pass legislation that would prevent a reduction in Medicare physician reimbursement rates scheduled for next year, Roll Call reports. The campaign, called "House Calls," will have a budget of more than $1 million and will include lobbying, grass-roots advocacy, advertising and media outreach.
According to AMA Chair Cecil Wilson, the current Medicare formula will result in a 4.4% reduction in physician reimbursements this year and a 37% reduction over nine years. AMA and the other groups seek a revision to the Medicare formula to prevent future scheduled reductions in physician reimbursements "so their associations can focus on other issues," such as expansion of health insurance and medical malpractice reform, Roll Call reports.
Wilson said that AMA and other groups as part of the campaign will "barnstorm across the nation" to convince lawmakers to take action on the issue before the November election.
Tim Maglione -- senior director for government relations for the Ohio State Medical Association, which will participate in the campaign -- said, "We're having a number of in-district meetings with members and physicians," adding, "The real responsible thing to do is address this before the election."
A spokesperson for House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said that the decision on whether to revise the Medicare formula is "for members to make" (Ackley, Roll Call, 7/31).
According to CongressDaily, "Momentum is growing" among lawmakers for the passage of legislation that would prevent the scheduled reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements next year. Eighty senators in a letter dated July 17 asked Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to take action on the issue before the November election. The letter states, "These projected cuts will destabilize the Medicare program and put at risk all patients' access to health care."
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) last week began to circulate a similar letter addressed to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas), who previously said that lawmakers likely would not address the issue before the November election, last week said, "I think it is possible to fix the system ... in this Congress, which means, in the next two months."
Barton said he hopes to pass legislation that would provide more than a "Band-Aid" resolution to the issue.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) on Thursday introduced a bill that would increase Medicare physician reimbursements by 2% next year and by 3% in 2008.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) last week also introduced legislation (HR 5866) that would increase Medicare physician reimbursements.
However, according to CongressDaily, the "issue is so complex and politically radioactive that despite newfound momentum, some aides and lobbyists predict lawmakers will wait until after the elections to tackle it" (Cohn, CongressDaily, 7/28).