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Health Care Providers Warn About Budget Spending Caps, "Pay-as-you-go" rule

(Washington, DC): In a letter to the members of the House of Representatives, a coalition of health care provider groups has expressed grave concerns over any arbitrary or inflexible budget rules that could potentially reduce essential health programs. The American College of Physicians (ACP) joined with the American Hospital Association in organizing the June 15, 2004, letter of concern signed by a broad array of organizations representing physicians and other health professionals, medical schools, hospitals, and other providers.

The House of Representatives plans to vote on a package of budget rules in June. This coalition of provider groups is concerned that proposed five-year spending caps on "discretionary" appropriations programs could cause deep cuts in essential public health programs, including funding for medical research and training, and programs to provide care to patients in underserved communities. In addition, the coalition is concerned that proposed "pay-as-you-go" rules would tie Congress' hands from legislating necessary improvements in Medicare, Medicaid, S-CHIP and other "entitlement" programs that may be required to maintain access to care for existing beneficiaries and provide for expanded health coverage for the uninsured.

Spending caps would limit the total amount of dollars that could be spent on vital health and research programs, potentially causing cuts to these programs. "Pay-as-you-go" rules would mean that any new expenditure legislated for entitlement programs would need to be offset by cost reductions in the same or in other entitlement programs.

Specifically, the group voiced opposition to:

  • Budget caps for health spending set at levels that would force significant cuts in domestic health programs.

  • Budget process rules that do not account for the increase in medical services required for America's aging population.

  • Provisions that restrict funding for emerging medical technologies and methods of coordinating care that could improve patient quality-of-life and save money for the Medicare program.

  • "Pay as you go" rules that would limit Congress' ability to expand the Medicaid and S-CHIP programs at a time when more than 43 million Americans lack health insurance.

The letter, which was generated by the American College of Physicians, was signed by the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine, Ambulatory Pediatric Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American College of Rheumatology, American Geriatrics Society, American Hospital Association, American Pediatric Society, Association of Departments of Family Medicine, Association of Family Practice Residency Directors, Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs, North American Primary Care Research Group, Renal Physicians Association, Society for Adolescent Medicine, Society for Pediatric Research, Society of General Internal Medicine, Society of Hospital Medicine, and Society of Teachers of Family Medicine.

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses in adults.

Jack Pope, (202) 261-4556, jpope@acponline.org
Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org

Page posted: 6/21/2004

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