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‘SCHIP Funding Levels Too Low’ American College of Physicians Tells Senate Finance Committee Leaders

July 17, 2007

Letter Outlines 5-Point Plan for Assuring Health Care Access for Children and Seniors

Washington – The chair of the Board of Regents of the American College of Physicians (ACP) today commended Senate Finance Committee Leaders for working on a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) but expressed concern that funding levels are too low and that pending Medicare cuts are not addressed.

Joel S. Levine, MD, FACP, noted in a five-point letter to Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, and Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Finance Committee, that ACP believes the final authorizing legislation should include:

  • Expanded eligibility and funding to cover all currently eligible children and to provide coverage to more children from lower income families. The College said that the current funding levels in the bill are insufficient and noted that they are substantially lower than the budget resolution approved by Congress on May 7.

  • A federal grant program to support states that redesign their Medicaid and SCHIP programs around the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH). The PCMH provides patients with care coordinated by a primary care physician. The potential of this model to improve care and lower costs is supported by the experience of states, like North Carolina, that already are implementing it, and by numerous studies on the beneficial impact of care coordinated by primary care physicians.

  • Higher taxes on tobacco, such as proposed by Senators Baucus and Grassley. Given the fact that smoking is the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States and a huge contributor to the growing numbers of patients with chronic diseases covered by federal government, funds from higher tobacco taxes should be applied to the SCHIP reauthorization and to avert Medicare physician payment cuts.

  • Provisions to replace Medicare physician fee cuts. Under current law, a 9.9 percent Medicare physician payment cut will go into effect Jan. 1, 2008, followed by annual cuts of at least 5 percent in subsequent years. ACP urged the Senate Finance Committee to report legislation to mandate at least two years of stable, predictable and positive updates, reflecting increases in physicians’ practice costs.

  • Level the playing field between Medicare Advantage and fee-for-service (FFS) and apply the savings to SCHIP and halting the Medicare physician payment cuts. Paying Medicare Advantage plans more for the same patient than what would be paid under FFS contributes to higher expenditures, higher budget deficits, and Medicare insolvency.

“Children and seniors alike need Congress to take action to assure continued access to good health care,” said Dr. Levine. “We appreciate the efforts that Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley have made to maintain and improve SCHIP, and particularly, their courage in taking on ‘big tobacco’ to provide health care to kids. At the same time, we will continue to urge lawmakers to provide sufficient funding to cover more vulnerable children and avert cuts that will reduce elderly patients’ access to Medicare.”

The American College of Physicians is the nation’s largest medical specialty organization. Membership is composed of 124,000 internal medicine physicians (internists) and medical students. Internists provide the majority of health care to adults in America. Internists are specialists in adult medicine and provide comprehensive care to adult patients.

David Kinsman, (202) 261-4554
Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572

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