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Statement attributable to:
Molly Cooke, MD, FACP
President of the American College of Physicians (ACP)
Washington, March 27, 2014 — Physicians and their patients need
to know that today, by a voice vote—with no recorded votes and
therefore no individual member accountability for their votes—the
House of Representatives voted for the 17th short-term Medicare SGR
patch over the past eleven years. By voting for the patch, the
House failed to heed the
unified call, of physicians who believe that now is the time
for the House and Senate to reach agreement on the bipartisan
reforms that were agreed to by the leaders of the Medicare
committees of jurisdiction.
ACP is the largest medical specialty organization and
second-largest physician group in the United States, representing
137,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related
subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians
are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical
expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of
adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness.
As we said yesterday in our letter,
to the House leadership, we cannot support another short-term
patch. Instead, we firmly believe that enactment of permanent SGR
repeal and reform, this year, by this Congress, is both imperative
and achievable, because never before has there been agreement
between the members of the House and Senate, and between
Republicans and Democrats, on the policies to repeal the SGR and
create a better Medicare payment system.
The Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 would be the 17th
patch enacted over 11 years to temporarily halt impending SGR cuts,
at a budget cost of over $150 billion. Each time, physicians and
patients were told that, this time, things will be different, that
the temporary patch would give Congress the time it needs to
achieve agreement on permanent reform. Why should physicians and
patients believe that passing another patch now would result in
permanent SGR repeal?
This one-year patch, if passed by the Senate, will
likely give Congress the out it wants to push the entire issue of
permanent SGR repeal and Medicare payment reform to the 114th
Congress. The new Congress would then have to start over on
crafting a permanent SGR repeal and Medicare payment reform bill
that could clear the authorizing committees, pass both chambers,
and be signed into law by the President—before this latest proposed
patch expires on March 31, 2015. It is more probable that this
would result in the enactment of patch #18 at an additional budget
cost of tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars and further
destabilization of Medicare.
It doesn't have to be this way, though. The
House's vote need not and must not be the end of the line
for permanent SGR repeal in the 113th Congress:
Today's unaccountable voice vote by the House of Representatives
was a vote for the status quo, a vote to hold health care for
seniors, military families, and disabled persons on Medicare and
TriCare hostage to an inherently flawed and destabilizing SGR
formula, year after year after year. It was a vote to preserve a
wasteful payment system that rewards volume instead of value.
Yet it must not mark the end of the effort by the committed
members of Congress from both parties, in both chambers, who have
worked so hard over the past year to reach agreement on a
bipartisan bill to permanently repeal the SGR and reform physician
payments. It will not mark the end of ACP's efforts to press
Congress to reach agreement on passing the bipartisan and bicameral
SGR repeal bill that was agreed to by the leaders of the
authorizing committees. Physicians and their patients will hold
both the House and Senate accountable for delivering on permanent
SGR repeal, this year, by this Congress. There
will never be a better time.
About the American College of PhysiciansThe American College of Physicians is the largest
medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician
group in the United States. ACP members include 137,000 internal
medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and
medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who
apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis,
treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum
from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.
David Kinsman, (202) 261-4554, firstname.lastname@example.org