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Statement attributable to:
Molly Cooke, MD, FACP
President of the American College of Physicians (ACP)
Washington, March 31, 2014 — The Senate today followed the
House of Representatives and voted for the 17th short-term Medicare
SGR patch over the past 11 years rather than real and permanent
physician payment reform. By voting for the patch, both the House
and Senate failed to heed the unified call of physicians, on behalf
of their patients, 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
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 last week in our letter
to the Senate 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 is 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 this patch will be different and result in
permanent SGR repeal?
This one-year patch could 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
Presidentâ€"before the 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.
Today's vote in the Senate, and last's week unaccountable voice
vote in the House, were votes for the status quo of holding 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. They were
votes for the status quo of preserving a wasteful payment system
that rewards volume instead of value.
We will be calling on our 137,000 members (voters) to tell their
member of the House and their Senators that the Senate's and
House's votes for a patch must not and cannot be the end of the
line for permanent SGR repeal in the 113th
We again call on 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, to do everything possible to
get it passed, this year, by this Congress. We again call on
the Senate to pass the legislation the bipartisan and bicameral
legislation that was agreed to by the leaders of the Medicare
committees. We again call on the House and Senate to enter into
direction negotiations to resolve their differences over the budget
impact of SGR repeal.
Congress's vote for a patch 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 the 113th Congress accountable for
delivering on permanent SGR repeal before the end of this year.
David Kinsman, (202) 261-4554, email@example.com