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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

FALL CONFERENCE TIMED PERFECTLY FOR HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM DISCUSSION

Congress returns to Washington today from one of its most tumultuous August recesses in recent memory. President Obama addresses the country in prime time tomorrow. The cause of all this ruckus, of course, is the debate over pending health system reform legislation. TMA physician leaders emphasized their keen interest in this red hot issue by turning out in record numbers on a holiday weekend for the 2009 TMA Fall Conference, where system reform was the No. 1 topic. American Medical Association President Jim Rohack, MD; U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo); and TMA Council on Legislation Chair Dan McCoy, MD, presented various views on the debate in a wide-ranging discussion before the packed audience. Physicians polled in the room said Congress should hold more hearings or a public referendum before moving forward with any legislation. Nancy Dickey, MD, chair of TMA’s Health System Reform Task Force, served as moderator for the forum. Some highlights:
  • Dr. Rohack summed up AMA’s position on health reform legislation this way: “If it’s good for our patients, it’s going to be good for physicians.” He compared health system reform to a Rubik’s cube, saying it will take many moves to arrive at the right solution.
  • Representative Cuellar received a standing ovation when he called for nationwide health care liability reform. He said his top priorities for health reform legislation are that it reduce costs, increase coverage, and preserve choice without increasing the national debt. “The ink is not dry on this bill. You have to stay involved. You have to stay engaged," said Representative Cuellar, the lone congressional Blue Dog Democrat from Texas.
  • Dr. McCoy called on physicians to use TMA’s new Me and My Doctor campaign to bring their patients into the debate. He said TMA likes the health insurance industry reforms in the current House bill – but would like to see more, is concerned that the bill lacks a permanent fix in the physicians’ Medicare payment formula, and wants strong liability reforms and protection for physician-owned hospitals and other facilities. See TMA’s Health System Reform Principles.

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