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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PICKING UP THE PIECES AFTER SGR REPEAL FAILS

As we explained in a special letter to all members from TMA President Bill Fleming, MD, the U.S. Senate failed miserably in a vote to consider legislation to repeal the failed formula that’s been driving physicians’ Medicare payments into the ground. So where do we go from here? There’s no question that the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula must go, and we need comprehensive reform of how Medicare pays physicians. Congress needs to include this issue as part of any larger health system reform bill because you can’t have health reform if patients can’t find a physician to treat them. One lesson we learned from the defeat of S 1776 is that many senators from both parties believe we must find a way to pay off the $245 billion debt the SGR has racked up over the past decade. Fixing the Medicare payment system is in the best interest of both Republicans and Democrats, but we cannot let either party use physicians or patients as political footballs in the highly partisan health reform battles. As TMA Council on Legislation Chair Dan McCoy, MD, said at the TMA/TEXPAC/specialty society legislative retreat, “Health system reform is a train moving at lightning speed and going nowhere.” U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), urged physicians to remain involved and engaged in the debate. “You hold the key to the future of professionalism in our profession, and I don't want you to give it away too easily,” he said.

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