The U.S. House of Representatives today (Nov. 19, 2009) passed HR 3961 on a 243-183 vote. The bill would stop the 21-percent cut in physicians' Medicare payments scheduled for Jan. 1. It would replace the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) with a new formula that is still based on growth in the gross domestic product. It also would set future payment rate changes separately for evaluation and management services and for procedural codes. House passage of HR 3961 is critical if a permanent SGR fix is going to be included in Congress' final health reform package.
Unfortunately, Capitol Hill partisan politics is complicating what already is a terribly complicated problem of health system reform. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), was the only Republican to vote for HR 3961. I am terribly proud of Dr. Burgess for his courageous stance, which might expose him to some intraparty consequences. As the most knowledgeable member of Congress on Medicare, he introduces bills year after year to replace the SGR with a formula that is based on physicians' cost of caring for patients. He took the time early this morning to consult with TMA leaders about today's vote and what it means to Texas physicians and your patients.
"This bill is not the best way to fix the long-standing physician reimbursement problem," Dr. Burgess said after the vote. "The appropriate resolution is HR 3693, the Ensuring the Future Physician Workforce Act, which would finally make things right for our nation's doctors. I also do not think it is right to continue to pass massive spending bills that add to our country's record deficit with no rational payment plan in place. However, I think it is very unlikely that today's bill will ever become law, since the Senate has already soundly rejected a similar plan. Because of this, today's vote is largely symbolic, and with my 'yes' vote, I stand committed to America's doctors, the millions of seniors they care for, and TRICARE recipients, to fix this problem."
I also want to thank these Texas Democrats who voted for the bill: Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio, Al Green of Houston, Gene Green of Houston, Rubén Hinojosa of Mercedes, Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi, Silvestre Reyes of El Paso, and Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio.
(From TMA EVPGram, special issue, Nov. 19, 2009)