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Monday, November 23, 2009

A TURKEY-TIME SCORECARD ON HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM

In case you’ve lost track or haven’t been paying close attention, here’s a recap of the status of health system reform bills and the SGR fix to date, as well as TMA’s position on these bills:
  • On Oct. 21, the U.S. Senate fell short of the 60 votes necessary to debate S 1776 by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) (PDF), the Medicare Physician Fairness Act of 2009. The motion failed on a vote of 47-53. The bill would have repealed the SGR payment formula. It also would have stopped the planned 21-percent cut in fees scheduled for Jan. 1, eliminated the $245 billion debt that has accumulated under the SGR, and laid the foundation for a new Medicare payment update system. TMA supported S 1776 even though it fell short of our call for a rational Medicare physician payment system that automatically keeps up with the cost of running a practice and is backed by a stable funding source.
  • On Nov. 7, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 220-215 to pass HR 3962, a comprehensive health reform package.TMA neither supported nor opposed the bill, but offered suggestions to “Fix What’s Wrong, Keep What Works” in the health care system.
  • On Nov. 20, the House passed HR 3961 on a 243-183 vote. The bill would stop the 21-percent cut scheduled for Jan. 1. It would replace the SGR with a formula that is still based on growth in the gross domestic product. It would set future payment rate changes separately for evaluation and management services and for procedural codes. House passage of HR 3961 was critical for a permanent SGR fix to be included in Congress’ final health reform package. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), was the only GOP House member to vote for the bill. TMA supported the measure (PDF) even though it, too, does not meet our criteria for a permanent fix.
  • The Senate has just begun debate on HR 3590, its version of comprehensive health system legislation. On Nov. 21, just before leaving for Thanksgiving recess, senators voted 60-39 to bring the matter up for discussion. Debate is expected to last several weeks. As noted above, TMA has announced that it cannot support HR 3590 without substantial change.

Do you need more of our Fix What’s Wrong, Keep What Works posters, stickers, and postcards for your office? Order them online or call the TMA Knowledge Center at (800) 880-7955.

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