(Washington) - Expressions of "deep concern and disappointment about reports that the pending SCHIP reauthorization will go forward without addressing several issues that are critical to access to care for Medicare beneficiaries" were sent today to congressional leaders by the American College of Physicians (ACP). David C. Dale, MD, FACP, president of ACP, sent letters on behalf of the 124,000 internal medicine physicians and medical student members of ACP.
Dr. Dale thanked House leadership for supporting enactment of the Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007 (CHAMP), which would re-authorize the SCHIP program and make essential improvements in Medicare. He expressed disappointment, though, that the reported House-Senate agreement does not include relief from pending physician payment cuts and other essential Medicare improvements. (over)
"ACP will continue to urge members of Congress and the President to agree to legislation that reauthorizes and improves coverage for children under SCHIP," Dr. Dale emphasized to all congressional leaders. He expressed appreciation for the key Medicare provisions that were included in the House-passed CHAMP bill, but urged House leaders to continue to work toward a prompt agreement with the Senate on getting those provisions enacted and signed into law. In the letter to Senate leaders, Dr. Dale expressed deep concern about the Senate's unwillingness to take up the Medicare provisions as part of SCHIP legislation, and similarly urged them to work with their House counterparts "to reach prompt agreement on Medicare legislation to preserve and improve access to care for America's seniors."
The letter listed three policies that ACP believes need to be included in an acceptable Medicare bill:
- Cumulative physician payment cuts of 15 percent in 2008 and 2009 under traditional Medicare must be replaced with positive annual updates of no less than 0.5 percent.
- Such positive updates must be paid for without budget gimmicks that will cause bigger cuts and higher required budget offsets in later years.
- Include a Medicare medical home demonstration that will lead to long-term payment reforms to support preventive and coordinated care by physicians.
The ACP letter urged congressional leaders to work for enactment of a bill that incorporates several other important improvements from CHAMP: expand Medicare coverage for preventive benefits, reduce cost-sharing for mental health, and continue the floor on geographic payment adjustments for physician services.
Dr. Dale concluded by noting that, "America's children and seniors both deserve the best health care possible. Congress must enact legislation to maintain SCHIP coverage for children. Congress must also preserve and improve access to care for senior and disabled patients under traditional Medicare by enacting positive physician payment updates for the next two years, paying for those updates without budget gimmicks, mandating an expanded demonstration of the Medicare medical home demonstration, and making other improvements in Medicare. We urge you to do everything possible to assure that agreement is reached soon with your Senate colleagues on legislation that includes these essential Medicare improvements.
Our physician members and their patients will expect nothing less."
The letters were addressed to:
Hon. Harry Reid, majority leader, United States Senate
Hon. Mitch McConnell, minority leader, United States Senate
Hon. Max Baucus, chairman, Senate Finance Committee
Hon. Charles Grassley, ranking minority member, Senate Finance Committee
Hon. Nancy Pelosi, speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
Hon. Charles Rangel, chairman, House Ways and Means Committee
Hon. Pete Stark, chairman, Subcommittee on Health, House Ways and Means Committee
Hon. John Dingell, chairman, House Energy and Commerce Committee
The American College of Physicians is the nation's largest medical specialty organization. Membership is composed of 124,000 internal medicine physicians (internists) and medical students. Internists provide the majority of health care to adults in America. Internists are specialists in adult medicine and provide comprehensive care to adult patients.