Physician groups on Friday (March 7) issued thinly veiled warnings that Congress' hard-fought legislation to reform the Medicare physician-pay formula could slip away if House Republicans move forward on a plan that emerged Thursday to pay for reforming physician pay by repealing Obamacare's individual mandate, an offset no one believes Democrats will accept. When Congress introduces legislation that provider groups support – and all providers want the SGR replacement bill – lobbyists typically do not publicly complain about how lawmakers propose to pay for it unless offsets target their industry, but this time is different because doctors see what they consider their best shot at replacing the Sustainable Growth Rate payment formula slipping away.
None of the physician group releases specifically mention the House GOP's plan to use the individual mandate repeal as an offset, but lobbyists say it's clear that's what they're referring to, and they say the unusually blunt statements show how frustrated providers are with Congress.
Molly Cooke, president of the American College of Physicians, started off by praising lawmakers for bringing together both parties and chambers to negotiate a replacement to SGR. Then she said Congress knows that, no matter how impressive that accomplishment, it will fall apart if either chamber or party ties SGR repeal to policies that are overtly political.
"Yet, this historic bipartisan opportunity to eliminate the SGR, once and for all, is at risk of being upended because of partisan disagreements on how to address the budget impact of SGR repeal and on other policies unrelated to the SGR itself," she continued. "If either political party or chamber decides on its own to attach provisions to the bill that are unacceptable to the other, it would kill any chance for SGR repeal."
"We cannot support linking SGR repeal to changes in current law that will result in fewer people getting health insurance coverage," Cooke added.
The American Medical Association, the largest physician lobby in the country, did not issue a release following news of House GOP leadership's plan, and it did not respond for this article.
But smaller groups were more open, while diplomatic, about their disappointment. The American Osteopathic Association issued a release stating that its members worry that an SGR deal will fail unless Congress continues in the bipartisan spirit that got the legislation this far.
"The AOA does not support any approach to advance this important legislation that potentially interferes with patient access to high-quality care," the AOA release states. "In the end, our nation's patients will be the ones most at risk." --John Wilkerson ([email protected])[Photo courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Dooley]