AMA backs Senate healthcare reform bill

The nation's largest physician lobby officially supports the Senate's health reform package—which cleared key hurdles over the weekend—after it won assurances from lawmakers that they would work to craft a long-term solution for Medicare payment come January 2010.

Appearing with Senate leaders, Cecil Wilson, president-elect of the American Medical Association, cited a number of health insurance and other provisions that stress wellness and prevention as some of the reasons it would back the bill.

“America has the best healthcare in the world, if you can get it,” Wilson said during a news conference on Capitol Hill. “But for far too many people, access to care is out of reach because they lack insurance. This is just not acceptable to physicians who provide high-quality care in an often fragmented system that doesn't work for them or their patients.”

Part of the association's support is based on lawmakers shaping a long-term fix to the Medicare payment formula.

The original Senate bill included a measure that would erase a 21% pay cut in 2010 with a 0.5% increase, but an amendment, filed on Saturday, squashed the provision.

“We had said from the start that we would not support another temporary fix,” Wilson said.

Congress has passed and President Barack Obama has signed a temporary measure to stave off the cuts until late February 2010.

Additionally, the lobby also fought against a measure that would have required physicians to pay a $200 fee each year for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients.

“The ostensible reason for that fee was to help cover some of the expenses for fraud and abuse kinds of activity,” Wilson said. “It's inappropriate to put a fee on physician payment, in essence, to say you got to pay to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.”