President-elect Barack Obamas to do list is growing longer by the day, even well before he takes office on Jan. 20, 2009. The question for physician-executives, leaders and entrepreneurs is how far downor upon Obamas list their to-do items fall.
As Modern Physician reporter Jennifer Lubell points out in this issues Beyond the Headlines section, physician organizations say they believe that overall healthcare reform will be a priority for Obama, but they say theyre less sure where their particular issues stand.
Topping the docs list is Medicare payment reform. Julys omnibus Medicare law restored budgeted payment cuts to physicians through 2009, which means the old system will kick in on Jan. 1, 2010, unless its replaced by a new one. As Lubell reports in this issues Recapping the News, physician organizations may have found an unlikely ally in Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), whos calling on Congress to scrap Medicares physician payment system and its sustainable growth-rate formula and replace it with an entirely new system. Also on physician organizations list is a delay in mandating the use of the ICD-10 coding system for inpatient procedures, as Modern Physician reporter Joseph Conn reports in this issues Feature. Other industry groups, such as the American Hospital Association, American Health Information Management Association and Advanced Medical Technology Association are pushing for ICD-10 implementation no later than Oct. 1, 2012. The Medical Group Management Association is seeking at least a six-year rollout. And dont forget the long-running push for medical liability reform and the annual battle against efforts to ban physician ownership of hospitals.
Is all this too much to ask of the new president? Maybe, but our guess is that physicians will have a good shot at getting much of what they want from Obama. The president-elect and major congressional leaders such as Stark and Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will first reach for the stars in seeking a major overhaul of the entire healthcare system. But the usual forces of self-interest will likely stymie that effort, and incremental change will be the course taken. Physician organizations would be wise to line up along that course like water-bearers during a marathon race, cheering lawmakers along with cups of changes that serve their policy agenda.
David BurdaEditorModern Physician