Physician organizations appear confident that President-elect Barack Obama will make healthcare reform a major priority, although his interests in resolving Medicare payment issues are less clear.
Obama has proposed a serious framework for health system reform in 2009 and made it a central issue in his campaign, Nancy Nielsen, M.D., president of the American Medical Association, says in a written statement.
Nielsen says the AMA shared Obamas focus on expanding health insurance coverage and choice through income-related federal subsidies, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the new Congress toward reform. Bipartisan efforts will be an essential building block for comprehensive healthcare reform.
In terms of fixing Medicares sustainable growth-rate formula, or SGR, which determines Medicare payments for physicians and has called for negative payment updates since 2002, we dont really know what his positions are, says Robert Doherty, senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy with the American College of Physicians.
The biggest problem with the fee schedule fix is the need to offset the expenses to pay for such a fix, says Randy Fenninger, a lobbyist for Physician Hospitals of America, which represents doctor-owned facilities.
If the White House and Congress are willing to drop that requirement, there could be a fix, Fenninger says. In general there has been a lot of talk about a major Medicare bill, which would allow a fix to the fee schedule. However, medicine is still not in agreement on the best way to go, he says.
Medical liability reform, which would address rising medical malpractice costs, will probably remain a dead-in-the-water issue, Fenninger says.
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