In a new plea for Congress and the White House to move expediently on healthcare reform, the American College of Physicians had one central piece of advice: Don't start over.
“Let's take the bills passed by the House and Senate and make them even better,” said Bob Doherty, the ACP's senior vice president of government affairs and public policy, said during a news conference. “We shouldn't toss them out and start from scratch.”
Doherty, joined by ACP President Joseph Stubbs, issued a new report from the trade group that offers a path for lawmakers to move forward on reform.
The ACP's report warned of the consequences of a failed health reform effort, citing Congressional Budget Office projections that healthcare spending will rise to 25% of gross domestic product in 2025, and the Census Bureau's estimate that the number of uninsured will climb to 60 million people by 2020.
“A highly partisan and polarized debate over healthcare reform legislation has regrettably taken the country's ‘eye off the ball,' from the urgency of implementing reforms,” Stubbs said.
Among the ACP's recommendations are to build upon existing legislation to reach final agreement on a bill, and develop bipartisan proposals to reduce the costs of the medical liability tort system and increase the number of primary-care doctors.
Congress should also seek a permanent solution to Medicare's sustainable growth-rate formula, which has been threatening cuts to physicians for years, Doherty said. Physicians face a 21.2% cut to their Medicare payments on March 1 unless lawmakers issue a temporary measure to stop the scheduled reduction.
Doherty said the medical lobby has been given some assurances that something will be done soon to address the SGR cuts. Whatever Congress does, “we're looking at some kind of reprieve for several months. I have not been hearing the solution will be a permanent repeal” of the SGR, he said.
On the larger reform effort, Doherty seemed hopeful that President Barack Obama's healthcare summit next week would shed some light “on what needs to be done to move this forward.”