More proof that events in Washington are unpredictable: A "dear colleagues" letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction circulated in the House urging repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula for Medicare payments—the bane of many docs' existence—did not get signed by most of the physicians serving in the House.
Lawmaker-doctors sit one out
In all, the letter did get signed by 92 Democrats and 21 Republicans, but the vast majority of docs took a pass. Physicians signing the letter were: Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.). The letter also was signed by family physician Donna Christensen, a Democrat serving as the non-voting representative from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 12 physicians who didn't sign were: Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), Charles Boustany (R-La.), Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Bill Cassidy (R. La.) Scott DesJaris (R-Tenn.), John Fleming (R-La.), Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) Andy Harris (R-Md.), Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), and Tom Price (R-Ga.).
"Everybody was approached," Schwartz representative Tali Israeli tells me.
Of the six non-signers whose offices I contacted, only Burgess supplied an on-the-record response.
"The SGR is a complex issue that will require an in-depth look if we are going to find a permanent fix," Burgess wrote in an e-mail. "However, the Select Committee is not where the SGR should be dissected to achieve this goal. The SGR should be fixed on the policy side and the Select Committee should focus on reducing the nation's deficit. Their $1.5 trillion target could be achieved by eliminating spending that is slated to begin in the future. The perfect example is the Affordable Care Act."
In an essay published in the Washington Times, Burgess asked the committee to consider eliminating Medicaid expansions and health insurance premium and exchange subsidies called for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
(One representative's press person did tell me off the record that his boss is working on this issue in the House Ways and Means Committee. I am not a doctor serving in Congress, but why that had to be stated off the record, I will never understand.)
For the record, two of the six nurses in the House signed the letter: Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.). Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.), Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) did not. Physician assistant Karen Bass (D-Calif.) did; psychologist Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) did not.
In addition to the letter circulated by Schwartz, Roe wrote one himself last month urging the panel to abolish the Independent Payment Advisory Board which was also created by the healthcare reform law.
In addition to circulating letters repealing the SGR—often noted as a top priority on physicians' legislative agenda—Rep. Schwartz, who is not a doctor, picked up a Champion of Healthcare Innovation award from the Healthcare Leadership Council. Schwartz is a major promoter of health information technology and electronic prescribing.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.
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