AMA Backs Senate Health Care Bill

The American Medical Association has announced their support for passage of the Senate bill:

The American Medical Association (AMA) today announced its support for passage of the amended Senate health reform bill (H.R. 3590).  Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the Senate will bring our nation close to the finish line on health reform.

“All Americans deserve affordable, high-quality health coverage so they can get the medical care they need – and this bill advances many of our priority issues for achieving the vision of a health system that works for patients and physicians,” said AMA President-elect Cecil B. Wilson, M.D.

The Senate bill includes a number of key benefits for meaningful reform. It will improve choice and access to affordable health insurance coverage and eliminate denials based on pre-existing conditions. The bill will increase coverage for preventive and wellness care that can lead to better disease prevention and management, and further the development of comparative effectiveness research that can help patients and physicians make informed treatment decisions.  “Lifetime limits on health coverage will be a thing of the past – as will higher premiums based on medical conditions or gender,” said Dr. Wilson.  “These are important benefits for those who have insurance now – and those who want it but have been unable to get it.”

“The AMA communicated closely with the Senate about items it supported and items of concern in the prior version of the Senate bill,” said Dr. Wilson.  “We are pleased that the manager’s amendment addresses several issues of concern to AMA.  It increases payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons in underserved areas while no longer cutting payments to other physicians.  It eliminates the tax on physician services for cosmetic surgery and drops the proposed physician enrollment fee for Medicare.”

While important improvements have been made to the bill, there is still work to be done, and AMA will continue its advocacy on behalf of patients and physicians through the conference process.  Important issues that need to be resolved in the House-Senate conference committee include the creation of a Medicare payment board, quality improvement and Medicare data release initiatives.  Separate action is needed early next year to permanently repeal the current Medicare physician payment formula to provide a stable payment system to preserve access to care for America’s seniors, baby boomers and military families.

“The AMA will stay engaged in the process to ensure that the final bill that goes to President Obama for his signature will improve the health care system for patients and physicians,” said Dr. Wilson.

Unfortunately the manager’s amendment also has some negatives which are not mentioned here, but hopefully the final bill will be improved further when reconciled with the House bill. The Senate took the same approach as the House in voting for a two month freeze in physician reimbursement to allow time for a more permanent fix the the flawed physician payment formula. It did make more sense to remove this from the Senate bill in the manager’s amendment and avoid including this long term problem in the cost projections for this plan. One unfortunate change in the manager’s amendments was to strengthen the penalties under the individual mandate. Multiple economists have issued a statement in support of the cost-cutting measures in the amendments.

The AMA previously endorsed the House bill.

The Senate bill is far from perfect, but it is now the target of misinformation from the left as well as from the right. The Wonk Room provides corrections to some of the criticism.

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