SHM’s Public Policy Committee (PPC) has been monitoring federal legislation and regulations affecting hospital medicine and recommending appropriate action by the Society. Over the past several months, the PPC has been engaged in a variety of initiatives.
Physician Payment (Part B)
One of lawmakers’ top priorities in 2007 was addressing pending cuts in Medicare payments to physicians. Under the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, Part B Medicare payments were to be reduced by 10% in 2008 and by an additional 5% in January 2009. SHM is working to influence the debate.
As Congress began to consider legislation on physician payment reform, SHM quickly launched a comprehensive grassroots campaign to stop the cuts. In an e-mail to 7,745 hospitalists, PPC Chair Eric Siegal, MD, director of the hospital medicine program, Cogent Healthcare, Nashville, Tenn., urged members to contact their lawmakers using SHM’s online advocacy tool, Capwiz. Several issues of the e-newsletter also reminded members to write their representatives in support of two years of positive updates. As the congressional session came to a close, SHM members had sent a record 800 messages to their lawmakers urging them to block the pending reductions.
Then, in a letter to the chairs of the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees, SHM commented on key provisions of draft Medicare legislation, expressing appreciation for the inclusion of language averting the scheduled cuts. SHM voiced concern about provisions of the bill that would reconfigure the Medicare payment formula into six service-specific categories with their own expenditure targets and conversion rates, in an effort to control volume of services. The letter also urged Congress to continue to provide funding for voluntary participation in the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) in 2008.
SHM also joined 130 state and national medical societies to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to include two years of positive Medicare physician payment updates in pending legislation that would reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The letter underscored the importance of Congress acting sooner rather than later to reverse the cuts. “Temporary Congressional interventions to prevent past cuts, while necessary, have not kept up with increases in medical practice costs and have pushed the cost of fixing the problem to future years, making a meaningful long-term resolution more and more expensive,” the letter read. “Physician payment rates are about the same today as they were in 2001, while practice costs have increased nearly 20% and will increase another 20% over next nine years, according to the government’s conservative Medicare Economic Index (MEI).”