It was under a year ago that physicians were faced with a proposed 10.1% Medicare fee cut. Fortunately, that cut was thwarted after both the House and Senate overrode a Presidential veto of H.R. 6331, the “Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008.”
But the threat of physician cuts with upcoming legislation persists, especially as Congress looks for ways to save Medicare's unsustainable costs:
Under the current formula, doctors would still face cuts of more than 5 percent a year from 2010 to 2012.But a little over a week ago, we witnessed a new and concerning ploy from our legislature eager to pass a pressing agenda: the fear-mongering tactic of "approve it or else." The recent passage of the colossal 1073-page economic "Stimulus Package" representing some $787 billion was never read by a single member of Congress, yet approved. We do not have to think too hard to consider how this same tactic will be deployed with the even larger fiscal crisis of health care reform.
But doctors are experts at naval-gazing. We're just too busy. Our independent subspecialty bodies will protect us, really they will. After all, we pay our dues!
But who's really at the table making policy decisions these days?
Is it the Heart Rhythm Society, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, American College of Cardiology or even the larger American College of Physicians?
It's America's "voice" for doctors: lobbyists for the American Medical Association.
Yep, the AMA - a body whose members represent only 15% of practicing doctors in America and has resorted to all kinds of questionable ways to stay afloat despite the mass exodus of doctors from their membership.
But as we've recently seen, the AMA has access to secret, closed-door meetings with influential left-leaning senators regarding health policy when all other physician advocacy groups do not. Do we honestly think that our individual subspecialty societies for cardiologists, internists, surgeons, hospitalists or even newer, heavily-promoted doctors' internet sites will hold a policy-making candle to the AMA's lobbying stature on the Hill?
And like it or not, "change" is coming.
In thinking about this and although I'd like to say otherwise, our best bet to advocate for our interests might just be via the American Medical Association. If we're going to have a collective voice concerning upcoming policy decisions as they affect physicians, be it specialist or generalist, MD or DO, hospitalist or primary practice doctor, it just might be time to swallow our collective egos and consider working with the AMA.
Because like never before, doctors need to collectively advocate for their interests in Washington before the next "Stimulus Bill for Health Care Reform" contains mandated physician pay cuts within it that none of our representatives will even bother to read.
Oh, you think they'd never do this?
Well, as we've now seen ...
... yes they can.