Economic

The following is from the Rotunda newsletter -- an e-mail publication from the Medical Association of the State of Alabama reporting on governmental affairs.
Congress Stops Physician Payment Cuts

A vote in the U.S. House Wednesday cleared the way for restoration of Medicare physician payments to 2005 levels, halting the 4.4 percent payment cut that took effect Jan. 1.

At the request of the AMA and other physician groups, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has agreed to retroactively adjust claims to compensate physicians for the 4.4 percent cut once the one-year payment freeze is signed into law. The freeze came after an aggressive lobbying, grassroots and media campaign that showed how the cut threatened seniors' access to doctors.

The claims adjustment process likely will take several weeks, and physicians do not have to resubmit claims. In addition, CMS will reopen the 45-day period in which physicians may change their 2006 Medicare participation status. Changes will be retroactive to Jan. 1, and claims will be adjusted to reflect the change in status.

Still, Congress has yet to replace the flawed formula with an annual update that reflects practice cost increases. The AMA will redouble its efforts on behalf of a long-term solution in 2006. The campaign will expand to further educate lawmakers about the significant advances physicians are making in quality improvement and performance measurement initiatives.
MASA Physicians Lobby Alabama Delegation

A large group of physicians traveled to Washington this week to attend MASA's Annual Governmental Affairs Conference which included very timely meetings with members of Alabama's Congressional Delegation. The timing of this years meeting was of particular significance due to the House of Representatives' vote on Wednesday to stop the 4.4% Medicare Payment Cut (see above story).

Physicians and Alliance members spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill talking to the Congressional Delegation about the need to stop the cut and just as importantly, the need for Congress to come up with a permanent fix for the flawed reimbursement formula.

The Governmental Affairs Conference also included an elegant dinner hosted by MASA in honor of the Congressional Delegation and their staff. The dinner was well attended by the delegation with both Senators Shelby and Sessions in attendance.
Frist Plans to Revive a Plethora of Health Bills

Following President Bush's State of the Union speech on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced his hopes to consider President Bush's proposals on health savings accounts, small business health plans and curbing medical malpractice suits.

"Much of what the president outlined in his State of the Union address with regard to transforming our health system have been and remain the priority of the Republican Senate," Frist spokeswoman Amy Call said Wednesday. "We hope to move corresponding legislation during the first third of this year."

A statement released by the AMA applaudes President Bush's call to make Health Care a priority of his domestic agenda. "The American Medical Association is pleased that President Bush addressed important health policy issues in tonight's State of the Union and highlighted the importance of 'strengthening the doctor-patient relationship.' It is our hope that this speech will spur even greater dialogue on health care issues that impact all Americans. AMA President J. Edward Hill stated further that "Enacting meaningful medical liability reforms is the top legislative priority of the AMA, and we applaud President Bush for calling on Congress to pass medical liability reforms this year. Multiple polls show that nearly three-quarters of Americans support passage of medical liability reforms.