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HEALTH CARE

Physicians Oppose Budget Cuts

Internal medicine physicians issued a detailed report on Thursday registering concerns about the political climate for health care.

The American College of Physicians says looming budget cuts and political discord are likely to undermine successful programs that ensure people can get the medical care they need.

 

The group has asked Congress to undo the mandatory budget cuts established last year, and to fix the longstanding but flawed pay formula for Medicare that perpetually threatens physicians with reimbursement cuts.

"Many of the choices being made by politicians to reduce health care spending are the wrong ones, because they endanger rather than improve health care access, quality, and public health and safety," the report says.

Though the doctors credit the 2010 health care reform law for helping more people get health insurance, they note that many Americans still lack access to health care. That reality, coupled with recent slow growth in health care spending, suggests that many patients are forgoing needed care, the physicians say.

 

The report makes a few concrete suggestions for how Congress could save money without resorting to across-the-board cuts. Among them are changes to the medical liability system, new taxes on expensive health insurance, and reforms to Medicare designed to drive down drug prices and reform benefit design in line with medical evidence.

Broad cuts have the potential to undermine needed programs, the doctors say, including efforts to expand the number of primary care physicians in the workforce. 

The doctors also want Congress to permanently repeal the "sustainable growth rate" formula for Medicare payments, which threatens to cut physician reimbursement each year. Congress is currently considering a one-year fix to stave off such cuts. But the physicians say that Congress should use funds currently earmarked for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to permanently abolish the formula and establish annual pay raises for doctors--particularly themselves.

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