By J. James Rohack, M.D., President
American Medical Association
Today, the Senate took an historic vote to improve our nation’s health care system by expanding coverage to millions of Americans and strengthening the private insurance market to better serve the patients who rely on it. The AMA supported passage of the bill because it contains a number of key improvements for our health care system, which currently is not working for far too many patients or the physicians who dedicate their lives to patient care.
The Senate bill will improve choice and access to affordable health insurance coverage and eliminate denials based on pre-existing conditions. It 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. Patients will no longer face lifetime limits on health coverage or higher premiums based on medical conditions or gender.
While this vote closes one chapter of the legislative process, the hard work is not yet done. The AMA will stay constructively engaged throughout the House and Senate conference process to continue to improve the final bill and assure the best outcome for patients and physicians. Important issues that need to be resolved in the House-Senate conference committee include the scope, authority, accountability and transparency of a payment advisory board. The details of several cost control and quality improvement initiatives also need to be refined so that they do not have unintended consequences for patients and physicians.
Separate action is needed early next year to permanently repeal the current Medicare physician payment formula to preserve access to care for America’s seniors, baby boomers and military families by creating a stable physician payment system. We commend Senators Reid and Baucus for keeping the focus on a permanent solution to this problem, and we will continue to work closely with them to fix the flawed Medicare physician payment formula once and for all early in the new year.