Tuesday marked the second day of the Alliance of Specialty Medicine’s Advocacy Conference.  More than 100 specialists spent the day hearing from members of Congress from both sides of the aisle on their health care policy views.

We heard varying viewpoints on health care reform, medical liability reform and the FDA process. It is clear that Congress understands the need to replace Medicare’s physician payment system and wants to create a system that provides ample access to specialty care through adequate payment for the services physicians provide to Medicare patients.

The majority of the the day’s speakers also spoke in favor of repealing the Independent Medical Advisory Board (IPAB). One such speaker was Representative Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania. Rep. Schwartz made headlines earlier this year by joining a handful of her Democratic colleagues in sponsoring a bill to repeal the IPAB.  The IPAB is a provision in the new health care law that would hand off the bulk of Medicare spending decisions from Congress to a group of unelected bureaucrats selected by the President. IPAB would be empowered to make cuts to Medicare providers with little or no input from the Congress.

While we are in Washington, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will be holding a hearing on the effects of IPAB and Rep. Schwartz will be one of the witnesses in favor of repeal. The Alliance of Specialty Medicine has been asked to testify at the hearing and will strongly endorse legislation to repeal IPAB. Click here to view the Alliance’s testimony in its entirety.

Congressman Larry Bucshon, MD also spoke to the group. Dr. Bucshon is a specialist representing the interests of specialty care access in Congress. During the meeting I asked Dr. Bucshon why physician payments are constantly under attack when physician spending constitutes less than 10% of Medicare expenditures. Meanwhile, hospitals and other related entities, which account for more than 30% of Medicare spending, continue to see annual increases. Dr. Bucshon said this represents the type of illogical policy that motivated him to run for Congress. He questioned why Medicare Part A payments continue to increase while hospitals are initially exempt from IPAB cuts. He said he is here in Washington to stop this type of situation.

Wednesday our colleagues took our message to Congressional offices—asking lawmakers to support the repeal of the SGR and IPAB and to support federal medical liability legislation.

-Raj Rao, MD