Mar 11, 2009

Dr. T’s Capitol Hill Report – Live from the American Medical Association’s National Advocacy Conference

By Lyle S. Thorstensen, MD Chair, TMA Board of Trustees
We have had an outstanding meeting. Today is an example. Ezekiel Emaunel, MD, (special White House advisor for health care) presented the Obama principles in detail and answered questions. The talk was based upon the eight principles of Health Care System Reform that everyone can agree on. Things like access to care for all, doctor choice, portability, waiver of preexisting conditions exemption, quality and safety measures, affordability, accountable costs, HIT…etc. During Q&A, he was asked about anti-trust relief. He responded, “Yes, it needs to be considered.” Asked about national medical liability reform, he responded, “Yes, it needs to be considered”. (As you recall, even Rep. John Dingle said it needs to be visited). Finally as I was preparing to make some Hill visits, I sent a note to the moderator, the distinguished AMA President Nancy Nielsen, MD. She was able to present my questions before I left. The questions had to do with the exclusion of certain groups, most noticeably from my perspective, the American College of Surgeons, from the White House Forum on Health Reform last week. Dr. Emaunel replied that before final passage of a bill, all parties would be invited to participate. He explained that the first meeting was not intended to slight any of the stakeholders. Transparency and inclusion are the requirements for meaningful solutions. My final concern dealt with fear of a payment system that would “rob Peter to pay Paul,” analogous to the inadequate pay of our primary care colleagues. He again assured us that this would not happen, and the implication was that “new money” was coming to the system. Finally, the discussion brought agreement (between TMA President Josie Williams, MD; EVP Lou Goodman, and me) that an effort should be made to invite Dr Emanuel for a Texas presentation. At the very least, we should try to get a copy of his slides. Because of the huge success medical liability reform has brought Texas, Rep. Mike Burgess, MD, feels he has an obligation to share the good fortune of Texas’ successes with the nation. He has prepared another run at it with a standalone bill or one that can be attached. He reports that the Congressional Budget Office has reviewed his bill, and it seems to be supported with a fiscal note that his national medical liability bill would save the nation $3.2 billion. He is planning to attach it to every bill that comes out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to provide additional resources for spending bills that come forth. Ya gotta love it. BTW, we are not giving up on the Medicare Economic Index (MEI). SGR has to be reconciled by “rebasing,” so that Representative Burgess can bring back MEI. He said he will bring it! Now all we need is another 217 votes in the House and at least 60 in the Senate Governor Perry and the First Lady Anita had a tremendous time last night. Accepting the prestigious AMA Nathan Davis Award, the governor gave an inspiring and spirited invitation to all those in attendance to move and to live in Texas. With enviable medical liability reform and low taxes, we welcome new doctors to our state. Oklahoma may steal our football players, so we will gladly take their doctors. Reps. Pete Session and Michael Burgess were present as well, soliciting our ideas for health care system reform. AMA NAC ‘09 was a memorable and proud moment for all Texans. (Editor’s note: Dr. Thorstenson joined TMA President Josie Williams, MD, and 22 other physicians, alliance members, students, and TMA staff on Capitol Hill this week. As part of the AMA National Advocacy Conference, they have met with Texas senators and representatives to press our position on health system reform. “Please keep our patients at the forefront of your minds as you work through this reform debate,” Dr. Williams wrote to our congressional delegation.)

No comments: