Jun 22, 2010

Texas Physicians Take to Capitol Hill

Physician leaders from the U.S.-Mexico border and San Antonio this week are bringing their concerns directly to Washington, D.C., to urge the nation’s leaders to permanently fix the Medicare Meltdown.

Physicians representing the Texas Medical Association (TMA) and TMA’s Border Health Caucus (BHC) are meeting one-on-one with U.S. representatives and senators to encourage them to take action to stop the 21.2-percent Medicare cut that took effect Friday, June 18, so patients will have access to a doctor when they need one.

One prominent theme we've heard so far is that Republicans are blaming the Democrats and the House is blaming the Senate for holding Medicare legislation hostage.

Kristina Culley (left), legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Tyler), visiting with Drs. Victor Gonzales of McAllen and Manuel Acosta of El Paso on border health issues and Medicare payment meltdown.

TMA President Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, along with El Paso physicians David Palafox, MD (center), and Andres Enriques, MD, explain to Kwamme Anderson, staff person for U.S. Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas), the many challenges facing physicians resulting from Medicare cuts and Medicaid. Anderson says Congress has physicians' livelihood in their hands.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Merceds) center, with (left to right) Drs. Gilberto Handal of El Paso, Chevy Lee of McAllen, Linda Villarreal of Edinburg, Victor Gonzalez of McAllen, and medical student David Espinoza from UT Health Science Center at Houston.

Congressman Hinojosa tells us we will know more about the status of the Medicare legislation after the Democratic caucus this evening. His staff predicts that ultimately, maybe next week, it will pass.

"My patients tell me that they don't want to lose their Medicare, but if I can't see them, then they've essentially lost their Medicare," Dr. Lee said.

Added Dr. Gonzalez, "Medical education is tied to Medicare. If you want more physicians in the workforce, you need a secure Medicare system. It's bigger picture than just doctor payment."

Dr. Bailey and TMA Vice President for Advocacy Darren Whitehurst meet with staff for Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock).

Dr. Bailey and others have a frank and very enlightening discussion with Jenifer Healy, a staff person for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Main takeaway is that physicians and patients are in a political soccer game with no points being scored.

Sarah Whiting from Rep. Joe Barton's tells Drs. Villarreal and Lee that the congressman supports a short-term Medicare fix today and then a real long term fix. She says Mr. Barton is a supporter of tort reform and sees the need for liability protections in health care reform.

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