AMA meeting: Congress is urged to stop automatic cuts to health programs
■ Delegates direct the AMA to lobby Congress to prevent budget reductions in Medicare, public health and other initiatives.
By Charles Fiegl amednews staff — Posted Nov. 26, 2012
Honolulu The American Medical Association will push Congress to develop a plan that rescinds cuts to federal health care programs in future years.
At its Interim Meeting in November, the House of Delegates directed the AMA to advocate that lawmakers develop a fiscally responsible alternative to the automatic budget sequestration cuts endangering medical research, work force programs, food and drug safety, and health care for uniformed service members. Legislation also should address sequestration of Medicare payments to graduate medical education programs, hospitals and physicians that will endanger access to care and training of physicians, the directive stated.
Physician testimony during a Nov. 11 reference committee session unanimously supported the resolution introduced by the American College of Physicians, American Assn. of Neurological Surgeons, American Academy of Family Physicians and several other organized medicine groups.
Under law, federal budget deficits must be cut by $1.2 trillion beginning in 2013 and throughout the next eight years. Congress and President Obama had agreed to reduce spending across the board during 2011 negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling.
The automatic, across-the-board reductions are divided between defense and nondefense spending. Medicaid and Social Security are protected from the cuts, but Medicare payments are not, and pay for physician services would be lowered by 2%.
The sequestration of federal health programs is not limited to Medicare, said Rhode Island internist Yul D. Ejnes, MD, a delegate for the American College of Physicians. The budget mechanism will affect federal drug safety programs, physician work force growth initiatives and care to dependents of military personnel.
“Given the broad scope of sequestration and its impact on our patients and the work we do, we thought it was important to submit this resolution to get the message out in a timely manner to the Congress,” Dr. Ejnes said during reference committee testimony.
Public health programs, which already have marginal support in Washington, are another area that will be damaged by the budget sequester, said AAFP President-elect Reid B. Blackwelder, MD, a family physician from Kingsport, Tenn. Cuts will only exacerbate unmet health care needs, he said.
“We do need fiscal responsibility, but our representatives' responses must be proactive and informed,” Dr. Blackwelder said.