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Remarks of ASA President Alexander Hannenberg, M.D. on the Final House Health Reform Votes

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Like many physicians around the country, I am concerned and disappointed by the outcome of this evening's House votes on health care reform. As part of its reform efforts, Congress had an historic opportunity to affirm and strengthen the role of physicians in our nations' health system. Indeed, a year ago, like many of you, I was excited at the prospect of enacting historic legislation that would control egregious behavior of insurers, provide coverage to the uninsured and strengthen the foundation of the American medical profession. The passage of these bills represents an opportunity that was missed.

Instead of helping physicians and our patients, the enactment of these bills will represent a continued and pervasive threat to the viability of medical practices throughout the country and to physicians’ ability to deliver needed care to the sick and injured.

Lawmakers were tragically misguided in promising to expand health coverage to millions while simultaneously crippling the medical practices that will be expected to absorb this demand for care.

Understandably, I have already begun to hear from members of our Society who have concerns about the impact of these bills on their practices. I believe those concerns are justified.

Accordingly, I have already directed our Washington, D.C. office to begin work immediately to address those issues we have previously identified as putting Congress and the Obama Administration at odds with our efforts to provide safe and effective health care services. I am encouraged in this effort knowing that we will be joined in this critically important initiative by many of our colleagues in other surgical specialties -- 22 of whom joined us as part of a strong surgical coalition in opposing the Senate bill. I am also encouraged by the recognition that many of the just-passed legislation’s provisions do not take effect until 2012 and 2014 thus creating opportunities for corrective action. We expect to take every advantage of those opportunities. Be assured efforts to protect the interests of our specialty and our patients will not cease because of “final” Congressional votes.

I ask my colleagues to join me in the days, weeks and months ahead to do the work necessary to advance the well-being of our specialty. As we demonstrated through our leadership within the medical community in working to successfully halt the proliferation of Medicare payment rates, our specialty’s voice can be effective when it is unified. I hope all members of our specialty will fully engage in the legislative, regulatory and political battles ahead. We will have a superb opportunity to articulate the need for correction to members of Congress during the upcoming ASA Legislative Conference in Washington on April 26-28. Please continue to monitor the ASA website and your email for additional information about the implementation of this legislation and future ASA “Calls to Action.”

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