Call your Member of Congress Today – Committee action begins tomorrow
After weeks of hearings and closed door negotiations, Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives formally unveiled their health care reform proposal, H.R. 3200, the "America's Affordable Health Choices Act," yesterday afternoon.
This historic bill includes a number of important delivery reforms that will expand access to insurance for the uninsured. ASA commends the authors of this legislation for their work.
However, much to the disappointment of the ASA, the bill contains provisions expanding Medicare's flawed payment level for anesthesia services. H.R. 3200 creates a new government-sponsored insurance option tied to Medicare called the "public health insurance option." Payments to providers under this plan would be based on Medicare rates. Payments for anesthesia services would be based upon Medicare's unacceptably low anesthesia conversion factor - a payment level calculated to be only 33% percent of commercial/private insurance levels.
The extenstion of the flawed Medicare payment level through this plan could have serious consequences for both private practice and academic anesthesiologists. Accordingly, it must be stopped.
An important opportunity to stop the provision starts tomorrow.
As part of the legislative process, H.R.3200 must now face consideration by the three key health House Committees or the "Tri-Committees" as they have been called. These committees include the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor Committees. Beginning on Thursday, H.R. 3200, will face formal consideration by these Committees. The bill will be subject to changes in Committee through an amendment process.
Reports suggest that key Committee leaders will be open to revisions to the legislation provided that there is sufficient support for the change on the committee.
ASA has already begun to urge lawmakers to address anesthesiology's "33% problem:" the fact that Medicare pays 33 percent of what private insurers pay for anesthesia services. This payment level simply does not reflect the costs of providing anesthesiology medical care. As such, Congress should not use this payment level as a model for the new "public health insurance plan."
We need your assistance to also communicate our specialty's message to lawmakers. Through the din of outside groups carrying their message, it is critical that our voices be heard.Please call your Representative today to tell him or her that:
- It would be unsustainable for the medical specialty of anesthesiology to operate within a public plan option based on Medicare payment rates.
- Payment levels for anesthesia services provided through the new "public health insurance option" must be fixed.
As we have stated in the past, these massive reform proposals inevitably include many issues - both good and bad - that will impact our specialty. We believe that this public option-based upon Medicare represents the most important of these issues with regard to the well-being of our specialty. As such, it requires our immediate attention. We ask that you please do your part
A summary of the entire 1000+ page H.R. 3200, the "America's Affordable Health Choices Act" is available here
The health care reform effort has risen to a new level with the introduction of House legislation. With one Senate bill already under consideration and another one expected to be released soon, it is imperative that we echo our consistent message - that it would be unsustainable for the medical specialty of anesthesiology to operate within a public plan option based on Medicare payment rates.
Please bookmark ASA's Health Care Reform webpage
and check back for updates.