July 15, 2009
Senate HELP Committee Approves Health Reform Bill
Yesterday the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved its health reform bill on a 13-10 party-line vote. The bill must now be merged with whatever version emerges from the Senate Finance Committee before floor consideration in the chamber.
Please note that the Senate HELP bill is a different version of health care reform legislation than what was recently introduced in the House, H.R. 3200. The HELP bill includes a public plan option with negotiated rates, whereas H.R. 3200 includes a public plan option based on Medicare payment rates. ASA maintains its strong opposition to a public plan tied to Medicare payment rates.
The following is a statement from ASA President Roger A. Moore, M.D., regarding the Senate HELP bill:
“It is a step in the right direction that the HELP Committee bill includes a public plan option that would allow negotiations with the Secretary of HHS, rather than basing payments on Medicare rates. However, the final provision remains influx since the HELP committee does not have jurisdiction over Medicare matters.
“The legislation approved by the HELP committee is one piece of the increasingly complex debate on health care reform. We are eagerly anticipating the release of a bill from the Senate Finance Committee, the other Senate committee with jurisdiction over health care. We are hopeful that the Senate Finance Committee draft will not include a public plan option based on Medicare’s unsustainably low payment rates, or require mandatory physician participation.
“Anesthesiologists face a Medicare “33 percent problem”: Medicare pays 33 percent of what private insurers pay for anesthesia services. This simply does not reflect the costs of providing anesthesiology medical care. (Meanwhile, Medicare pays an average of 80 percent of what private insurers pay for most other medical specialties.)
“Congress has a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our health care system and help America’s patients by improving health insurance coverage and delivery. However, they must not do so at the expense of physicians, who provide unparalleled leadership and expertise in the care of patients.”Summary of HELP Committee bill