October 29, 2009
House Democrats Release Health Reform Bill
Earlier today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with other key Democrats, released H.R. 3962, the “Affordable Health Care for America Act.” The comprehensive health reform bill is a combination of three versions of H.R. 3200 previously adopted by the House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor committees.
The House is expected to consider H.R. 3962 within the next 7-10 days.
ASA is extremely pleased that the bill has moved away from payment rates tied to Medicare rates for physician services – an ASA priority - toward freely negotiated rates. Since the beginning of the health care reform debate, ASA has been the leader among the medical community in opposing a public plan tied to Medicare payment rates.
This positive development is also due in recent part to the tremendous support for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D-TX) amendment to delink payment for anesthesia services under a public plan from Medicare payment rates. ASA members are to be commended for their hard work in reaching out to Congress in support of the Johnson amendment. The amendment and the support it generated helped move House leadership away from a Medicare-based public plan. With the House’s movement toward freely negotiated rates, the Johnson amendment is not expected to be advanced as anesthesiologists would already be eligible for commercial/private pay rates. We are also pleased that under the bill, physicians would be given the opportunity to opt-out of participation in the public plan.
ASA commends the important health insurance reforms included in H.R. 3962 that would expand access to insurance coverage and ensure broader fairness to patients by health plans.
Today in a meeting with ASA lobbyists, House leaders reiterated their strong support for SGR reform this year. While H.R. 3962 does not include a fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate formula (SGR), House leaders are committed to moving a new free-standing bill to achieve needed reforms. To this end, provisions to reform the SGR have been carved out and reintroduced as H.R. 3961, which will move separately through the House in the near future due to budgetary scoring concerns. ASA supports H.R. 3961 to achieve SGR reform, avoid a 21% Medicare cut in January 2010, and establish a pathway to future positive Medicare updates.