April 15, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
The California Medical Association (CMA) congratulates the U.S. Senate for passing monumental Medicare reform and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) extension, and thanks President Obama for signing the legislation. The 92-8 Senate vote demonstrates the extreme need for the overhaul.
The legislation, H.R. 2, known as the “The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act,” will reform the broken Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) physician payment system and extend the expiring Children’s Health Insurance Program. Both of these important reforms will help to improve access to doctors in California for five million seniors on Medicare, one million military families on TriCare and the nearly one million uninsured children currently covered by CHIP.
Major provisions of the bill include repealing of the SGR, automatic 0.5 percent updates each year for four years, a simplification and consolidation of the burdensome reporting programs, physician involvement in defining quality, $125 million in funding to help small practice physicians transition, and allowing physicians to choose to participate in either a fee-for-service payment track or innovative, alternative payment models.
“The Senate’s action and the President’s swift signing are a testament to the dedication both have to ensure quality access to health care,” said Luther F. Cobb, M.D., CMA president. “These reforms make it possible for existing physicians to stay in practice and treat some of our neediest and most vulnerable patients while outlining a pathway for new physicians as well. Majority leader McCarthy and Minority leader Pelosi were instrumental in getting it through the House just weeks ago and to the Senate.
There are more than 1,000 new Medicare enrollees every day in California, yet many physicians are no longer accepting new Medicare patients.
Other terms of the legislation include the extension of CHIP for two years at higher funding levels, which will ensure nearly one million children in California will be able to keep their insurance; an extension of the Community Health Center funding; and an extension of the important programs that train new physicians - the National Health Services Program and teaching health centers.
“By repealing the SGR and providing annual updates, H.R. 2 provides stability to physician practices that allows for longer term planning,” added Dr. Cobb. “Also importantly, it allows physicians to design new payment systems that work for physicians and patients instead of government bureaucrats. This is a step in the right direction for the future of health care and the 40,000 members of CMA extend an added thank you to Senators Feinstein and Boxer from California for their extreme efforts in getting this important reform passed.”