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December 14, 2007

2007

December 14, 2007

HEADLINE

White House and Congress Nearing Medicare Deal...

At press time, it appears the White House and Congress are close to an agreement for passing legislation to prevent a 10% cut in Medicare physician reimbursements looming on January 1, 2008.  The deal, referred to as a "skinny" Medicare package will likely include a 1-year fix to the Medicare physician fee cuts and a few other small Medicare items.

Congress and the White House could not agree on a larger Medicare bill to address other pressing Medicare policy issues.  Discussions broke down over  White House objections to any cuts in Medicare payments to Medicare managed care providers.  Both House and Senate Democrat Medicare legislation used cuts to Medicare managed care providers to pay for expansions in other Medicare programs.

The ATS continues to push Congress to include a provision to establish pulmonary rehabilitation as a covered Medicare benefit in any Medicare legislation moving through Congress.

...While White House and Congress Continue to Fight Over SCHIP

This week, President Bush vetoed a second bill to expand coverage under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). SCHIP is a joint state/federal program that provides health insurance for uninsured children in low-in income families. The House narrowly failed to override the President's veto of the first SCHIP bill.

Most observers feel there is little hope for expanding the SCHIP program in the near future and expect Congress to provide a temporary extension of the program into 2008. It is likely Congress will visit this issue again next year.

RESEARCH

Congress and White House Finalize FY08 Health Funding

After several weeks of difficult wrangling over fiscal year 2008 health and education spending, House and Senate leaders and the White House are moving towards a final compromise package before the Congress adjourns for the holidays on December 21. The FY 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) Appropriations bill provides funding for all health research and services, including funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In November, the President vetoed the Labor-HHS-ED bill passed by Congress that included a 3.1% funding increase for the NIH and a 4.1% increase for the CDC over FY 2007 levels, because it exceeded his annual budget for health and education spending by nearly $10 billion. The Congress was not able to override the veto and has been negotiating with the White House this month on a final spending level that will include across the boards cuts to all programs. Although the final funding levels for health programs are not yet known, because congressional leaders had to cut the Labor-HHS-ED bill by close to $10 billion to reach a compromise with the President, it is estimated that most programs will receive at least a 2.5% cut from the funding levels in the original Labor-HHS bill, including the NIH and CDC.

Details of the final compromise package are expected to begin to emerge over the weekend. The ATS Washington Office will inform members about final FY 2008 budget levels for NIH and CDC as soon as information is available.

CLINICAL PRACTICE

ATS and AMA Conducting Physician Practice Information Survey

For the first time in nearly a decade the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the American Medical Association (AMA), and more than 70 other medical specialty societies, have worked together to coordinate a comprehensive multi-specialty survey of America's physician practices. The purpose of the survey is to collect up-to-date information on physician practice characteristics in order to positively influence national decision makers. Thousands of practices will be surveyed in 2008, from virtually all physician specialties to ensure accurate and fair representation for all physicians and their patients.

This project is unique because it explores both the clinical and business side of medical practice. This information is important for the nation's policy-makers to learn what is truly involved in running a practice that provides expert patient care, while operating a business that is sustainable. A complete understanding of the landscape and the requirements for today's care is critical. These data will allow medicine to articulate practice concerns to national policy-makers that will lead to policy initiatives that not only help in the short-term but will allow future generations of doctors to continue providing superior care to their patients.

There is a small section in this study pertaining to practice expenses and the amounts that are attributable to you. Please encourage your staff to make these numbers available. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced that the results of this study are considered critical to update physician payment. This is a vital part of the research and we need to have accurate and complete data. This information remains confidential. The survey firm will not identify any individuals or entities participating in this research to any of the participating organizations.

Dmrkynetec has been retained to conduct the Physician Practice Information survey among a representative random sample of practices in each of the participating specialties. The survey is an important and necessary vehicle for positive change. Please watch for this survey and do your part in completing it in a thorough and accurate manner if selected to represent our specialty.



Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator