By Reps. Phil Roe, Scott DesJarlais and Larry Bucshon
Special to Roll Call
June 21, 2011, Midnight
After a recent meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama and Republican House Members, we asked the president to meet with the GOP Doctors Caucus to discuss concerns that we have about how the health care law will affect our patients. We were pleased that the president agreed.
This is not the first time that members of the Doctors Caucus have tried to meet with the president, but previous requests have gone unanswered.
We persist in making the request because we believe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act threatens the good parts of our health care system, and we came to Congress with the intention of giving our patients access to affordable care.
We have a few specific concerns as physicians that we hope to discuss with the president.
We want to discuss the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula, which dictates payments to physicians. Physicians are threatened with a 29.5 percent cut in their payments unless Congress can end these budgetary games.
A cut of this magnitude would leave many, if not most, Medicare patients without access to physicians. The $500 billion that the president’s health care bill took from Medicare could have solved the problem permanently, but this money was moved to pay for a separate (and unaffordable) new entitlement program.
We also want to discuss the president’s decision to double down on his plan to ration Medicare by strengthening the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
The IPAB is duplicitous for many reasons: It shifts health care decision-making power away from the patient; it will operate without transparency or accountability, bypassing Congressional oversight; and it places the focus on slashing Medicare costs rather than on improving the quality of care. If Congress fails to change the IPAB’s recommendations, they go into effect, and it’s important to note that Congress can only change where — but not how much — to cut.
The IPAB will consist of 15 unelected bureaucrats who will decide what constitutes “necessary care” and create a “one-size-fits-all” solution for medical care. We can tell you firsthand how dangerous this mindset can be. In medicine, every case is unique and must be treated that way.
We also want to discuss how we can reform medical malpractice laws. We can provide the president a unique insight on how these laws are unnecessarily driving up the cost of care. Injured patients deserve to be compensated, but today the fear of being slapped with a frivolous lawsuit leads physicians to order far more tests than necessary, sometimes called “defensive medicine.”
We are certain there is a common-sense approach to fixing this significant cost driver, but so far the president has not engaged us on the issue.
By sitting down and discussing critical elements of the health care law together, it is our hope the president will begin to understand that this law evokes an expansive new bureaucracy put directly between patients and the care recommended by their doctors.
Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) are members of the Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, which Roe chairs, and of the GOP Doctors Caucus, of which Roe is a vice chairman.