(WASHINGTON D.C.) The American Medical Association (AMA) yesterday announced its support for passage of the amended Senate health care system reform bill (H.R. 3590). Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the Senate will bring our nation close to the finish line on health care system reform.
"All Americans deserve affordable, high-quality health coverage so they can get the medical care they need - and this bill advances many of our priority issues for achieving the vision of a health system that works for patients and physicians," said AMA President-elect Cecil B. Wilson, M.D.
The Senate bill includes a number of key benefits for meaningful reform, and the AMA feels it will improve choice and access to affordable health insurance coverage and eliminate denials based on pre-existing conditions. Additionally, the bill will increase coverage for preventive and wellness care that can lead to better disease prevention and management, and further the development of comparative effectiveness research that can help patients and physicians make informed treatment decisions.
"Lifetime limits on health coverage will be a thing of the past - as will higher premiums based on medical conditions or gender," said Dr. Wilson. "These are important benefits for those who have insurance now - and those who want it but have been unable to get it.
"The AMA communicated closely with the Senate about items it supported and items of concern in the prior version of the Senate bill. We are pleased that the manager's amendment addresses several issues of concern to AMA. It increases payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons in underserved areas while no longer cutting payments to other physicians. It eliminates the tax on physician services for cosmetic surgery and drops the proposed physician enrollment fee for Medicare."
While important improvements have been made to the bill, the AMA notes there is still work to be done.
Important issues that need to be resolved in the House-Senate conference committee include the creation of a Medicare payment board, quality improvement and Medicare data release initiatives.
Separate action is needed early next year to permanently repeal the current Medicare physician payment formula to provide a stable payment system, preserving access to care for America's seniors, baby boomers and military families.
Said Dr. Wilson, "The AMA will stay engaged in the process to ensure that the final bill that goes to President Obama for his signature will improve the health care system for patients and physicians."