Earlier today, the American College of Physicians announced that it had sent to congressional leaders a short video that features internists – speaking in their own words – issuing a heartfelt plea for Congress to avert the scheduled Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cut and work toward putting an end to the repeated cycle of cuts.
The 3 minute and 25 second video, which also is featured on YouTube, emphasizes how patients will be hurt by the scheduled cuts. The videos are the second phase of an ACP initiative to break down the firewall between members of Congress and physician-constituents by combining old-fashioned story-telling with the kinds of short video links popularized by YouTube.
The new video clip may not be as entertaining as the usual YouTube fare, but it tells a compelling story, in the words of the physicians themselves, about the damage being done to patients by the SGR. Excerpts:
From New Haven, Connecticut:
“I urge you to figure out how to make this SGR problem go away. It is very difficult to imagine that physicians are going to be willing to jump on the health reform bandwagon when at the other end of the equation Medicare is threatening these cuts.”
From Charlottesville, Virginia:
“For 35 years I ran an internal medicine intern program … I spent many hours giving career choices to med students. Over past 10 years they’ve become quite aware of the SGR and the uncertainties it provides in reimbursement for primary care physicians.”
From Delray Beach, Florida:
“My overhead goes up, my hard working, diligent employees need and deserve raises. My overhead increases, my supplies increase, I need to be able to afford to stay in business so that I can be there for my patients.”
From Cleveland, Ohio:
“In my family I’ve had a family member who lost his physician and spent the last four years of his life without a primary care physician because none of the primary care doctors in his community where taking on new Medicare patients. So I’ve seen the effect both in my patients and my family.”
From Middleton, Delaware:
“We cannot sustain our [solo] medical practices when receiving such a cut.”
From Thomson, Georgia:
“Where are my patients going to go if my doors close?”
From Lexington, Kentucky:
“It needs to be fixed … yesterday …”
From Sacramento, California:
“… not only for the people over 65… but also for the members of our military services and their families and the retirees and their families.”
From Seattle, Washington:
“I am urging you to repeal the SGR … to do this sooner will cost less … not only in dollar amounts but also in patients’ lives and our physician practices.”
From Tucson, Arizona:
“Just fix it.”
A few hours after ACP released the video, the House joined the Senate in passing legislation to keep current Medicare rates in effect through the end of this year. President Obama is expected to sign it within hours, thereby averting a 23% cut scheduled for December 1. Now, to be sure, I am not attributing enactment of this short-term fix to ACP’s video clip. The video is just one part of the effort being made by ACP, the AMA, AARP, and many, many others to get Congress to stop the cut.
The lame-duck Congress still must take action to prevent another SGR cut schedule for January 1, 2011. Then, the new 112th Congress must work on a bipartisan basis with the White House to enact a longer-term solution that leads to permanent end to the cycle of Medicare physician payment cuts.
That is, Congress still needs to heed physicians’ pleas to “just fix it” - not just for another four weeks, or for another year, but permanently.
Today’s questions: What do you think of the ACP video? How would you make the case to Congress to “just fix it” - once and for all?