Cardiologists, Other Health Care Professionals, Must Continue Legislative Advocacy to Avoid 'Devastating' Reimbursement Cuts, CAA President Tells MedAxiom Conference

'Fear and trepidation' over possible reductions must motivate doctors, others to fight possible Medicare cuts, push for better patient outcomes at lower cost

Oct 07, 2010, 15:00 ET from MedAxiom

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Oct. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The president of the Cardiology Advocacy Alliance (CAA) today warned doctors and practice leaders from around the United States that Congress may allow significant Medicare reimbursement cuts to take effect without continued advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill.  Such cuts, she said, have the potential to be financially devastating.

Cathie Biga told attendees at MedAxiom's Fall Conference this morning that health care reform that passed Congress earlier this year has already begun to create a funnel of consequences, requiring cardiologists to look at different ways of implementing needed changes in the delivery of services to an increasing number of patients, as well as the way they are reimbursed for those services.

She also warned that even though Congress has already halted planned reimbursement cuts three times this year, that does not mean they will do so a fourth time.  Biga noted that cardiologists face a 23 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements in less than 60 days, with another 6.5 percent reduction at the start of 2011.  Without a Congressional reprieve to halt that cut, as it has previously done, Biga said there is "fear and trepidation" that Medicare could again begin withholding payments as soon as December 1.

Biga called on attendees at the MedAxiom conference to urge their elected representatives to support a bill from Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX), which would keep Medicare cardiology reimbursement at 2009 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule rates.

Beyond that, Biga also said cardiologists must understand that they need to implement changes to deliver better health care to their patients at lower cost, regardless of any Congressional action.  "Some practices believe that since the cuts weren't as severe as they had expected, that it's business as normal.  Nothing could be further from the truth," she said, calling on cardiologists to adopt changes in their practices such as implementing electronic health records (EHR), including e-prescribing and ensuring all operational efficiencies have been implemented.

"This is an opportunity to redefine what needs to be defined to get the best outcome at the lowest cost, because right now, we're in a non-sustainable model," Biga said.  "You can be depressed, but you can't be spoon-fed, and you can't be uninformed – and certainly you can be reactive.  Cardiologists will have to be more proactive than ever before."

Biga spoke at MedAxiom's Fall Conference, at which additional topics such as practice integration, payment reform, quality reporting and more are being actively discussed.  "Financial considerations continue to be a prime concern for a majority of American cardiologists.  It is the major factor in the increasing trend toward practice integration," said Patrick White, MedAxiom's president.  "We have to remain aware of what is happening in Congress and attempt to positively influence its actions, so that we can continue focusing on what's most important, and that is providing superior health care to millions of Americans at an affordable cost."

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