Today, organized neurosurgery joined the AMA and other groups in sending a letter to urge Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement to prevent budget sequestration cuts that would threaten critical health programs.
So if you are not familiar with this topic, you might be asking yourself what’s this all about. Well, as we have reported before, last year Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) which requires $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years starting on Jan. 1, 2013. While certain programs were spared (e.g., Social Security), unless Congress intervenes to prevent them, federal healthcare programs will see significant reductions. Earlier this year, Congress also passed the Sequestration Transparency Act, which required President Obama to release a report specifying in detail how these cuts will be made. The full report (all 400 pages) is available here.
As we state in our letter, “the implementation of across-the-board budget sequestration cuts that would endanger critical programs related to medical research, public health, workforce, food and drug safety, and health care for military families, as well as trigger cuts in Medicare payments to physicians and graduate medical education programs that will endanger patient access to care. While we acknowledge and support the need to reduce our nation’s burgeoning budget deficit to a fiscally sound level, we believe that the arbitrary and formulaic sequestration approach is not the appropriate policy to attain our nation’s long-term health care goals.
Congress must provide stable payments to physicians as we improve our nation’s Medicare payment and delivery system to promote high-quality, high-value, better-coordinated care to our patients. Coupled with the looming 26.5 percent Medicare physician payment cut under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, the two percent sequester cut will hurt patient access to care and will inject more uncertainty into our Medicare system.”
Given this landscape, neurosurgeons are growing increasingly weary of staring down the Medicare reimbursement precipice – although unfortunately they have grown accustomed to this annual ritual. They are committed to doing their jobs by taking care of patients who have serious medical problems such as brain tumors, debilitating back pain and cerebrovascular disease. It is high time that Congress did its job and fix the SGR and sequestration problems once and for all. Anything less means a broken promise to seniors and their physicians.