As the debt reduction “super committee” – tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in savings by late November – continues to meet, healthcare providers with a stake in the committee’s action (or inaction) have begun to weigh in on the deficit reduction process.
For example, 40 stakeholder groups sent a letter to the super committee on October 3, citing concerns that cutting Medicare funding for graduate medical education (GME) would only increase the nation’s current shortage of physicians. The letter was signed by groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Medical Group Management Association, and projected a physician shortage of 91,500 by 2020, growing to 130,600 by 2025.
“Cuts to Medicare GME financing will likely exacerbate the physician shortage at a time when we have an estimated 10,000 seniors entering the Medicare program each day and one in every three practicing physicians retiring by 2020,” the letter stated.
On October 4, a group of 20 stakeholder organizations sent a letter to the super committee asking that the PPACA-created Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) be repealed. The IPAB is set to commence operations in 2014 and will consist of 15 members, appointed by the President. In years when costs of the Medicare program increase faster than targeted rates, the board will set Medicare payment policy that will automatically become law, unless Congress steps in.
In the letter, the groups – including the Alliance of Specialty Medicine, the American College of Radiology, the American College of Emergency Physicians and other specialty groups – cited their concern that the IPAB will be required to recommend reimbursement cuts that are based on unrealistic spending targets.
The letter stated: “While we recognize the need to reduce the federal budget deficit and control the growth of health care spending, the IPAB is simply the wrong solution for addressing these budgetary challenges…Leaving Medicare payment decisions in the hands of an unelected, unaccountable body with minimal congressional oversight will negatively affect timely access to quality health care for our country’s senior citizens and the disabled.”
The next notable deadline for the super committee is October 14 – the date by which all standing committees in the House and Senate must submit their deficit reduction recommendations for consideration. The exact process by which each standing committee will make such submittals (as well as the content of the recommendations themselves) may vary widely. Upon receipt, the super committee is not required to abide by standing committee recommendations when putting together its final deficit reduction package.