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Health reform meetings need closer look, House panel says

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Jan. 27 approved a bipartisan resolution asking the White House to provide more details about a series of meetings last summer with health industry stakeholders. The talks produced pledges from participants to reduce the growth in health spending by up to $2 trillion over a decade. The meetings were attended by representatives of six organizations: the American Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Hospital Assn., America's Health Insurance Plans, the Service Employees International Union and the Advanced Medical Technology Assn. PhRMA agreed in June 2009 to discount drugs for seniors by roughly $80 billion over a decade. The AHA joined two other national hospital organizations in July 2009 to promise a $155 billion reduction in hospital spending growth over a decade. The committee's resolution, a modified version of one originally drafted by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R, Texas), asks ...

Work force issues to be examined in physician survey

About 9,000 primary care physicians nationwide are being surveyed to examine work force matters, medical homes and other practice issues. One goal is to help determine whether there are enough primary care physicians to tend to the nation's needs -- especially if insurance coverage is extended to more people in a reformed health system. "There were discussions of shortages of primary care physicians, and we wanted to understand the nature of the shortage," said Edward Salsberg, director of the Assn. of American Medical Colleges' Center for Workforce Studies, which is reviewing the responses. Reports of long waits to see primary care physicians in Massachusetts after the state extended health insurance coverage to nearly everyone also provided a push for the survey. Physicians in that state have been over-sampled to provide sufficient data to analyze, Salsberg said. Questions on the four-page survey include asking whether physicians plan to work longer hours or hire more sta ...

Obama budget freezes physicians' Medicare pay for 10 years

President Obama promised spending freezes during his first State of the Union address, but his $3.8 trillion fiscal 2011 budget request still would protect physicians from Medicare pay cuts and extend enhanced federal support for state Medicaid programs. Obama's proposal, unveiled Feb. 1, sets aside $371 billion over a decade to pay for the cost of preventing Medicare pay cuts under the sustainable growth rate formula. But the funding would only be enough to turn annual reductions into rate freezes, not to fund pay raises. Also, the president left the specifics of how to prevent the cuts up to Congress, said Jonathan Blum, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Center for Medicare Management. "There's lots of different ways to reform physician payment in the long term," Blum said. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she was confident Congress would prevent the cuts, which are scheduled to begin with a 21.2% reduction on March 1. America ...