Medicine: Don't Jump Off Fiscal Cliff

Congress should pass "a fiscally responsible, bipartisan agreement" to stop budget cuts that would devastate health programs if the federal government goes over the so-called "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year. That message was delivered in letters to House and Senate leaders of both political parties by TMA, the American Medical Association, and medical societies across the country.

The groups said the across-the-board budget sequestration cuts scheduled to take effect Dec. 31 "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 should take a more targeted, rational approach that allows careful assessment of how to fulfill its long-term commitment to seniors, uniformed service members and their families, and public health and safety priorities."

The letters called for eliminating the Sustainable Growth Rate formula that threatens a 26.5-percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians on Dec. 31 and preserving existing Medicare payments for graduate medical education and funding for key research, public health, and prevention programs.

TMA and the others urged Congress "to consider the long-term benefits of maintaining funding for programs that are essential to achieving our nation's goal to reform the Medicare payment and delivery system, improve public health and safety, improve access to health care services, and reduce overall health care costs."

The letters stem from a resolution cosponsored by the Texas delegation and approved by the AMA House of Delegates at its meeting in November. 

Action, Dec. 17, 2012