Open Letter to the U.S. Congress Mar 16. 2010 | Comments (1)
Dear Members of Congress:
I’m writing today on behalf of nearly 45,000 physicians and medical student members of the Texas Medical Association (TMA) to ask for swift action to stop the implosion of our Medicare system. The government simply cannot run its largest health care program without physicians to care for the millions of senior citizens, people with disabilities, and military families who depend on Medicare.
TMA’s message to Congress for the past year on health system reform is “Keep what’s good in our health care system and fix only what’s wrong.” I have traveled around the state and heard from physicians and patients about the current health care system. All agree that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.
One of the critical broken pieces is the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for Medicare. Since its inception, the SGR has not worked. Annually, it has forced physicians to limit access for our patients, pushing patients into higher cost areas like emergency rooms. Every year for a decade, we have faced steep cuts that jeopardize our ability to care for patients. You and your colleagues have recognized this glaring problem — this gaping wound in our health care system — but have been willing to address it only with Band-Aids. We need more than Band-Aids. We need more than sutures. We need a complete transplant. You created this disease, and only you can cure it.
Now, Congress wants to rush into health system reform and ignore the crumbling Medicare foundation you created. As physicians, we learn the first thing we must do in a medical crisis is stabilize the patient. You must do the same. You must act now and develop a rational Medicare physician payment system that automatically keeps up with the cost of running a practice and is backed by a fair, stable funding formula. There is no more time. There is no other solution. You must stabilize Medicare today and ensure a firm foundation for future generations of patients.
On behalf of our patients and ourselves, we implore that you fix Medicare before moving forward with even bigger health system reform. We believe you cannot have true health system reform without fixing the Medicare crisis first. You cannot build on a crumbling foundation.
TMA does support health system reform — reforms that truly put our patients first. However, we believe bad health system reform will create even more dire consequences than no health care reform at all.
Please, on behalf of Texas’ patients and their physicians, do the right thing. Stop the Medicare Meltdown by working with your colleagues in both parties to replace the faulty funding formula used to pay physicians immediately. No more Band-Aids. It’s time for a permanent Medicare fix.
William H. Fleming III, MD
Texas Medical Association