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Failure to address key provisions could dramatically undercut specialty care

LINTHICUM, MD, December 4, 2009 – The American Urological Association (AUA), part of a coalition of 18 other surgical specialties, is urging the U.S. Senate to consider making critical changes to its version of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act of 2009 to address significant concerns from physician groups. Earlier this week, the Senate began its debate of the bill, which differs significantly from the version passed last month by the House of Representatives.


Both bills address a number of issues key to the reform effort, including insurance market reforms, expansion of public programs, physician quality improvement initiatives and a need for comparative effectiveness research. While the coalition supported key provisions in the House of Representatives’ bill, the group does not feel that medical liability reform, physician payment and means to increase patients’ access to quality care are adequately addressed in the Senate version. Other areas of concern in the Senate bill include the establishment of an Independent Medicare Advisory Board, Medicare enrollment fees for physicians and proposed budget-neutral bonus payments for primary care physicians and rural-area general surgeons (which would be given at the expense of payments to other providers). Additionally, the group feels that the Senate should more broadly address predicted shortages in the surgical workforce.


“Healthcare reform is a critical initiative that must be undertaken by U.S. lawmakers in concert with the concerns of the nation’s physicians, said AUA Health Policy Chair Steven M. Schlossberg, MD, MPH. “In order to truly reform the system, the issues surrounding medical liability, workforce and physician payment must be addressed. All of these areas directly affect physicians’ ability to provide quality care to patients.”


The coalition has been working closely with both the House of Representatives and the Senate to share specialists’ concerns and provide input in developing healthcare reform legislation since Congress took up the issue earlier this year. The group expressed its opposition to the Senate bill in a letter sent to the Senate on December 1.


“Though clearly we are disappointed that the Senate bill does not address our concerns as adequately as the House version, we stand in support of reform efforts and will continue to work with leaders to ensure that we continue to provide quality care to our patients,” said Dr. Schlossberg. “We are optimistic that, through floor debate and the conference process, we will achieve outcomes that are mutually beneficial to both patients and physicians.”


About the American Urological Association: Founded in 1902 and headquartered near Baltimore, Maryland, the American Urological Association is the pre-eminent professional organization for urologists, with more than 16,000 members throughout the world. An educational nonprofit organization, the AUA pursues its mission of fostering the highest standards of urologic care by carrying out a wide variety of programs for members and their patients.

Wendy Isett, AUA