WASHINGTON, D.C. – With renewed Congressional fervor surrounding the health care law, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has made repealing the law's egregious components and protecting Medicare payments as top priorities. The Academy determined its 2011 legislative agenda during a meeting of the Secretariat for Federal Affairs on Jan. 22. The secretariat meets each January to discuss a wide range of legislative issues affecting ophthalmologists.
"Key access issues were lost in the turmoil of the last Congress' zest to pass a health care reform bill," said Gregory P. Kwasny, MD, Academy secretary for federal affairs. "Because of Congress' lack of regard for the consequences of their hasty actions, the viability of medical practices and patients' access to care have been jeopardized."
The Academy will press Congress to:
· Repeal the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)
· Eliminate scheduled penalties on physicians (e.g., failure to adopt an electronic health record system and non-participation in the Medicare Physician Quality Reporting System)
Repeal of the sustainable growth rate, the formula used to establish Medicare physician pay, remains one of the Academy's top priorities. Therefore the Academy is working with the American College of Surgeons and the AMA to develop alternative Medicare physician payment proposals, including advancing consideration of private contracting.
"With the amplified mantra for reduced federal spending in the 112th Congress, the Academy will stress to Congress that drastic Medicare physician reimbursement cuts including the sustainable growth rate present a major threat to local economies and patient access to care and a fair pay structure must be established," said Kwasny.
In addition, the Academy will work closely with a coalition of medical societies to support passage of the Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act of 2011 (H.R. 451). The bill, introduced this week by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) and Rep. David Scott (D-GA), provides resources to address patient confusion in the health care marketplace regarding the many types of providers. It would make it unlawful for any health care professional to make deceptive statements or engage in any act that misleads patients whether in person, in advertisements or marketing efforts as to one's education, training, degree, licensure or clinical experience. The Academy has supported state truth and transparency bills that have been signed into law in five states. The federal legislation would enhance, not supersede, those state laws.
"The truth and transparency act would safeguard the public by prohibiting misleading terminology some practitioners are using to misrepresent themselves or their qualifications," said Kwasny.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye M.D.s—with more than 29,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org.