We don’t want the people in charge of making healthcare policy decisions and laws to work in a vacuum. Neither do we want them to be marionettes being manipulated by special interests. How to balance the two?
This month could be a watershed (maybe) for the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, whose repeal has bipartisan support but details about how to pay for it remain undefined. At the end of the month, it will either have been resolved, enforced or once again suspended. Statistics favor option three. Option two is unlikely, given the steep reimbursement cut that would be imposed on physicians. With only a few weeks left before the March 31 deadline, option one seems a stretch.
But you never know.
Most of us also are unlikely to know the efforts that have been initiated to resolve this issue. The cover story of the March-April issue of Cardiovascular Business looks at physician advocates and their role in being the voice of the profession and the patients it serves. But it also is important to recognize that the message can appear to be self-serving.
The average person is likely to see repeal of the SGR as physicians arguing to maintain their income level. And in comparison to the average wage earner, that salary is very handsome. That makes messaging all the more critical in cases such as the SGR.
Politics is about the distribution of limited resources, a political scientist once told me. Those who gain access to members of Congress or their aides make a case for how the distribution of a slice of the federal budget serves the greater good. As some of the physicians in the cover story point out, what provides for better patient care also results in physician reimbursement.
The advocates who articulate these needs recognize that the funding of healthcare as practiced of yore is not sustainable. Many represent professional societies and play the role of communicator not only to federal officials and lawmakers but also to their membership. The messaging goes both ways.
Cardiologists and administrators who show restraint and use healthcare funding judiciously help to ensure resources will be there in the future. This may go a long way toward maintaining dialog—and good will—in Washington.
Cardiovascular Business, editor