We are all aware that the Medicare system is in serious trouble. The number of new Medicare enrollees is increasing everyday and the Federal budget is strained beyond the breaking point to provide for their healthcare needs. This situation is unsustainable. As the delegate from the American Society of General Surgeons I introduced a resolution to address this problem at the annual meeting of the AMA’s House of Delegates in June 2010. The resolution called upon the AMA to take action on behalf of America’s patients and their physicians to ensure the long-term viability of the Medicare program. The final language of the resolution is as follows:
RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association immediately formulate legislation for an additional payment option in Medicare fee for service that allows patients and physicians to freely contract, without penalty to either party, for a fee that differs from the Medicare payment schedule and in a manner that does not forfeit benefits otherwise available to the patient. This legislative language shall be available to our AMA members no later than September 30, 2010.
The resolution passed by an overwhelming margin of 73% to 27% and is now official AMA policy. It is our opinion that the future of American healthcare can be ensured if we empower out patients by providing them with clear choices. Next week I will be traveling to Washington, DC along with several other co-sponsors of the resolution to work with AMA staff to finalize the language in this bill. The AMA will then work to find champions in Congress willing to introduce this legislation shortly after the new Congress is seated in November. There is much work to be done, and it is time for physicians to take the lead.