AGA Washington Insider

A policy blog for GIs

Obama Wins Second Term, But Fiscal Cliff Looms on the Horizon

After a very long, contentious and expensive campaign season, the election is officially over and President Obama has won a second term in office. Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives with a 232 seat majority, but there were many Democratic victories in the Senate that a few months back seemed impossible. The Democrats remain in control of the Senate with 53 Democratic seats and two Independents who will likely caucus with the Democrats. All in all, the status quo remains in Washington with a divided government and a looming fiscal cliff that needs to be addressed in the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, beginning when legislators return to town later this month.

On the table — sequestration and the automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs that will kick in if Congress and the president don’t come up with a solution to address them. There is also the issue of the nearly 29 percent reduction that physicians will face in their Medicare reimbursement if it is not addressed by Jan. 1, 2013. And, Congress and the president need to address the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, deciding whether they will go into effect or be part of a larger negotiating package that will include the sequestration cuts and Medicare physician payment cuts.

What does this mean for gastroenterology?

There is an enormous amount at stake in the next few months with impending cuts that will have a devastating impact on clinicians and researchers. Clinicians are facing nearly a 29 percent cut in reimbursement from Medicare when the proposed 26.5 cut is combined with the automatic across the board 2 percent cut from sequestration. Federal research funding also faces deep cuts of 8 percent, which will not only stall scientific progress, but will kill an important economic engine in our country. The AGA is launching the first ever AGA Virtual Advocacy Campaign on Tuesday, Dec. 4 to call on Congress to take action to prevent these cuts, which will have dire consequences on jobs in our country at a time when we cannot afford to lose any.

Regardless of party affiliations, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the election is over, but the real work remains on how these critical fiscal issues will be addressed. Many speculate that Congress and the president will pass a temporary delay and work on a “grand bargain” similar to the deal that President Obama and Speaker Boehner tried to cut in the summer of 2011. After Republicans suffered defeats at the polls and most Americans called for more cooperation between the parties, there may be more of a willingness for both sides to sit down and negotiate a major deal on taxes and entitlement spending.

AGA will be discussing these scenarios and its implications for practicing gastroenterologists during a webinar on Nov. 15th at 8 p.m. ET. It will be a great way to learn about reimbursement and other quality mandates that are moving forward as a result of the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Register Now

AGA is also hosting a webinar on Nov. 16 at noon ET on the fiscal cliff’s impact on research and other public health spending programs. I encourage you to participate to learn more and to hear how you can get involved. Register Now

Look for more updates in AGA eDigest and the AGAs Washington Insider as the aftermath of the election and its implications for the practice of medicine continue to be analyzed.



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