AGA Washington Insider

A policy blog for GIs

Lame Duck Session — Congress and the President Try to Reach Deal

Congress officially began its lame duck session as both incoming and outgoing members convened on Capitol Hill to try to complete unfinished business before the end of the year.

At the top of the list is trying to reach a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” — the expiring tax cuts that will increase and the automatic spending cuts that will kick in on Jan. 1, 2013, if Congress fails to act. Of interest to gastroenterology, if Congress does not address sequestration, NIH will be subject to an 8 percent cut and physicians will receive an across the board 2 percent cut.

However, physicians have been subject to their own “fiscal cliff” year after year with Congress’ inability to address the broken Medicare physician payment formula; physicians will be subject to a 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement if Congress does not address the issue. Of course, congressional leaders have stated that they cannot allow cuts of this magnitude to go into effect and want to reach a deal to prevent not only the physician fiscal cliff, but sequestration as well. The question remains — how will this be addressed? Given the short legislative cycle before the end of the year and the magnitude of the task, Congress could pass a short term fix to prevent the cuts from being implemented and begin negotiations for a larger deal early next year. If a deal is reached, chances are better in 2013 in an off-election year. Post-election, both sides have been positive about the outlook for a deal to address taxes and spending, although it remains to be seen how deep each sides’ heals are dug into their respective opinions.

How can you help?

AGA has been fighting these cuts and plans to launch our first ever AGA Virtual Advocacy Day on Tuesday, Dec. 4, during which we will call on you for help. Please take the time to call your legislators to urge them to take action to stop the cuts. Cuts of this magnitude will have a devastating impact on the science and practice of gastroenterology.

For physician practices, a decline in reimbursement will hinder your ability to pay staff, hire new employees and invest in the infrastructure necessary to participate in federally-mandated quality reporting programs. These cuts come on top of cuts, and threaten the viability of practices throughout the country at a time when more baby boomers are entering the rolls of the Medicare program.

For researchers, cuts of more than 8 percent to NIH will cripple laboratories across the country and hurt an industry that generates good, high-paying jobs. Cuts to research will hurt the research careers of our best and brightest who may not be awarded grants and will hurt established scientists who may have to limit hiring assistants and thwart existing research projects.

Continue to read AGA eDigest and the AGA Washington Insider for more information on AGA Virtual Advocacy Day. We need your help and hope we can count on you to lend your voice for your profession.

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