Statement of William N. Werner, M.D., President, Illinois State Medical Society
Chicago, IL – After months of uncertainty the U.S. Supreme Court has today affirmed the Affordable Care Act. It is good news that Illinoisans will have the responsibility and tools for obtaining health insurance coverage. It is also positive to note that important coverage provisions, such as the protection against denial for pre-existing conditions, remain in place. However, much work is needed before we can truly call our health system “reformed.”
Among the significant remaining challenges are:
Medicare Payment Reform – Our Medicare program’s financial health edges closer to a cliff each day Congress fails to enact reform. Currently, physicians face an across-the-board reimbursement cut of about 30% on January 1, 2013. Without Medicare payment reform, our Medicare patients’ access to care is in peril.
Medicaid Reform – We are still reviewing the section of the opinion that deals with Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act builds coverage through significant Medicaid expansion. This is not a sensible policy in states such as Illinois with struggling Medicaid programs. Patients already receiving care through Medicaid face hurdles that those with other forms of insurance do not. Illinois’ current Medicaid reimbursement levels rank behind 40 states when compared to the Medicare fee schedule. The ACA provides for a temporary and limited Medicaid reimbursement increase, but more must be done to fix this program.
Medical Liability Reform – Despite a dire need for reform, Illinois courts have struck down strong medical liability protections here on more than one occasion. Federal reform is needed to help Illinois with our medical workforce recruiting. Currently, half of physicians who train here leave after residency. Two-thirds of those who depart cite our liability climate among their chief reasons for leaving. National physician supply projections suggest we will soon have an inadequate number of doctors to meet the needs of our patients. Illinois needs medical liability reform as a component of a comprehensive policy to address our medical workforce needs.
Until we address these issues, our journey toward a sensible and cost-effective health care system is far from over. ISMS has developed our Health Care Reform Principles to assist Congress in crossing the finish line with health reform. We urge them to roll up their sleeves and finish the job.
ISMS is a professional membership association representing 11,000 physicians practicing in all medical specialties statewide. Dr. Werner is an internal medicine specialist from Chicago.