ACP Annual Report Decries 'Broken Political Culture'

Joe Barber Jr, PhD

January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012 — The American College of Physicians (ACP) discussed progress in healthcare, and called on Congress to reach bipartisan agreements to reduce the costs of healthcare by addressing the true drivers of healthcare costs, in its annual report.

During a webinar on January 26, 2012, Robert Doherty, senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy for the ACP, made 5 specific proposals to address rising healthcare costs. Doherty described the ACP proposals as "a fiscally and socially responsible alternative that can achieve hundreds of billions in savings by addressing the real cost drivers in health."

Together, the 5 recommendations address healthcare costs as an alternative to sequestration, which calls for a 7.8% cut in all nondiscretionary spending in 2013 and additional cuts in future years. This would result in equal cuts in spending for effective and ineffective programs. In its recommendations, ACP calls on Congress to:

  • repeal the Medicare sustainable growth rate and transition to new patient-centered payment models;

  • reduce the costs of defensive medicine;

  • promote high-value, cost-conscious care;

  • make structural entitlement reforms to use resources more effectively; and

  • reform federal tax policies so consumers become more aware of the costs of health benefits.

Progress and Challenges in Healthcare

The report noted that although progress has been made in healthcare, many challenges remain. According to the report, annual increases in healthcare costs have reached a 50-year low, but the overall cost of healthcare is at an all-time high. This cost is projected to consume an increasingly larger percentage of the gross domestic product in future years.

In addition, fewer people are dying of the leading causes of death, but millions of people still have inadequate access to healthcare. Moreover, despite a tripling of the number of clinicians receiving scholarships or loan repayment from the National Health Services Corp, at present there is a shortage of approximately 40,000 physicians.

Virginia Hood, MBBS, MPH, FACP, president of ACP, mentioned that unfocused efforts to reduce spending could reverse the progress made and pose new challenges for healthcare. "While we are pleased to report that there is progress being made to improve access, reduce costs, and address physician shortages, recent and proposed cuts in federal funding for many critical health programs threaten to turn back the clock," stated Dr. Hood. "This will endanger the lives of millions of persons and threaten access to care for the most vulnerable Americans."

Political Barriers to Reform

Doherty noted that that political issues have affected progress in reducing the costs of healthcare in the United States. "Many of ACP's ideas for reducing healthcare costs in a fiscally and socially responsible way have been embraced by bipartisan groups in their plans to reduce the federal deficit, including the Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Rivlin-Domenici Bipartisan Policy Center report," stated Doherty.

"Regrettably, though, a broken political culture that demands confrontation over compromise has made it impossible for Congress to achieve agreement on such commonsense, common-ground approaches. Too often, intriguing ideas from all sides are subjected to misleading attacks in order to score political points."

These concerns were echoed by Dr. Hood. "Our broken politics are making it harder to achieve a national consensus on such necessary reforms," she stated. "Instead of seeking bipartisan solutions, American politics today are characterized by deep ideological polarization, cynical and deceptive attacks on the ideas of others, an aversion to compromise, and a failure of politicians to level with the public about the choices that must be made."

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