Washington, DC – The American College of Cardiology (ACC) is deeply frustrated that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ignored the call from Congress to step back and assess the data upon which it based the 2010 physician payment rule. Instead CMS announced that the rule will proceed using unvalidated data risking devastating patient access to care. The rule puts into effect policy proposals that will unacceptably reduce payments for cardiovascular-related services averaging 27 percent for cardiology private practices. While phased in over four years, cardiologists can see the handwriting on the wall, and most are already looking for employment options as they plan to close their community based practices.
“While CMS has attempted to mitigate the impacts of these cuts by spreading them out over a four-year period, the bottom line is these cuts will cripple the nation’s ability to treat cardiovascular disease,” said ACC’s CEO Jack Lewin, MD. “This is a short-sighted rule based on flawed data that was not validated or reviewed. People will needlessly suffer and patients will die as a result of what CMS did today. While we are encouraged that CMS has recognized, at least to some degree, our concerns about the impact on access to care and tried to mitigate the effects of the cuts, we nonetheless have to challenge the decision. It simply prescribes a slow death rather than euthanasia. We will continue to fight for some solution to this nightmare situation. CMS can still undertake a full data review and readjust the policies where necessary.”
Approximately two-thirds of cardiovascular patient care access will be affected as practices close. The worst effects will be in rural states, suburbs and places away from large academic centers and integrated systems. Hospital based practices are largely insulated. However, the cuts will increase Medicare costs as hospital-based cardiology and clinical and diagnostic services cost an average of two to four times as much as the equivalent private practice cost.
“While the need for cardiovascular care is on a rapid rise, with the aging of the boomers, and the pandemic of diabetes and obesity, the cuts may make cardiovascular care nearly unavailable to those who need it the most, other than through emergency rooms and hospitals,” said ACC President Fred Bove, MD. “Over the past decade there has been a 27 percent reduction in morbidity and mortality in cardiovascular disease in this country, yet these cuts will effectively destroy the very system that achieved that amazing success.”
For the past four months, the nation’s 37,000 cardiovascular specialists have worked diligently to inform members of Congress and the administration about the dangers of this proposed rule. To date, approximately 120 members of Congress have written letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on behalf of the ACC asking for clarification and intervention. And since January July1, 2009 ACC members have sent more than 19,000 communications to Members of Congress and have attended more than 400 meetings on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, the ACC launched a national ad campaign which featured advertisements appealing to President Obama in the nation’s leading newspapers.