Medicare Reform Paves Way for Better Health Care

On April 14, history was made. America's physicians commend members of Congress for coming together in a bipartisan, bicameral way to pass long-overdue, monumental Medicare reforms to end the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment policy and create a framework for a more stable and sustainable Medicare program.

Medicare reform is just the beginning, but it gives us a strong and bold roadmap for transitioning to new models of care that are patient-focused, improve quality and will reduce overall costs.

Policymakers should build on the bipartisan path that brought about Medicare reform and continue to work to alleviate onerous regulatory burdens that add costs, offer little or no value and divert attention from patient care. This will remove additional barriers to innovation and not only pave the way for digital health care to flourish but enable patients to take a more proactive role in their health, which will help put us on a better path to prevent and manage the nation's most debilitating and costly chronic diseases.

Now that lawmakers have taken this step toward making the Medicare program work better for patients, our nation's physicians can move forward to implement new care models supported under the new law. Ensuring that our nation's physicians have the freedom to choose the practice models that best meet their patients' needs has been the catalyst behind the AMA's work to improve Medicare and make it more sustainable now and for future generations.

The power and importance of choice must be highlighted because the approach to health reform cannot be "one-size-fits-all." It must represent the diversity of the patients and communities throughout our country. This pivotal step by our elected leaders to ensure access to high-quality, cost-effective care for seniors, military personnel and their families, children and low-income adults shows us what we can achieve for health care, together.

Importantly, over the past two and a half years, the AMA has focused on three strategic areas that will have a major impact on how health care is delivered in this country. In a multimillion-dollar grant program to 11 top medical schools, we have precipitated a robust process across all medical schools of transforming our medical education system to ensure physicians are trained to transition into an increasingly diverse, patient-centric, value-driven healthcare system. We've also begun forging new partnerships with other leading institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, and the YMCA of the USA to reduce the incidence of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The third area is to improve professional satisfaction and practice sustainability, both of which are advanced with this important victory ending the SGR. And, as we have done for over 165 years, we will continue our unwavering commitment to advocate to advance the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.

We know that our efforts are only part of the equation to improving the health of our nation. But together, if we all remain focused and vigilant, we will continue to make the transformational, crucial changes needed to help shape a healthier America.