AMA Backs Latest Senate Bill
Senate Democrats were bolstered Monday by the endorsement of the American Medical Association as they push for a final vote this week on their health overhaul legislation, Bloomberg reports. "The bill advances many of our priority issues for achieving the vision of a health system that works for patients and physicians," the AMA's president-elect, Dr. Cecil Wilson, said in endorsing the most recent version of the Senate bill, proposed over the weekend by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. (Salant and Donmoyer, 12/22).
Wilson "highlighted the bill's provisions that guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions, better coverage for preventive and wellness care, and research on the comparative effectiveness of different treatments," The Boston Globe reports. "The AMA said it is pleased that the latest version of the bill increases payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons in underserved areas while no longer cutting payments to other physicians" (Rhee, 12/21).
The legislation skips over the doctors' lobby's top priority, resolving the 'perennial' threat to doctors Medicare pay rates, Politico reports, though the lobby's support now may help them persuade lawmakers to address that key issue later. In his statement, Wilson highlighted some other changes to the Senate bill that doctors are pleased with: "It eliminates the tax on physician services for cosmetic surgery and drops the proposed physician enrollment fee for Medicare" (Frates, 12/22).
The Senate switched the 5-percent cosmetic surgery tax out for a 10-percent tax on visits to tanning salons in the wake of "a lobbying campaign by plastic surgeons, the American Medical Association and the company that makes Botox," USA Today reports. "We don't have the war chest ... the medical industry has," said the president of the Indoor Tanning Association. He also said the tax would cause financial hardship for 20,000 tanning salons (Fritze, 12/22).
The "tan tax" is Senate Democrats' "latest attempt to find a politically palatable way to pay for health reform," The Salt Lake Tribune reports, and it's met similar resistance as past efforts. One tanning salon owner complained "that adding the new tax during a down economic time will hurt his business and those like it." The industry is "oft-maligned" and has been linked in recent research to skin cancer (Canham, 12/21).
Tanning salon owners can blame skin doctors, as well as lawmakers, for their woes if the new proposal becomes law. The Wall Street Journal reports: "'We suggested that the tanning tax would be a better alternative to the cosmetic tax and hopefully will reduce the incidence of skin cancer down the road,' said David M. Pariser, president of the American Academy of Dermatology Association, which represents dermatologists" (Martinez, 12/22).