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    Political battles rule in debate over SGR repeal

    New AUA government relations head vows to ‘push our agenda’

    Bob GattyBob GattyWashington—After 12 years of working in Washington for Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), most recently as deputy chief of staff, Brad Stine is now the AUA’s new director of government relations and advocacy.

    He left the Hill because of his boss’s death last October, and he was happy to land his new position overseeing government relations and congressional policy initiatives for the association.

    “I enjoyed handling health issues for the congressman and I wanted to stay on that track, and I wanted to work on issues that theoretically aren’t driven by politics,” Stine said.

    That comment came as the AUA and two other urology organizations concluded their Joint Advocacy Conference (JAC) and just a day before the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment system for Medicare physicians—one of the AUA’s and organized medicine’s primary legislative issues.

    Only one problem: House Republicans had hijacked the doc fix, attempting to pay for it by delaying a core component of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate, for 5 years. Because no one expected the Democrat-controlled Senate to accept that deal, repeal of SGR in time to avert a 24% pay cut for Medicare physicians without yet another temporary patch was in serious doubt.

    Thwarted by the Senate’s opposition to that measure, the House on March 27 extended SGR for 1 year to avoid the cuts, and also extended the switch to the ICD-10 coding system until October 2015. Negotiated by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the measure faced opposition from many Senate Democrats, including Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR). The Senate had not yet voted on the measure as this issue of Urology Times went to press.

    Stine said he came to the AUA to work on governmental issues on behalf of physicians and their patients.

    “Advocating for patients and doctors is what interests me. That shouldn’t be about Republicans or Democrats. It should be about people,” he said.

    Stine intends to advocate for the AUA’s SGR policy: to gain affirmative repeal of the formula that has proven so troublesome over the years for urologists, whose patient population includes a large percentage of Medicare enrollees.

    Continue to next page for more.

    Bob Gatty
    Bob Gatty, a former congressional aide, covers news from Washington for Urology Times.

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