November 2011

Brian McCurdy, Senior Editor, and Danielle Chicano

Two DPMs Running For Congress In 2012

By Brian McCurdy, Senior Editor

Two podiatric physicians are on the Congressional ballot in 2012 and each cites malpractice reform and Medicare issues as part of his agenda.

   Brad Wenstrup, DPM, is running as a Republican in the 2nd Congressional District in Ohio. He is an Iraq Army Reserve combat surgeon veteran and practices at Wellington Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine in Cincinnati. Lee C. Rogers, DPM, is a Democratic candidate in California’s 25th District. He is the Co-Director of the Amputation Prevention Center at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles.

   As state laws govern podiatric scope of practice, Dr. Rogers does not foresee any “national scope of practice” legislation under consideration but says Congress can prevent pay discrimination of providers when providing the same services. He points out that reimbursement decisions, like the recent draft local coverage determination from Medicare on pneumatic compression devices (PCD), are discriminatory.

   “This basically makes a national scope of practice decision for podiatrists by stating that PCDs are beyond the scope of practice of a podiatrist. This is just not true for every state,” says Dr. Rogers.

   Dr. Wenstrup is opposed to states imposing seemingly arbitrary (since the rules vary from state to state) restrictions on doctors who receive excellent training beyond a specific state’s scope of practice. He calls for uniformity for doctors across the nation.

   “While the issue is more state driven, I believe I can be a leader at the national level to shine a spotlight on the issue,” he says. “Certainly, on the federal level, the issue impacts doctors in the military and Veterans Affairs (VA) system and that’s an area I’ll work to fix.”

Sharing Views On Medicare And The Sustainable Growth Rate Formula

Dr. Wenstrup acknowledges the amount of work necessary to reform Medicare to ensure that a corps of doctors is available and that it is financially feasible for them to treat patients.

   “We can’t maintain our current spending habits and expect massive programs like Medicare and Social Security to remain solvent. We must cut spending and make smart reforms to ensure these types of programs survive,” says Dr. Wenstrup.

   Although Medicare is predicted to become insolvent in 2024, Dr. Rogers warns that the federal program faces more immediate threats because some members of Congress want to convert it to a voucher system. He cites an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that vouchers will cost seniors $6,000 more per year out of pocket. He advocates making the tax code more equitable to continue to fund Medicare at its current level.

   Furthermore, Dr. Rogers notes that MedPAC has proposed a replacement for the Sustainable Growth Rate formula that will reduce specialist pay by 17 percent over three years and then freeze reimbursement for seven more years.

   “This poses many problems, not the least of which will be specialists leaving the program, forcing patients with complex conditions back into primary care offices,” says Dr. Rogers.

   “Anyone who refuses to even consider reforming Medicare is essentially sentencing the program to death,” adds Dr. Wenstrup.

Where The Candidates Stand On Malpractice Issues

As far as malpractice issues go, both candidates support reform of the system. “The practice of defensive medicine increases costs by overutilizing tests and specialists. We have special courts for bankruptcy, divorce and taxes,” Dr. Rogers argues. “Why shouldn’t we have special courts for medical malpractice? That would help to reduce lawsuits without merit from advancing.”

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