By Thomas Sullivan
The elections last fall marked the first time in six years that Republicans will control both the House and Senate. Starting on January 3, all chairmanships of Senate committees and many House committees will be new, and many committees will have fresh agendas. Obamacare will be at the top of everyone's mind.
There will be two ways in which Congress may go. The House will likely pass a symbolic bill to repeal Obamacare, which will either fail in the Senate or be vetoed by the President.
After that effort, Congress will likely move toward fixing parts of the law where there may be bipartisan agreement. Those changes include eliminating the 2.3% national sales tax on medical devices. Legislation to repeal the tax appears veto-proof, so Congress will have to look elsewhere for the money.
Another change that has seen bipartisan support is exempting reprints, textbooks and all educational activities from Physician Payment Sunshine reporting requirements. We need clinicians to have the most up-to-date information. Putting a physician's name next to a dollar value for the price of a medical reprint is both disingenuous and chilling important educational exchange.
Physicians will be facing more penalties in 2015 if they fail to meet certain quality standards or miss out on certain paperwork submissions. There are currently four programs affecting small practices that could cost 6.5% of their total Medicare and Medicaid billing. Congress may pass some type of relief effort to either combine these programs or reduce providers' burdens.
One issue lurking for marketers is the potential elimination of the tax exemption for advertising in exchange for lowering the overall corporate tax rate. This has the support of large employers including pharmaceutical and device companies but could be devastating for advertising agencies. Because of the potentially negative effect on newspapers, broadcasters and Internet companies—all who play large roles in political campaigns—it may not go very far.
So buckle up—this year will be an exciting one as we see more patients insured and Congress with lots on their plates.
Thomas Sullivan is president of the Rockpointe Corporation (rockpointe.com).