WesternU students will face an ever-changing profession upon graduation due to health care reform.

Norman Vinn, DO, MBA, Founder and Chief Medical Officer of the Housecall Doctors Medical Group and Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine at WesternU, provided students and faculty with an “Update on Health Care Reform and Impact on Physicians” on Wednesday, May 5, 2010. The event was organized by the American Medical Student Association and Student Physicians for Social Responsibility.

President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) into law on March 23, 2010. Vinn examined the issue from a professional rather than political viewpoint.

“Things are neither as good nor as bad as they seem,” he said.

One issue that needs to be addressed and fixed is the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which is used to formulate Medicare payments to physicians. A scheduled 21 percent cut in payments was delayed to May 31.

“Everyone agrees the sustainable growth rate formula is flawed,” he said. “We’re all arguing we need to fix this.”

The American Osteopathic Association, which Vinn serves as chair of the Department of Government Affairs and as a member of the Board of Trustees, recommends the federal government implement a comprehensive Medicare payment formula that eliminates the continued use of the SGR methodology and establishes stable and predictable updates and a realistic baseline that reflects the higher rate of inflation in health care relative to other industries. AOA also recommends providing meaningful reform of the physician payment formula that ensures all physicians receive annual payment updates that reflect increases in practice costs, and the economic strains of added regulations such as electronic health records.

Vinn also urged students to become participants in the health care debate. This is especially important to students because they will be dealing with these issues their entire career, he said.

“People sitting on the sidelines shouldn’t be mad with the way things turn out,” Vinn said.

Another concern is the lack of graduates entering primary care. One positive sign is that the role of primary care provider is changing. Instead of being a “lone ranger,” the primary care physician will serve as the central point of a patient-focused team.

“If there ever was a time of a potential renaissance for primary care, we are at that threshold,” Vinn said.

Miranda Naylor, DO ’13, said health care reform will change how students practice medicine and choose residencies. She also took heed of Dr. Vinn’s challenge to make a difference.

“It’s really interesting what effect we can have on the future,” she said. “Being a member of SOMA (Student Osteopathic Medical Association) and other student groups allows us to make our voice heard as students.”