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American College of Physicians Praises House and Senate Action on Medicare Reform, Urges Conferees to Include Fee Schedule Fix

(Washington, DC): Both the House of Representatives and Senate passed similar versions of a Medicare prescription drug bill yesterday that marks a major step toward preserving the health of America's Medicare patients, according to the American College of Physicians (ACP).

"The House and Senate bills provide Medicare beneficiaries with better access to prescription drugs at better prices," said Munsey Wheby, MD, president of the ACP. "For the first time, America's Medicare patients will have access to competitively priced prescription drugs and limits on how much they have to spend out of pocket."

In addition to the prescription drug benefits, the bills incorporate other important Medicare program improvements. Foremost among these is the House bill's replacement of an upcoming 4.2 percent reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements with a 1.5 percent increase in 2004 and 2005.

"The proposed increase at least stems projected physician losses for two years, which will allow lawmakers to seriously reconsider the flawed formula that Medicare uses to calculate physician reimbursement," said Dr. Wheby. "We wholeheartedly encourage the Congress to incorporate this provision in the final bill. Failure to do so will result in decreased access to health care for Medicare patients as physicians leave the program due to financial concerns."

Dr. Wheby praised provisions of both bills that would ease many of the most burdensome requirements the Medicare program places on healthcare providers. These include:

  • An improvement in physician rights during the audit process.
  • A provision requiring Medicare administrators to provide binding, written answers to physician questions.
  • The curtailment of the practice of "extrapolating" audit data from a limited number of claims.

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students.

Jack Pope, 202-261-4556 jpope@acponline.org

Page posted: 07/01/2003

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