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Patient Care Jeopardized by Bureaucracy, Lack of Funding

President and Congress Urged to Pass Reforms, Fund Adequate Care

(Washington, DC) The health of the nation is at risk unless President George W. Bush and Congress act to address serious flaws within Medicare and the private insurance industry, according to William Hall, MD, President of the American College of Physicians - American Society of Internal Medicine.

"The nation's health must be a top priority during the next session of Congress," said Dr Hall. "The costs of providing health care are increasing and providers can not continue to cut resources and still maintain the standard of care that we expect from the nation's doctors."

Dr Hall called upon the President and Congress to expand health insurance coverage to 39 million Americans without access to regular medical care. These patients often do not receive early treatment for common ailments such as cancer and hypertension, leading to premature deaths and costly late-stage treatments.

Dr Hall asked the President and Congress to expand Medicare coverage for preventive and screening services, pointing out that early treatment is the most cost effective for many diseases. He also called upon Congress and the President to adequately fund the Medicare program. Excessive cuts since 1990 have resulted in payments falling as much as 13 percent behind the rising costs of delivering health care. These cuts threaten the ability of physicians, hospitals, and other caregivers to meet the needs of current and future beneficiaries; to educate physicians for future generations; and to act as safety net providers for the uninsured.

"Prescription drugs must be made available to all Americans at affordable prices and Medicare's benefits need to be modernized," stated Dr Hall. "If the prescription drug benefits cannot be brought to all 40 million Medicare patients, we would support a targeted benefit to help the lowest-income seniors."

"Medicare regulatory reform and a strong patients bill of rights should be passed to alleviate the complex and overlapping regulations imposed by payers on physicians and patients," according to Dr Hall.

The explosion of red tape required by managed care plans and Medicare drains limited resources, while complex authorization processes pit payers against patients, with physicians and other health care providers in the middle. The most precious resource physicians have is time spent with patients and excessive paperwork requirements wasted valuable hours.

ACP-ASIM proposed that Congress act to create a uniform, voluntary reporting requirement for medical errors. "The threat of litigation that currently drives discussions of medical mistakes behind closed doors, is a detriment to improving health care quality," said Dr Hall. "Potential errors should be discussed openly in order to ensure they are prevented."

"The nation's down payment on preparations for terrorist attacks must be increased," warned Dr. Hall. "The public health infrastructure does not have the capacity to respond to large scale civilian casualties or epidemics."

According to the College, Congress and the Administration must still act to make good on the promise of the Health Insurance and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to achieve administrative simplification and greater patient privacy protections. The Department of Health and Services has yet to provide comprehensive final rules, with a single deadline for implementation and clear directives to safeguard privacy.

ACP-ASIM is the nation's largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group. Membership encompasses more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students. Internists are the major providers of medical care to adults in America.

Contact:
Jennifer Whalen, (202) 261-4575
Jack Pope, (202) 261-4556

Page updated: 11-04-03

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