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ACP-ASIM calls for candidates to push for universal coverage

While the College applauds Vice President Al Gore's call in early September to provide health insurance for American children, it is urging all presidential candidates to call for universal coverage.

According to a statement from ACP-ASIM President Whitney W. Addington, FACP, the College views the vice president's proposals to help low-income individuals obtain health coverage as a step in the right direction. Those proposals include giving tax credits to purchase health insurance, as well as the expansion of Medicaid and the federal Children's Health Insurance Program. "But more must be done to provide coverage to every American," Dr. Addington said in his statement.

As part of its Decision 2000 campaign, ACP-ASIM is calling for all presidential and congressional candidates to pledge their support for universal coverage. This summer, the Board of Regents agreed to spend nearly a million dollars on the campaign to make access to health care a key issue in the upcoming presidential and congressional campaigns. The College plans to hold press events in key primary and caucus states, conduct polls and studies on the issues, and place ads in publications read by national opinion leaders.

In February, the College released a plan that proposed providing coverage for all Americans with incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level as a first step in achieving universal coverage.

Changes urged in Medicare target growth rate formula

ACP-ASIM co-signed a Sept. 9 letter with the AMA and more than three dozen other medical organizations asking Congress to consider improvements in Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) System as it reviews refinements to Medicare reforms included in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

The SGR establishes a target for how much Medicare should spend on physician services each year. To make sure that Medicare spends that amount, the SGR raises or lowers payments to physicians based on actual spending.

The letter pointed out that physicians are the only group subject to this target, despite the fact that physician services have grown more slowly than other Medicare benefits. Between 1991 and 1997, physician payments fell behind the costs of running a practice by 10%.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission recommended improvements to the SGR in its March 1999 report to Congress. The letter said that without changes, the disparity "between Medicare's rates and physicians' practice costs will become much wider, making it difficult for physicians to cover the costs of advances in technology and state-of-the-art medical care for their patients."

Compiled by Janice Simmons, a Washington, D.C., writer specializing in health care.


Policy advisory group seeks survey volunteers

ACP-ASIM's Internal Medicine Policy Advisory Group (IMPAG), which advises the College on payment, coding and reimbursement issues, needs volunteers for its fall survey.

IMPAG volunteers are asked to complete surveys about their work and practice expenses. This information informs ACP-ASIM's efforts to influence Medicare payment and coding policies.

IMPAG is looking for internists from a variety of locations, types of practice and subspecialties to make sure that the survey results are representative of the specialty.

Surveys will be sent to participants via either mail or fax. To participate in this fall's IMPAG survey, contact Kate Coons at 800-338-2746, ext. 4560; send a fax to 202-835-0441; or send an e-mail to kcoons@acponline.org.

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