[an error occurred while processing this directive] ACP-ASIM Observer, April 2002 - Policy briefs [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Policy briefs

From the April ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright 2002 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

College questions proposal requiring medical translators

ACP-ASIM has asked the federal government to reconsider proposed rules that would require most physicians to provide translation services to their patients.

Under new provisions of Title VI legislation, physicians who receive any federal financial assistance would be required to hire, train and ensure the competency of clinical interpreters for all patients with limited English proficiency. The new policy aims to prevent discrimination against patients who aren't fluent in English.

In a March 5 letter to the HHS Office for Civil Rights, however, College President William J. Hall, FACP, said that the proposed requirements would be onerous for most physicians, particularly at a time when Medicare has slashed its physician reimbursement.

He pointed out that under the rules, physicians with a particularly diverse patient population could be forced to hire several interpreters. Supplying medical interpreters could become outrageously expensive if physicians had to retain interpreters all day long to see only a few patients.

Dr. Hall also cited data from the AMA, which found that hiring an interpreter for just one visit can cost up to $400. ACP-ASIM's letter pointed out that on average, Medicaid pays physicians only $30 to $50 a visit.

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Joint negotiations bill would level playing field

The College says that a new bill that would allow physicians to join forces to negotiate with health plans would help level the playing field during contract negotiations.

The Health Care Antitrust Improvement Act of 2002 (HR 3897) would change current laws that prevent physicians from collectively negotiating fees with health plans. In a March 7 press release, ACP-ASIM President William J. Hall, FACP, said that those laws put physicians and their patients at a disadvantage. Courts presently determine whether a group has illegally engaged in joint negotiations by determining whether competition has been promoted or suppressed. The House bill, on the other hand, would allow courts to consider not only the issue of competition, but also how joint negotiations would affect patient access to and quality of care.

The bill would require six demonstration projects, each in a different state, allowing two or more physicians to engage in negotiations with a health plan. ACP-ASIM has supported the creation of those pilot projects.

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ACP-ASIM supports bioterror preparedness

ACP-ASIM joined 25 other organizations in signing a March 5 letter to U.S. Congressional conferees thanking them for bioterrorism preparedness legislation and urging them to build on continuing medical education materials and curricula already in place. The letter is online at www.acponline.org/hpp/meded_prog.htm.

The College also sent comments to CDC director Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, about the agency's proposed "Model State Emergency Health Powers Act." The College urged the CDC to consider first how to preserve the public's civil rights and use the least restrictive means necessary when planning quarantines and isolation. The College's comments are online at www.acponline.org/hpp/mse_healthact.htm.

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Now online: College policy positions explained simply

A new "Letters to the Editor" feature of the ACP-ASIM Online pressroom offers straightforward explanations of the College's advocacy positions. The full text of letters the College has sent to newspapers across the country is online at www.acponline.org/college/pressroom/letter/letter_editor.htm.

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ACP-ASIM calls on Congress for medical liability reform

In a March 8 letter to all members of the U.S. Congress, ACP-ASIM and 17 other medical associations urged legislators to support medical liability reforms in the coming year.

According to the letter, legislators need to pass reforms that include the following:

The letter comes in response to growing medical malpractice insurance availability problems in many states. For more on those problems, see "As the malpractice crisis enters year two, doctors and insurers fleeing some markets."

The full text of the letter is online at www.acponline.org/hpp/med_liability.htm.

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