American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Policy briefs

From the March ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright 2003 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

  • Bill would boost efforts to bring doctors to underserved areas
  • College joins campaign to highlight the plight of the uninsured
  • ACP-ASIM supports bill to reform medical liability insurance
  • College supports HHS decision to process J-1 visa waivers for IMGs
  • ACP-ASIM signs brief supporting use of race to encourage diversity in medical schools
  • College joins coalition to protect AHRQ funding

Bill would boost efforts to bring doctors to underserved areas

ACP-ASIM is supporting legislation to streamline the incentive program Medicare uses to attract physicians to underserved areas.

The Medicare incentive payment (MIP) program pays physicians who serve in certain underserved areas a 10% bonus over Medicare base pay. The program was designed to attract more physicians to those parts of the country.

The Medicare Incentive Payment Program Improvement Act of 2003 (S. 379) would continue to pay physicians in designated areas a 10% bonus for their services, but it would make it much easier for physicians to actually get the bonus. The College voiced support for the bill in a Feb. 13 letter.

Although the program was first created in 1987, relatively few physicians were aware of it. Others who knew about it said the program had too many barriers to getting the bonus. Under current rules, providers must first determine if their services qualify under the program. If they do qualify, physicians must amend their Medicare claims with a special modifier and undergo a stringent audit process established by Medicare carriers.

The new bill would require Medicare to educate physicians about the program and remove barriers to participation. In addition, physicians would no longer have to use a modifier to identify eligible services.

Under the proposed legislation, carriers—not doctors—would determine physicians' eligibility for the program based upon the physician's location. With carriers determining eligibility, the stringent audit process that has deterred some providers from claiming the bonus would be eliminated.

ACP-ASIM's letter is online.

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College joins campaign to highlight the plight of the uninsured

ACP-ASIM is supporting a national effort to spotlight the lack of access to care in the United States.

The College is joining a long list of influential organizations—including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation—in cosponsoring "Cover the Uninsured Week." The campaign, which will run March 10 through 16, will feature former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter as honorary chairs.

"Cover the Uninsured Week" will kick off in communities across the nation with town hall meetings on Monday, March 10. Community leaders and elected officials will gather to discuss the crisis of the uninsured and what the government and community groups are doing to address it.

Events later in the week include activities at universities and medical schools on March 11; health fairs on March 12; business and labor discussions on March 13; and interfaith activities from March 14 to 16.

You can work with "Cover the Uninsured Week" organizers in more than 25 cities to help plan one or more of the week's activities. The campaign organizers have also created an action kit with template materials, media tips and a planning guide.

For more information, see the campaign Web site. (For the action kit, click the "order materials" link near the top of the page.)

For more on the College's involvement in the campaign, contact Kathleen Heabel at kheabel@acponline.org or 800-338-2746, ext. 4532.

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ACP-ASIM supports bill to reform medical liability insurance

The College is supporting new legislation in the House of Representatives that would help reform medical liability insurance.

The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Health (HEALTH) Care Act of 2003 (H.R. 5) would help reduce skyrocketing liability premiums that are forcing physicians to abandon high-risk procedures or to stop practicing altogether in some parts of the country. ACP-ASIM supports reforms included in the bill that would allow individual patients to be compensated fairly but avoid wasting health care resources.

The HEALTH act would help improve access to care, give more money to injured patients and allow claims to be resolved faster. The legislation would also limit pain and suffering (noneconomic) awards, make sure that patients don't receive more than one award for the same incident, set a reasonable statute of limitation on claims, set a sliding scale for contingency fees and distribute liability proportionately among all parties in lawsuits.

More information on the College's efforts to enact professional liability reforms is online.

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College supports HHS decision to process J-1 visas waivers for IMGs

ACP-ASIM has come out in support of an HHS decision to assume the responsibility of processing J-1 visa waivers for international medical graduates (IMGs).

In a Jan. 21 letter to William R. Steiger, MD, HHS director of the office of global health affairs, College President Sara E. Walker, MACP, explained that because IMGs provide a large portion of the care to medically underserved populations, eliminating the J-1 visa waiver program would have hurt access to care in these areas.

HHS assumed responsibility for the program after the U.S. Department of Agriculture discontinued granting J-1 visa waivers to IMGs last year.

ACP-ASIM had written to HHS in July requesting that the department assume this responsibility.

The College's January letter is online.

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ACP-ASIM signs brief supporting use of race to encourage diversity in medical schools

The College has signed onto a brief supporting the University of Michigan's consideration of an applicant's race as one factor in making admissions decisions.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in Grutter v. Bolinger. It is one of two affirmative action cases being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the use of race in admissions policies.

The case challenges the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in its law school's admissions policies. The brief, signed by the AAMC, ACP-ASIM and dozens of medical schools and professional organizations, argues that racial and ethnic diversity is important to the medical profession.

The brief also states that educators must be able to consider race and ethnicity when selecting students in order to graduate a capable, effective physician workforce prepared to meet the needs of a diverse society.

Without race-conscious admissions policies, the brief argues, medical schools would be unable to increase the number of minority physicians needed to serve America's ever-growing minority population, expand areas of academic research, and raise the general cultural competence of all physicians.

The brief also points out that minority physicians are more willing to practice in underserved areas, that minority patients' trust in the health care system increases when they are treated by members of their own racial or ethnic group, and that more minorities in medical student populations lead to greater diversity in medical research.

The amicus brief is online.

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College joins coalition to protect AHRQ funding

ACP-ASIM has joined 32 other organizations in urging leaders of both houses of Congress to maintain funding at present levels for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The organizations, writing as "the Friends of AHRQ," asked congressional leaders of both houses to reject the Bush administration's proposal to cut AHRQ funding by $48 million.

The Jan. 2 letter supports a funding level of $375 million, noting that a large cut will mean reductions in funding for new research and training grants. The proposed cut would also slash funding for current research in areas other than patient safety.

The letter is online.

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