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

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Policy Briefs

From the March ACP Observer, copyright 2004 by the American College of Physicians.

College seeks clarification of CMS' quality improvement program

In a Jan. 23 letter sent to CMS, the College asked for clarification of several key points contained in the framework of CMS' quality improvement program, which wants to improve quality by providing incentives and measuring physician quality performance.

Specifically, the letter asked CMS to spell out what kind of assistance or incentives the agency's quality improvement programs would offer physicians to improve their performance on quality measures. The College also asked CMS to clarify how the care of patients with chronic illnesses might be "redesigned" under quality improvement programs, and what new preventive services those programs would entail.

The College pointed out that any performance measures that are applied to physicians should measure only that care over which physicians actually exert control, and should be adjusted for patients' illness severity and co-morbidities.

While the College expressed support for the CMS' quality improvement program, it asked CMS to thoroughly pilot-test quality improvement programs before expanding them to include the nation's physicians.

The letter is online.

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ACP: Mental health benefits need parity with other health insurance

In a letter faxed to every member of Congress, the College expressed support for bills before both the Senate and the House of Representatives that would establish parity between health plans' mental health coverage and their medical/surgical benefits.

The Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act (S. 486 and H.R. 953) would require health plans that have mental health benefits to not impose different treatment limits or higher out-of-pocket costs for those benefits than for other medical coverage. The letter, which was signed by more than 45 national specialty societies and 50 state medical societies, noted that mental disorders that are left untreated may cost the country $70 billion a year in sick leave pay and reduced productivity.

The Jan. 29 letter also noted that the cost of establishing parity between mental health benefits and medical/surgical coverage would increase average costs to health plans by less than 1%.

The letter is online.

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College supports bill to reduce taxes on student loans

ACP is supporting tax relief provisions in the Higher Education Affordability and Equity Tax Act of 2003 (H.R. 3412) that would reduce the tax burdens of young physicians.

In a Jan. 14 letter to Rep. Philip S. English (R-Pa.), ACP joined 48 groups in supporting the bill, which calls for the following:

  • Expand deductions for student loan interest to allow borrowers to deduct interest payments on their student loans. The bill would increase the income eligibility to claim the full deduction of up to $100,000 adjusted gross income for single taxpayers and up to $200,000 adjusted gross income for joint filers.

  • Exclude amounts received as part of a scholarship, fellowship or grant from taxable income if used for qualified higher education expenses for undergraduate and graduate recipients.

The letter is online.

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