The majority of Americans do not support Medicare’s pending payment cuts to physicians, according to a new American Medical Association (AMA) poll released this week. Ninety-four percent of 1,000 adult respondents in the online poll said that a payment cut would negatively affect seniors’ health.
Medicare and TRICARE plans to reduce payments to physicians by about 25% by then of the year.
“The American Medical Association believes patients should have access to the physician of their choice—and physicians should be able to count on payments that cover the cost of providing care,” states an AMA flyer that urges Medicare and TRICARE patients to call their congressional members. “Congress needs to fix this problem once and for all,” it states.
Congress delayed payment cuts to the controversial reimbursement changes earlier this year. AMA calls for a 13-month reprieve of payment cuts, allowing time for a longer-term solution, according to a Nov. 8 press release.
Last week, CMS offered the first glimpse into what accountable care organizations (ACOs) will look like in the form of a document with preliminary questions and answers about ACOs. Though much still remains to be worked out, CMS is now telling us that ACOs will be required to assume responsibility for a minimum of 5,000 Medicare beneficiaries and will receive financial rewards for improving quality and reducing costs for those beneficiaries.
The biggest new information in the CMS document is that ACOs will not be allowed to restrict the access of Medicare beneficiaries to physicians, hospitals, or any other providers. In other words, ACOs will not be allowed to utilize gate keeper or restricted network strategies. The most likely reason CMS has made this determination is that a scared and angry citizenry is already afraid that healthcare reform will limit their access to providers and benefits, so CMS is going on public record saying that ACOs, a major element in the recently passed healthcare reform bill, will not be able to do so.
According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index 2010, the majority of healthcare facilities in the United States do not have policies in place to guarantee lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals the right to receive their preferred visitors and designate surrogate decision makers during medical emergencies. According to the report, only 58% of the nation’s largest hospitals protect patients from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, the tides may soon change. Kaiser Permanente updated its patient bill of rights on June 7 to prevent LGBT patients and their families from experiencing discrimination. This bill of rights applies to Kaiser’s entire network of 36 hospitals and paves the way for other organizations to follow. Other organizations that have recently updated their policies to address sexual orientation and gender identity include Bay State Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Center, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The Healthcare Equality Index comes on the heels of President Obama’s memorandum to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) dated April 15, 2010 calling for equal visitation and medical decision making rights for the LGBT community. The memorandum directs HHS to make rules that require all hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds to protect the LGBT community’s rights when it comes to visitation and decision making.
Physician Hospitals of America and Texas Spine & Joint Hospital jointly filed suit in U.S. Federal Court, Eastern District of Texas. The case challenges Section 6001 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, which limits the expansion of physician-owned hospitals that are not certified as Medicare providers, according to PHA’s press release.
Although some say that physicians who own a share of the hospitals at which they work have a conflict of interest and the power to select patients with the best payers, supporters of physician-owned hospitals say that provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act will negatively impact care in the communities where physician-owned facilities operate.
According to a report from the National Health Law Program entitled “Health Care Refusals: Undermining Quality Care for Women,” the care provided at faith-based hospitals may be subject to the personal and religious beliefs of the providers rather than evidence-based science. The services most in jeopardy are those related to reproductive and sexual health . Click here to view the entire report.