AMA News in brief – April 7, 2008

CMS seeks doctors’ opinions on Medicare carriers

Physicians and health care facilities have until April 18 to respond to the Medicare Contractor Provider Satisfaction Survey. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services uses the questionnaire to evaluate contractor performance. Medicare carriers will be required to meet performance targets by 2009. The survey focuses on inquiries by physicians and health care facilities, outreach and education, claims processing, appeals, practitioner enrollment, medical review, and audits and reimbursement. It is designed to take 15 minutes.

The survey, administered by the research firm Westat, was sent to randomly selected physicians and health care institutions in January. More information can be found online (

Massachusetts physicians call for state medical liability reforms

A host of tort reform measures recently proposed in Massachusetts would help keep medical liability insurance and health care costs down and keep physicians practicing in the state, the Massachusetts Medical Society told the state’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary in March.

Doctors voiced their support for several bills. They would allow doctors to apologize to patients without such statements being used in court and require medical expert witnesses to be in the same area of expertise in which they are testifying. The legislation also would protect doctors and other health care professionals from liability when they volunteer in disaster or other emergency situations and would require plaintiffs to give defendants six months notice before filing a lawsuit.

The medical society opposes a bill that would eliminate use of pretrial screening panels in medical liability cases. Doctors said the system, though imperfect, has helped weed out frivolous claims.

Medicaid rules draw opposition

Seven Medicaid rules proposed by the Bush administration have attracted a lawsuit from hospital associations and legislation to delay their implementation. The rules seek to reduce federal Medicaid spending by up to $20 billion over five years by limiting or eliminating federal assistance for graduate medical education, juvenile justice, administrative expenses in schools and hospital services.

A bill introduced on March 14 by Rep. John Dingell (D, Mich.), chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, would institute a one-year moratorium on the rules. Dingell said the regulations take Medicaid in the wrong direction.

A coalition of hospital associations led by the National Assn. of Public Hospitals and Health Systems filed a lawsuit on March 11 to block one of the rules. The coalition said the regulation — which would limit federal matching payments for government-owned health care facilities to actual costs — would lower safety net hospital funding by $5 billion. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials have said the rules attempt to limit federal Medicaid spending to medically necessary services with a legally defined federal matching requirement.

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