Physicians Will Seek To Prescribe to Albany

By E.B. SOLOMONT
http://www.nysun.com

Health care organizations and physician groups will vie for the attention of state lawmakers this week, as thousands of health care lobbyists travel to Albany to weigh in on Governor Spitzer’s health care agenda.

The main physician group in New York, the Medical Society of the State of New York, expects nearly 2,000 doctors to travel to the state capital tomorrow to attempt to impress on legislators the need for medical liability reform. The group has chartered 20 buses to transport doctors from around the state, and organizers said obstetricians from Lenox Hill Hospital plan to leave behind a skeleton staff of doctors to handle emergency cases.

“The sheer numbers that we’re expecting are proof positive of the urgency that the physicians of the state of New York feel,” the group’s executive vice president, Rick Abrams, said.

In July, the Insurance Department increased liability insurance rates by 14%, a rate doctors said is not sustainable. A medical malpractice insurance task force convened by Mr. Spitzer was expected to make recommendations for changes by the end of 2007, but in the absence of recommendations, the physician group is planning to rally on the steps of the Capitol to “express our frustration and anger at what we’re facing,” the group’s president and a doctor of osteopathic medicine, Robert Goldberg, said.

Even as doctors take up the issue of medical liability, other groups plan to lobby legislators on elements of Mr. Spitzer’s 2008-09 budget in advance of the April 1 budget deadline.

In January, Mr. Spitzer outlined a health care agenda that would expand health insurance coverage to uninsured children and shift resources to primary care settings.

The budget planned to achieve $980 million in health care savings by controlling the cost of prescription drugs, taxing HMOs, reforming hospital reimbursement for inpatient care, and cracking down on Medicaid fraud.

On Wednesday, the Healthcare Association of New York State will hold an advocacy day in Albany. Representatives from the Greater New York Hospital Association are expected to take part. While the industry’s response to this year’s budget was markedly more favorable than it was last year, some have expressed concern about spending cuts that are meant to achieve savings, such as cuts to health care providers. They also said the impact on hospitals is not fully understood, even thought the budget deadline is weeks away.

At the same time, primary care advocates, who are expected to converge on Albany today, plan to back a shift in resources to outpatient and primary care settings. “A lot of us have known for a long time that we should be providing more funding and more focus to outpatient care and preventive care,” the director of New York City policy for the Community Health Care Association of New York State, Darryl Ng, said.

Mr. Ng said the group anticipates nearly 500 advocates to travel to Albany for a series of briefings and meetings with legislators today.
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