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

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Policy briefs

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

College calls for student loan, deferment reform

ACP signed on with 24 other medical groups in April to recommend that lawmakers extend the economic deferment for qualified borrowers and increase the subsidized loan limit for medical students.

In a letter sent to both House and Senate leaders working on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, the College urged them to increase limits for subsidized Stafford Loans to at least $12,000 a year.

The letter also called on Congressional leaders to extend residents' economic hardship deferment to cover their entire training period. That deferment is currently available for only three years. Extending current deferment can be expensive for residents, the letter stated, because interest accrues and may be capitalized.

The College also urged leaders to include all educational loans, such as school-certified private or alternative loans as well as institutional loans, when calculating deferment eligibility.

The letter is online.

College supports online mechanism for physician complaints

ACP is urging the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to develop an electronic model to enable physicians to file grievances about health plan payment policies.

In a letter sent to the NAIC's president, the then Chair of the College's Medical Service Committee, C. Anderson Hedberg, FACP, noted that such a model should be shared with state insurance departments to allow aggressive collection of physician grievances concerning noncompliance with prompt pay laws.

The letter further recommended that the NAIC expand current programs and databases that collect consumer complaints about health plans. Such a dual system, the letter said, would encourage better enforcement of state laws on claims payments and correct suspected under-reporting of physician complaints.

The letter is online.

ACP makes recommendations on new patient acceptance indicator

In a recent letter, ACP sent recommendations to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about the agency's proposed new patient indicator data element in the participating physician directory.

The letter, sent last month to Mark B. McClellan, ACP Member, CMS administrator, recommended that the CMS give physicians the option of indicating whether they accept new patients on a limited basis. ACP also recommended that the CMS provide a list of options, such as a drop-down box, that would permit physicians to indicate why they may not be accepting new Medicare patients.

The letter also urged the CMS to identify the source of any sanction information that would be included in the directory. And the letter asked the CMS to expand the directory to include all physicians, who could be designated as participating, non-participating or accepting "private contracts only."

The letter is online.

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