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

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Policy briefs

From the July-August ACP Observer, copyright 2005 by the American College of Physicians.

College supports new information technology bills

Federal legislation was introduced last month that would, if passed, create a significant government investment in health information technology, making it easier for physicians to adopt new information technology in their offices.

One bill—the Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act of 2005 (S. 1262)—would give $125 million a year to local health information networks; provide for the adoption of national and uniform information standards; and give hospitals and other groups a safe harbor to include physicians and medical groups in their information technology systems.

In a June 15 letter, College President C. Anderson Hedberg, FACP, said the College agrees with the bill's provisions on reporting data on quality improvements and measures. However, Dr. Hedberg said that ACP believes that without positive payment updates through the sustainable growth rate formula, physicians will not have the financial resources to incorporate information technology into their practice.

The College's letter is online.

The bill comes on the heels of another newly introduced health information technology bill. The Health Information Technology Act of 2005 calls for adopting uniform health information technology standards within two years and would authorize adjusting the Medicare payment system to recognize physicians who use information technology to manage patients with chronic illnesses.

The June 6 College letter supporting the latter bill is online.

ACP issues recommendations on redesigning Medicaid

Concerned that the growing federal deficit will force Medicaid cuts, the College has published a position paper on how the program should be transformed.

The paper cites federal estimates that the deficit will reach $2.3 trillion by 2013. It notes that Medicaid spending has increased by 63% in the last five years and that cuts adopted in 34 states this year could drop up to 1.6 million low-income patients off Medicaid's rolls.

ACP recommendations included the following:

  • Congress should establish a mechanism to permit more federal dollars to flow into the Medicaid program during distressed economic cycles.

  • Medicaid should be expanded without inflicting additional unfunded mandates on the states.

  • States should be given more flexibility to extend coverage to childless couples and single adults by eliminating the categorical eligibility requirement.

  • Instead of limiting beneficiaries' access to prescription drugs to contain costs, Medicaid officials should rein in proven overpayments.

  • Eligibility standards should be uniform nationwide.

The paper is online.

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