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AMA Opposes Physician Voluntary Reporting Program

NOVEMBER 9, 2005 -- The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services not to implement a voluntary reporting program that would measure quality care starting in January.

In a Nov. 3 letter to CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, the powerful physician group's Board of Trustees said the program would impose "excessive administrative requirements" on physicians and "negate any intended quality improvement."

The AMA's letter comes after another physician group, the Medical Group Management Association, also urged CMS to postpone implementing the voluntary reporting program.

CMS announced the voluntary program, which would ask physicians to submit data on 36 quality measures, last month. Collecting such data—for now on a voluntary basis—is part of CMS' overall plan to move forward on "pay for performance" programs for Medicare providers. "Linking a portion of Medicare payments to valid measures of quality...would support better health care," McClellan wrote to Congress in June.

A CMS spokesman stressed Wednesday that the reporting program was voluntary and physicians are not required to participate.

The AMA's letter said that under the CMS program, a primary care specialist treating a 70-year-old woman with common conditions would have to report about a dozen measures.

"Physicians practicing in the inpatient setting face the significant problem of not being able to attribute care delivered within a hospital system back to the individual physician level for accurate and reliable performance measurement," the letter said.

The AMA said a scheduled 4.4 percent cut in Medicare physician payments demonstrates that the administration has "failed to meet its obligations to ensure...access to quality care" by refusing to adjust the reimbursement to physicians. As part of the budget reconciliation process, the Senate would boost physician payments by 1 percent. But the House reconciliation measure would leave the scheduled cuts in place.

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