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Local Docs Speak Out Against the Elimination of the Physicians Advisory Panel from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Dr. Bruce Feinberg, president and CEO of Georgia Cancer Specialists (GCS) and Dr. Kay Kirkpatrick, co-president of Resurgens Orthopaedics are concerned about the elimination of the physicians advisory panel from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The 15-member panel, known as the Practicing Physicians Advisory Council, met with federal officials quarterly to discuss matters pertaining specifically to Medicare fee-for-service. It was quietly eliminated by a clause in the final health care reform package passed by Congress this spring.

“GCS is very concerned about the recent decision by Health and Human Services to dissolve the CMS physician advisory panel as a result of a clause in the final health reform legislation,” said Dr. Feinberg.

“We believe it is vitally important that community physicians and other health care professionals who are on the front lines of providing care for Americans have a voice for our seniors. CMS’s decision significantly silences physician input in the policies surrounding coverage of needed health services.”

The Practicing Physicians Advisory Council (PPAC) was created in 1992 by a provision in the Social Security Act. Since that time, the group has represented the views of physicians who provide direct patient care.

Without the council, doctors worry they will have less impact on Medicare and Medicaid regulations.

“The dismissal of the Practicing Physicians Advisory Council is disturbing but not surprising, since Congress frequently feels that they know more about what is best for health care than the people who take care of the patients,” said Dr. Kirkpatrick.

“This arrogant dismantling of private practice is one of the many frustrations that doctors have had as the government gets more involved with health care. We think this is bad for seniors and for doctors and will lead to even further interference with the doctor-patient relationship.”

The alternative platforms for physicians to express their concerns about Medicare rules and regulations are the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created by the health reform law.

Dr. Kirkpatrick of Resurgens said of the IPAB, “the bill states that the 15 members appointed to the IPAB by the President ‘will include individuals with national recognition for expertise in health finance and economics, delivery, and organization.’ Their recommendations are set up to take effect automatically, taking physician groups completely out of the loop.”

The AMA responded to physicians’ concerns by noting that it communicates with CMS to relay physicians’ interests to those who need to consider them.

“It’s unfortunate that this physician advisory committee has been dissolved, but it’s important to note that AMA and its partners in organized medicine communicate with CMS officials on a regular basis to ensure that the voice and concerns of the physician community are heard loud and clear,” AMA President J. James Rohack, M.D. said.

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