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Bush Administration Considering Physician Ratings

Bush Administration Considering Physician Ratings

Thomas Scully, the new administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, is moving fast to make improvements to Medicare. A proposal to collect and publish quality and outcome information on health-care practitioners who treat Medicare patients will apparently be included in a package of reforms that Mr. Scully plans to unveil.

In a speech at the US Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Scully said he had a mandate to "shake up" the agency. He said the Bush administration would give the elderly more information on their health insurance options, and publicize data on the quality of care provided by hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and home care agencies.

Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn), formerly a practicing physician, welcomed the overhaul but said the administration must be careful to include hospitals and others in the deliberations. "We need to make sure that we don’t unduly increase the burdens on doctors and health-care providers who already face increasing regulatory constraints,’’ he said. Mr. Scully has not disclosed what kind of ratings system he has in mind.

Experiments with physician systems in Portland, Oregon, and Cincinnati, Ohio, have left some physicians exasperated. National Research Corp, headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, rated primary care physicians in those two cities in four areas of "care." Health plans in those cities provided the names of patients and physicians.

"Our response was, it’s worthless," said Jim Kronenberg, associate executive director of the Portland-based Oregon Medical Association. "It’s got this sort of Mickey Mouse seal of approval without any real hard data."

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