Thomas Scully, the new administrator of the Health Care
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."