Bush Administration Considering Physician Ratings

July 1, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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