government

Bill would prevent ACA from ending doctors' insurance contracts

A GOP lawmaker claims that medical practices are at risk under the law's health care quality measures provision.

By Jennifer Lubell — Posted Aug. 2, 2013

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A Georgia congressman is trying again to promote a bill that he says seeks to protect a physician's decision-making ability under the health system reform law.

Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R, Ga.), has expressed concerns with a provision of the Affordable Care Act that enables the Health and Human Services secretary to determine whether a doctor is meeting health care quality measures under the statute. Dr. Gingrey has said physicians are at risk of losing their health insurance contracts and subsequently closing down their practices if they fail to meet these quality measures.

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Phil Gingrey, MD (R, Ga.)

“This rule places another unelected bureaucrat in the middle of patients' health care decisions. It violates the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship, as physicians are trained to treat patients individually and not with a 'one-size-fits-all' approach,” said Dr. Gingrey, a member of the House Energy and Commerce's health subcommittee, in a statement.

Should the HHS secretary decide, for example, that it would violate a standard of care to perform mammograms on women younger than 50, “the provider must comply, regardless of his or her concerns,” Dr. Gingrey wrote in a blog post in 2012.

“No business diagnosing patients”

The legislation, which had been introduced in August 2012, was reintroduced on July 25 and referred to the Energy and Commerce panel for consideration.

“Someone who isn't bound by the Hippocratic oath, isn't required to have medical expertise, and isn't held accountable by medical societies has no business diagnosing patients. The [Safeguarding Care of Patients Everywhere] Act keeps medical decisions where they belong: in the hands of patients and their physicians, not the federal government,” Dr. Gingrey continued.

The SCOPE Act would repeal this provision of the ACA, meaning that doctors would remain accountable to entities such as insurers, professional groups and state licensing boards without federal intrusion. The HHS position has been that it does not comment on pending legislation.

Although the Medical Assn. of Georgia hasn't taken a formal position on Dr. Gingrey's legislation, the association “is a staunch advocate for legislation that reduces the government's reach into the medical profession, as well as efforts to promote physician autonomy and the patient-physician relationship,” said Donald J. Palmisano Jr., the association's executive director and CEO.

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