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Neurologists Voice Concern Over Healthcare Reimbursement

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Specialty physicians from the American Academy of Neurology have voiced their opinion on healthcare reimbursement from Medicare in a letter to Congress. The group is concerned that decreased healthcare spending will have a negative impact on groups of physicians who practice specialty medicine; neurologists being one of those groups.

Robert Griggs, MD, president of the academy says, "Like all physicians, neurologists recognize that healthcare reform is needed. But there is a threat that changes may damage certain subspecialties, and neurology is at risk."

Physicians criticize Medicare payment under the current system, saying procedures are reimbursed too well, while visits in the office, and preventive services are not reimbursed well enough. Other groups joined the American Academy of Neurology, echoing the same concerns, including patient advocacy groups and The American Society of Hematology, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, the American College of Rheumatology, the American Gastroenterological Association in speaking out about needed healthcare reform.

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The group of neurologists would like to see some changes in Medicare reimbursement. They would like to be paid more for evaluating and spending time managing patients, versus performing procedures. They want incentive bonuses for spending time really evaluating patients, at least for 3 to 5 years until some of the healthcare reform dust settles.

Dr. Griggs says preventive and ongoing care is not supported by Medicare. "These services are not being supported properly," he said. "Without fair reimbursement, we'll likely face a shortage of neurologists through fewer medical students entering neurology at a time when 1 out of 6 people are affected by neurologic disease and that number is expected to increase as baby boomers age." He suggests that spending more time with patients “will begin to realign incentives to enhance patient access, improve quality, and immediately lower costs”, ultimately making healthcare more affordable.

The letter regarding healthcare reform is addressed to Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The academy also points out that devaluating neurology services would also keep US medical students from specializing, stating that many of those slots are being filled by foreign students. The concern is that specialty physicians may not receive reimbursement comparable to that of primary care physicians as Congress moves toward healthcare reform and decreased spending.