PARK RIDGE, Ill., May 17 /PRNewswire/ -- The more than 40 million seniors
on Medicare will continue to have a doctor involved in their anesthesia care
for surgery, now that the Bush administration has suspended a rule change put
through by the Clinton administration.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) today congratulated
President George W. Bush and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Tommy Thompson on the decision to retain the 35-year-old Medicare requirement
that anesthesia nurses be supervised by a physician.
Just days before leaving office, President Bill Clinton had issued a new
rule that would have allowed anesthesia nurses to administer anesthesia to
Medicare and Medicaid patients without physicians being involved.
Now, HHS has made the determination that the rule will not go into effect
as scheduled, and the department will soon introduce a proposal that addresses
two new points:
1. A state Governor could apply to HHS for a waiver of the supervision
rule, provided it is consistent with state law and following
consultation with the state's boards of medicine and nursing. The
Governor would also have to determine that removal of the supervision
requirement is in the best interest of the citizens of that state.
2. A prospective patient outcomes study, as long advocated by ASA, would
be undertaken to compare different anesthesia practices by state.
According to ASA president Neil Swissman, M.D., "This is a great day for
seniors everywhere. For more than three years, ASA has been arguing that
patient safety was at stake, and now someone has listened."
Under federal law, HHS must seek public comments on the new rule before
making it final. The long-standing supervision requirement thus remains in
effect, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries will continue to be guaranteed
a physician's involvement in their care. Suspension of the Clinton rule will
continue for at least the next six months, HHS has announced.
"We are absolutely confident that when the new rule from the Bush
administration takes effect and when the scientific facts are known to the
individual governors, they will do what is best for the people of their states
-- retain the supervision requirement for their senior citizens," Dr. Swissman
"Consistently, over 80 percent of seniors have said in several nationwide
surveys that they want a physician involved in their anesthesia care -- and I
know the governors will heed that message," Dr. Swissman said.
Since January 2001, more than 100,000 e-mails, faxes, postcards and
letters have poured into HHS and the White House asking the administration to
retain physician involvement in Medicare patients' anesthesia care.
Virtually all state laws and regulations require a physician to be
involved with nonphysician providers in the delivery of anesthesia care. "I
cannot imagine," Dr. Swissman said, "that the governors will not adhere to
this pattern in the case of the most vulnerable class of patients, our senior
To ensure that their safety would not be jeopardized, Dr. Swissman
explained that ASA has been fighting the no-supervision rule since it was
first proposed by the Clinton administration in December 1997. He expressed
gratitude on behalf of the more than 36,000 ASA members for the seriousness
with which the Bush administration approached the issue of whether to overturn
the Clinton rule.
"This administration has proceeded with the utmost caution and has wisely
left in place a federal requirement for physician supervision," Dr. Swissman
said. "The nation's seniors owe this administration a big vote of thanks for
protecting their anesthesia safety."
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) represents more than
36,000 physicians dedicated to patient safety and quality medical care.
Founded in 1905, ASA is a scientific and educational association of
anesthesiologists that was organized to advance the practice of anesthesiology
and to improve the quality of care of the anesthetized patient. It is the
largest organization of anesthesiologists in the world.
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SOURCE American Society of Anesthesiologists