HHS Suspends Clinton Anesthesia Supervision Rule; Doctors Will Be There For Seniors

May 17, 2001, 01:00 ET from American Society of Anesthesiologists

    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.
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here

SOURCE American Society of Anesthesiologists