PARK RIDGE, Ill., Feb. 21 /PRNewswire/ -? Results of a compelling nationwide survey endorsing a consistent level of care for Medicare patients in all states -- now and in the foreseeable future -- were presented this week to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. Secretary Thompson can stop implementation of the Medicare rule that removes the 35-year-old requirement that a physician be involved in every Medicare patient's anesthesia care. Instead, individual states would decide if a nurse anesthetist is or is not supervised by a qualified doctor. The survey being presented to Secretary Thompson and conducted by The Tarrance Group of Alexandria, Virginia, shows: - An overwhelming 92 percent of Medicare beneficiaries surveyed say they should continue to receive the same benefits and quality of care in all 50 states. - Even more interesting, 94 percent of adults who are not yet, but someday will be, covered by the Medicare program agree that all Medicare patients should receive the same benefits and care regardless where they live. - Three out of four seniors surveyed have had an operation requiring general anesthesia, most while under Medicare. - Of those, 86 percent were very satisfied or extremely satisfied with the anesthesia care they had received as Medicare beneficiaries under the current supervision rules. According to the President of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Neil Swissman, M.D., "Our initial concern is that by leaving it up to the states to decide who will care for Medicare patients, a patchwork-like quilt of regulations will result. A patient ends up with various degrees of medical coverage depending on where that patient lives or visits," he said. "In essence, people are then forced into the unrealistic position of anticipating their illnesses and injuries and then picking where they will occur." Almost 80 percent of those surveyed oppose or strongly oppose dropping the rule that requires nurse anesthetists to be supervised by a doctor, either a physician-anesthesiologist or the operating surgeon. This finding mirrors the results of two similar polls conducted in 1998 and 1999 which also showed that adults want a doctor involved in their anesthesia care, particularly when they know that it does not cost the Medicare system or the patient any extra money for that benefit. In fact, it costs less, Dr. Swissman notes. A New England Journal of Medicine article points out that when anesthesiologists are involved in a patient's pre-surgical evaluation, fewer surgeries are canceled, there is less of a need for medical consultations and fewer lab tests have to be ordered. "The evidence is compelling and abundant," Dr. Swissman said. "Unquestionably, the outcomes studies, scientific data, three years of surveys and more than 100,000 e-mails, faxes and letters protesting the proposed change provide the evidence that physician supervision must not be removed from Medicare regulations. The safety of patients will suffer." In contrast, Dr. Swissman added, "There has never been any verifiable data that show patients will continue to receive the safest possible anesthesia care if the physician is removed from that care." There is a solution, however, Dr. Swissman said. "The new Bush administration, including Secretary Thompson, has the opportunity to reverse a politically motivated decision and return to a position that puts the safety of Medicare patients first, as it should be," Dr. Swissman said. Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists 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 with more than 36,000 members.
SOURCE American Society of Anesthesiologists