New Survey Presented to HHS Secretary: Medicare Beneficiaries Still Want A Doctor Involved in Their Care

Feb 21, 2001, 00:00 ET from American Society of Anesthesiologists

    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
     - 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
     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