A new bill introduced in the House on Wednesday would disqualify boutique physicians who charge Medicare patients an extra fee from billing Medicare for two years.
The bill builds on a 1997 change in the Medicare law that requires physicians who choose to bill Medicare patients for their entire payment to "opt out" of Medicare for two years, according to a statement from the bill's author, Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).
Boutique practices typically charge a patient a yearly retainer fee--$1,500 to $12,000, according to Cardin?s office--for special services such as longer visits, continuous availability by phone or pager and counseling for healthy lifestyles.
About 200 physicians nationwide have such practices, according to one estimate.
"My legislation will ensure that physicians cannot increase their incomes arbitrarily at the expense of seniors, who have fixed incomes," Cardin says in a release.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), recently reintroduced a bill that would stop Medicare or Medicaid payments to boutique practices, a Nelson aide reports.
At the upcoming AMA annual meeting, which starts Saturday, an AMA ethics committee is proposing that the AMA recognize boutique practices as long as they follow certain guidelines, such as disclosing the terms of the relationship to patients.
The report by the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs will be voted on by the AMA House of Delegates next week.