Leaders from 10 healthcare organizations have signed a letter to the Bush administration's top budget manager asking for full funding for Medicare quality improvement organizations.
The leaders said they support the scope of work for the QIOs as proposed by HHS, which is "approximately double that of the current cycle . . . but we are concerned that the amount proposed in the president's fiscal 2006 budget is far short of what's needed to fund this important work."
The budget for QIOs for fiscal 2005, ending this September, was $362 million, according to Maureen Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Family Physicians, whose executive vice president, Douglas Henley, M.D., was a co-signor of the Feb. 25 letter to Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The president's request in the budget presented to Congress for fiscal 2006 was $386 million, a 6.6% increase.
But, to the best of anyone's knowledge, before former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson left office, he asked for a lot more.
HHS spokesman Bill Pierce would not say what Thompson had originally requested.
David Schulke, executive vice president of the American Health Quality Association, the national organization of QIOs, and a co-signor of the letter said, "We think they originally asked for $2 billion," an amount, he said, that jibes with the AHQA's own estimate of the cost of providing the services outlined in the scope of work.
But Schulke said, "They (HHS) won't tell anybody the number. They told us they wouldn't tell because they didn't want to appear to be pressuring the White House."
The scope of work for QIOs next year includes support for the Doctors Office Quality-Information Technology, a CMS project in conjunction with the AAFP. The project's aim is to improve quality of care for Medicare patients by assisting physicians in small and mid-sized group practices in adopting electronic medical records and other clinical information technology systems.
Also signing the letter were leaders from the American College of Physicians, the eHealth Initiative, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the American Health Care Association, the American Pharmacists Association, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the National Rural Health Association.
Read the proposed scope of work for QIOs.