Senator Seeks Primary Care Network Investigation
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has asked Senate legal staff to investigate whether the $1,500 annual access fee charged by the Boca Raton, Fla.-based doctors group MDVIP violates Medicare rules, the AP/Florida Times-Union reports. Two Florida doctors and an investors group started MDVIP this spring, offering patients "more individualized attention" in exchange for the out-of-pocket fee. The group accepts Medicare beneficiaries and individuals in PPOs, but all patients have to pay the annual fee as well as any copay required by their insurance (AP/Florida Times-Union, 6/21). In return, MDVIP doctors have promised to reduce their patient load from about 3,000 to no more than 600, which would make possible same- or next-day appointments, annual physicals, nutrition counseling and coordination of specialized care. Patients who are unable or unwilling to pay the fee have said they feel "betrayed, angry and victimized," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Nelson called the fee "outrageous," adding that it is "symptomatic of the need for reform of the entire health insurance system." But according to Medicare law experts, the fee is "probably" legal, the Sun-Sentinel reports. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (formerly HCFA) is looking into the fee, but has made no conclusions yet. Dr. Edward Goldman, one of the group's founders, said he intends to expand the network into New York, Connecticut and Los Angeles (Singer, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/21). If Senate staff determine the fee system is legal, Nelson said he would introduce a bill to halt federal payments to doctors who "demand extra fees from their existing Medicare patients" (AP/Florida Times-Union, 6/21).