UTILIZATION: Mass. MD Group Drops ‘Unnecessary Days’ Penalty
Amidst negative publicity and major medical industry backlash, the Mount Auburn Cambridge Independent Practice Association Inc. this weekend announced plans to drop a controversial policy that fines doctors $250 for "unnecessary hospital days." The Mount Auburn IPA's board of director issued a statement notifying the practice's 350 physicians that "to avoid any perception of adverse impact that might have been the unintentional result of this policy, the board has voted to rescind the policy," the Boston Globe reports. Another large physicians' group, Melrose-Wakefield MetroNorth Health Care Association instituted a similar policy Oct. 1 that charges physicians $50 per day for hospitalization deemed medically unnecessary by a committee of peer physicians. Dr. David Steinberg, chief of medical ethics at the Lahey Clinic physician practice, interpreted the penalties as "a sign of desperate financial times for many hospitals and doctors' groups squeezed by increasingly tightfisted insurance companies and government programs" (Pham, 10/16). But Dr. David Himmelstein, a member of the Mount Auburn practice and opponent of the policy noted, "I think it's good that they rescinded [the policy], but it's just the tip of the iceberg where doctors are expected to collude with HMOs against patients," (Powell, Boston Herald, 10/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.