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Medicare Reform Needed to Curb Rising Costs, Sullivan Tells AMA

June 19, 1989|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — The nation's health chief told the American Medical Assn. on Sunday that a Medicare reform plan strongly opposed by the group is a solution to skyrocketing medical costs and lack of access to quality care.

Louis W. Sullivan, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that such solutions are better than a total overhaul of the system.

The U.S. per capita expenditures for health care are the highest in the world, consuming more than 11% of the country's gross national product, "and they continue to rise at an unsustainable rate," Sullivan told more than 1,000 physicians on the opening day of the AMA's five-day policy-making session.

Lags in Health Indices

"Yet the United States lags far behind other industrialized countries in some basic health indices, including average life expectancy and maternal mortality," he said.

Sullivan told reporters afterward that he had reiterated the Bush Administration's support for "expenditure targets" during a meeting with the AMA's Board of Trustees earlier Sunday.

Under the proposal, aimed at curbing increasing fees by doctors who treat Medicare patients, the government would set maximum levels for reimbursement.

Dr. James H. Sammons, the association's executive vice president, called the proposal "rationing" of medical care in a speech to members later Sunday and said he has "personally communicated the medical profession's objections" to the White House and to Sullivan.

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