For the past several years Medicare administrators have made doctors of chiropractic and their patients a target for selective enforcement and regulatory restriction under Medicare because of a medical prejudice that is a gross disservice to both the patient and doctor of chiropractic. On May 16th, 2002, before a packed congressional hearing room, that trend was significantly exposed and debated.
At that hearing Small Business Committee Chairman, The Hon. Donald Manzullo (R-IL) and over a dozen other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, pounded Medicare Administrator Thomas Scully for that program’s ongoing policy of provider harassment. In a four-hour hearing, witness after witness, including ICA’s Central Regional Director Dr. Michael Hulsebus (right) of Rockford, Illinois told the Committee how Medicare had conducted completely unjustified and overtly hostile and prejudicial attacks, post-payment audits and other strong-arm activities aimed at hurting non-MD providers.
Dr. Hulsebus addressed the issue succinctly with his testimony in which he stated, “Chiropractic providers and patients alike find it alarming when Medicare administrators take it upon themselves to use program policies to force health care decisions onto beneficiaries that ought to be left to the patients themselves. How else can you characterize policies that restrict access to one form of care, in this case chiropractic care, regardless of the clinical realities, and force those beneficiaries onto second-choice, specialist-based care that is far more expensive than the chiropractic care that is being denied? This is not only offensive in terms of personal liberties and control over one’s own health care; it is also very poor public policy.”
This historic hearing marks a major change in the role Congress is willing to play in protecting Medicare providers and Medicare patients from the heavy handed, arbitrary and prejudice driven operations of the centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Formerly known as the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), the May 16th hearing was titled: “CMS, New Name, Same Old Game?” The anger and outrage of the Committee reached a peak when it was revealed that witnesses at earlier hearings on Medicare harassment had been subjected to snap Medicare audits on the very day they appeared before the Small Business Committee. Chairman Manzullo immediately called for an investigation of what he described as intimidation and witness tampering by Medicare and set a July 17th hearing date for a full review of this “horrific and frightening” abuse of power by Medicare authorities.