Task Force Report


IMS Task Force Report examines weaknesses in Iowa's health care system

Task Force Report Cover Iowa Medical Society...For Immediate Release
April 16, 2008
For more information, contact:
Cory Kelly
(515) 223-1401 ext. 242
View the complete Task Force Report
(Please scroll down to view video of the press conference.)

Although Iowa continues to rank high in quality measures, a new report from an Iowa Medical Society Task Force suggests that the state's ability to meet future health care needs will be in jeopardy if steps aren't taken to address several key areas, such as Medicare reimbursement and physician recruitment.

The report was developed by eleven Iowa physicians who were charged with assessing the adequacy of Iowa's physician workforce and the ability of Iowans to access the medical skill level appropriate for their needs.

Task Force Chair Charles Helms, MD, said the report will provide guidance to Iowa physicians and lawmakers and serve as a reference for issues in Iowa's health care delivery system. "We looked at a tremendous amount of Iowa-specific and national data, and after lengthy discussions, we developed over 40 recommendations that will guide us as we prepare to care for an influx of aging baby boomers."

IMS President James Hubbard, MD, appointed the Task Force last May to take an in-depth look at four key areas:

  1. Iowa's physician workforce
  2. Medical education and training in Iowa
  3. Caring for Iowa's uninsured
  4. Iowa's public health system

Helms says Iowa's physician practice climate must encourage physicians to locate and remain in Iowa. "We need to focus on physician recruitment and retention, a stable medical liability climate and improved Medicare reimbursement for Iowa physicians," he said. "It may seem like we're always talking about Medicare reimbursement, and to some extent, this is true. When you examine the data, it becomes clear why this is so critical given our high population of elderly."

Census data show that Iowa ranks third in the nation in the percentage of people aged 85 and older and fourth in the percentage of people 65 and older. "The population of Iowans 80 and over is increasing more rapidly than any other group, and that has major implications for health care," he said. "Older people have more chronic conditions that are costly and complex to treat, and if Medicare isn't covering the cost of care, it weakens our entire health care system."

Helms said the Task Force also found that Iowa lacks an adequate number of specialists, such as neurosurgeons, emergency medicine doctors, psychiatrists, obstetricians and gynecologists, and physical medicine and rehab specialists.

"We aren't going to meet the needs of our patients if we don't figure out how to attract more specialists to practice in Iowa," he said. "Our fear is that our physician workforce has been stretched too far and that threatens our ability to deliver excellent patient care."

IMS President-elect Patricia Hoffmann, DO, said that achieving equity in Medicare reimbursement is so critical that the IMS Board of Directors approved a motion to authorize exploring litigation against the agency that runs Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS.

"The federal government has a duty to pay for the care that is provided by the Medicare program, and geographic adjustors in the payment formula are shortchanging Iowa patients and the doctors who care for them." Hoffmann said that neither Congress nor CMS has acted to restore equity to the way Medicare reimburses doctors. "Possibly the courts will," she said.

Physicians from the Iowa Medical Society also recognize that being uninsured keeps people from receiving medical care. "Iowans are very concerned that a job change or layoff will cut them off from their health care coverage," he said. "We have to figure out a way to make sure that everyone has coverage that allows them to get the care they need."

The Task Force Report also addresses Iowa's public health system and was supportive of its efforts to regionalize how services are provided in Iowa. Issues challenging Iowans, such as obesity, prenatal care for pregnant teens and mental health services, also deserve attention and the support of prevention and wellness initiatives.

The Iowa Medical Society is the statewide professional association that represents over 4,600 MDs and DOs. The organization's core purpose is to assure the highest quality health care in Iowa through its role as physician and patient advocate.

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Part 1 of 2 (Time: 9:36)

Part 2 of 2 (Time: 6:36)