Thursday May 19, 2011 | 08:27 AM

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state are spearheading a bipartisan request for federal health care regulators to ease rules that the lawmakers say gets in the way of Medicare recipients getting needed home health care services.

The issue stems from a requirement of the health care reform law passed last year, mandating documentation of in-person doctor-patient encounters for Medicare to pay for the home health services. The provision was meant to increase physician involvement, but the senators – 50 in all signed a letter to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – say the final rules put in place by regulators impose unnecessarily burdensome documentation requirements.
In Maine, about 20,000 of the state’s 262,000 enrollees in Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors, got home health services in 2009, with health care providers making more than 462,000 home visits, the senators said in a joint release on Wednesday.
"Specifically, we are concerned about the documentation requirements in the rule placed upon ordering physicians, which are burdensome, duplicative, and impractical for many doctors, especially those in rural and underserved areas," the senators wrote in a letter to CMS Administrator Donald Berwick.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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