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New AMA Survey Finds Insurer Preauthorization Policies Impact Patient Care

For immediate release:
Nov. 22, 2010

Chicago – Policies that require physicians to ask permission from a patient's insurance company before performing a treatment negatively impact patient care, according to a new survey released today by the American Medical Association (AMA). This is the first national physician survey by the AMA to quantify the burden of insurers' preauthorization requirements for a growing list of routine tests, procedures and drugs.

"Intrusive managed care oversight programs that substitute corporate policy for physicians' clinical judgment can delay patient access to medically necessary care," said AMA Immediate Past President J. James Rohack, M.D. "According to the AMA survey, 78 percent of physicians believe insurers use preauthorization requirements for an unreasonable list of tests, procedures and drugs."

The AMA survey of approximately 2,400 physicians indicates that health insurer requirements to preauthorize care has delayed or interrupted patient care, consumed significant amounts of time, and complicated medical decisions. Highlights from the AMA survey include:

  • More than one-third (37%) of physicians experience a 20 percent rejection rate from insurers on first-time preauthorization requests for tests and procedures. More than half (57%) of physicians experience a 20 percent rejection rate from insurers on first-time preauthorization requests for drugs.
  • Nearly half (46%) of physicians experience difficulty obtaining approval from insurers on 25 percent or more of preauthorization requests for tests and procedures. More than half (58%) of physicians experience difficulty obtaining approval from insurers on 25 percent or more of preauthorization requests for drugs.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of physicians typically wait several days to receive preauthorization from an insurer for tests and procedures, while one in eight (13%) wait more than a week. More than two-thirds (69%) of physicians typically wait several days to receive preauthorization from an insurer for drugs, while one in ten (10%) wait more than a week.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of physicians report it is difficult to determine which test and procedures require preauthorization by insurers. More than two-thirds (67%) of physicians report it is difficult to determine which drugs require preauthorization by insurers.

Preauthorization policies deliver costly bureaucratic hassles that take time from patient care. Physicians spend 20 hours per week on average just dealing with preauthorizations. Studies show that navigating the managed care maze costs physicians $23.2 to $31 billion a year.

"Nearly all physicians surveyed said that streamlining the preauthorization process is important and 75 percent believe an automated process would increase efficiency," said Dr. Rohack. "The AMA is urging health insurers to automate and streamline the current cumbersome preauthorization process so physicians can manage patient care more efficiently."

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Media Contact:
Lisa Lecas
AMA Media Relations
(312) 464-5980
lisa.lecas@ama-assn.org

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