According to AHA President Dick Davidson, President Bush's health secretary Tommy Thompson found the inclusion of that question "hysterical."
Davidson said that Thompson has similar views on the paperwork burden. He "made it clear that he think it's as dumb as we do," Davidson said. "There's a readiness to finally want to deal with this."
Thompson has already announced a "comprehensive management review" to "modernize and reform" the Medicare agency. As part of this effort, for this week, he has moved his offices to the agency's headquarters in Baltimore. Thompson has even mentioned renaming this dreaded administration, known as HCFA, as "MAMA" -- the Medicare and Medicaid Association.
And the industry is poised to gain another likely sympathetic ear in Washington. Tom Scully, whom the White House this week formally nominated to run the Medicare program under Thompson, previously ran a national for-profit hospital association.
Hospital officials said that they didn't precisely know how to strike the right mix involving preventing fraud, documenting important medical information, and keeping health professionals from drowning in a sea of Medicare forms.
"I don't know the answer or how to fix this," Mansfield said.
But for starters, the AHA says it wants greater input from providers on new requirements and for Medicare to reflect the cost of complying with new rules into Medicare reimbursement updates. Bipartisan legislation introduced this Congress would require further testing before new documentation requirements are launched for physicians.