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Am Fam Physician. 2004 Mar 1;69(5):1031-1033.

HHS Launches Campaign to Educate Seniors About Medicare Benefits

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced the creation of a nationwide education campaign designed to inform senior citizens who have Medicare about the new benefits that are available, including prescription drug coverage. The first major segment of the education campaign will consist of television advertisements that will run through March on national networks and cable programs that are heavily viewed by people with Medicare. The advertisement outlines when some of the prescription drug benefits will be available, and assures seniors that they can keep their current Medicare coverage if they prefer. It also encourages seniors to learn more by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), the toll-free helpline for Medicare beneficiaries and their families. Seniors also can learn more about the new benefits by going online to http://www.medicare.gov.

Study Shows Link Between Diabetes, Obesity, and Other Chronic Illnesses

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently released data that demonstrate a strong link between diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions, such as asthma, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. The statistics, which were based on the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, show that in 2001, approximately 12.4 million American adults (at least 18 years of age) were diagnosed with diabetes, and that in 2000, more than $18 billion was spent on health care for persons who have diabetes. The study used body mass index (BMI) to categorize persons into one of the following weight categories: underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, and extremely obese. In 2001, over 59 percent of adults in the United States were overweight (BMI of 25.0 to 29.9), obese (BMI of 30.0 to 39.9), or extremely obese (BMI of at least 40.0). When compared with persons who did not have diabetes, patients with diabetes were more than three times as likely to be extremely obese; were more likely to have asthma; were nearly three times as likely to have hypertension; were three times as likely to have heart disease; and were more than four times as likely to have a stroke. To see these data in a statistical brief, go to http://www.meps.ahrq.gov/PrintProducts/PrintProd_Detail.asp?ID=587.

AAFP Establishes First Combined Family Medicine Residency/MBA Program

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) in cooperation with Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Mo., has established the first fully integrated family medicine/master of business administration (MBA) program in response to the growing need for family physicians to understand the clinical and business aspects of medicine. Between 25 and 35 students are expected to begin the first business course in the dual program in June, and they will earn their MBA and complete their family medicine residency in 2007. This dual family medicine/MBA program has been integrated with the following three Kansas City-area family medicine residency programs: the University of Missouri-Kansas City Family Medicine Residency Program, Baptist-Lutheran Family Practice Residency Program, and the University of Health Sciences/ Medical Center of Independence Family Medicine Residency Program. The AAFP Foundation provided $55,000 to support the program's development. Rockhurst University began offering graduate business education designed for health care clinicians three years ago through a dual-degree program with the University of Health Sciences, Kansas City, Mo., and added a track tailored for nursing students at Research College of Nursing, Kansas City, last year.

Fact Sheet Examines Effects of Being Uninsured on Access to Health Care

A new fact sheet from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured describes how long the uninsured remain without health care coverage, who usually goes without health insurance for longer periods of time, and the effect that the duration of not having health insurance has in terms of access to and utilization of care. According to the report, which includes updated data from 2002, longer periods without coverage are more common and occur when the person's employer does not offer coverage, when the person cannot afford premiums, when health conditions make the person uninsurable in the private market, when a spouse'benefits are lost because of divorce or death, or when the person does not qualify for public health care coverage. The report also states that persons with low incomes and those in fair or poor health are significantly more likely to be uninsured for longer periods, and that young adults (19 to 34 years of age) are at greater risk of being uninsured for longer than 12 months compared with those in other age groups. The long-term uninsured are much more likely to lack a usual source of care than those who are uninsured for five months or less. The report can be viewed online at http://www.kff.org/uninsured/4120-index.cfm.

Family Physician Named Chair of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., director of the AHRQ, recently named family physician Bruce Nedrow (Ned) Calonge, M.D., M.P.H., Denver, chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Dr. Calonge, who has served as a member of the USPSTF for two years, is chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and serves as the state epidemiologist. He is an associate professor of family medicine and of preventive medicine and biometrics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver. The USPSTF, which is sponsored by the AHRQ, is the leading independent panel of private-sector experts in prevention and primary care, and conducts impartial assessments of the scientific evidence for a broad range of preventive services, including screening for prostate cancer, cervical cancer, obesity, and hormone therapy. For more information on the USPSTF, go to the AHRQ Web site at http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfab.htm.


Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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