This roundup includes the following news briefs:
Congress has passed a bill, H.R. 4(www.govtrack.us), that would eliminate an unpopular tax provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires businesses to report all purchases of $600 or more to the Internal Revenue Service. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all businesses, starting in January 2012, are required to issue a 1099 tax form to any individual or corporation from whom they buy more than $600 in goods or services in any individual tax year. Currently, 1099 forms are issued only to individuals and not corporations.
The provision had caused considerable consternation among family physicians because of the likelihood that it would lead to additional paperwork and a significant economic burden.
CMS announced in a March 31 informational update that beginning April 1, it would enforce compliance with its home health face-to-face encounter rule(edocket.access.gpo.gov). The rule, a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states that to be eligible for Medicare coverage, patients requiring home health care must be seen by a physician 90 days before care begins or within 30 days after it starts. It also dictates that the certifying physician must provide a written narrative explaining why a patient's clinical findings specifically support coverage of home health services.
The agency's decision came despite efforts by a coalition of national health organizations, including the Academy, who urged CMS to delay enforcement of the rule to allow for more time to educate physicians about its requirements.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the rule are available in a March 11 posting to Family Practice Management's "Getting Paid" blog.
California physicians and other providers participating in the state's Medicaid program face a 10 percent payment reduction in June as a result of a bill signed March 24 by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The measure, A.B. 97(www.leginfo.ca.gov), is intended to cut $11.2 billion from the state's $26.6 billion budget deficit. The legislation reduces funding for health and human services in the state by $6 billion, $1.7 billion of which comes from MediCal, the state's Medicaid program.
Busy physicians may want to download three free quick reference charts that highlight need-to-know information about Medicare-covered preventive services.
"The ABCs of Providing the Initial Preventive Physical Examination(www.cms.gov)" provides Medicare fee-for-service providers a list of the elements of the initial preventive exam and includes coverage and coding information.
"The ABCs of Providing the Annual Wellness Visit(www.cms.gov)" lists the elements of the annual wellness visit and provides physicians with coverage and coding information.
The "Preventive Services" quick reference chart(www.cms.gov) gives physicians and other Medicare fee-for-service providers a snapshot of coverage, coding and payment information on a variety of preventive services covered by Medicare, including screenings for cardiovascular disease and diabetes; medical nutrition therapy, and administration of vaccines, such as seasonal influenza vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine and hepatitis B vaccine.
Family physicians with patients insured under the military health insurance plan TRICARE now can access the TRICARE formulary(investors.athenahealth.com) using their Epocrates software.
The new feature includes information about which drugs require prior authorization, a list of preferred medications segmented by three tiers of cost-sharing and pricing options. With point-of-care access to the list of preferred medications, for example, physicians can quickly determine the most affordable prescription options for their patients.
The AAFP offers members discounts on Epocrates software subscriptions (aafp.pdaorder.com)(Members Only). Subscribers -- whether they use the application online or on a mobile device -- can simply check an onscreen box to access the TRICARE formulary. Previously, they had to consult the TRICARE website or a paper pamphlet.
The FDA has updated its Recalls, Market Withdrawals & Safety Alerts Web page(www.fda.gov) devoted to recalls to make it easier for consumers and health professionals to search for food, drugs and other products subject to recalls, market withdrawals and safety alerts. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which gave the FDA mandatory recall authority, specifically called for a more consumer-friendly recall search capability.
Search results now are provided in the form of a table with information organized by date, product brand name, product description, reason for the recall and the recalling firm. Search results also include a link to the news release associated with each recall for more detailed information.
"Recalls, mandatory or otherwise, are serious, and we must do everything possible to make it easier for people to know about these recalls so they can take all appropriate steps to protect themselves and their families," said Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, said in an April 4 news release(www.fda.gov).
The upcoming generation of family physicians may well learn more about patient safety and health care quality as a result of a new initiative from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The Best Practices for Better Care(www.aamc.org) initiative has enlisted more than 200 medical schools, teaching hospitals and health systems to educate new physicians and physicians-to-be on the importance of patient safety and quality practices. Together, those institutions represent 12 percent of hospital admissions nationwide and train nearly 41 percent of the nation's physicians.
Among the initiative's goals are decreasing hospital readmissions, reducing infections, and engaging in research to develop and share best practices for improving patient care.
During the first phase of the multiyear initiative, the participating medical schools, hospitals and health systems(www.aamc.org) have committed to teaching quality and patient safety from day one to future physicians and to researching, evaluating and sharing new and improved practices.
Birth rates among teenagers have decreased by nearly 40 percent in the past 20 years in the United States, but physicians and others can do even more to reduce the more than 400,000 children born to U.S. teens each year, the CDC said in a report(www.cdc.gov) released April 5.
The report offers steps that parents, caregivers, communities and teenagers themselves can do to reduce a teen birth rate that is nearly three times higher than Canada's and four or more times higher than rates in several European countries. The agency said health care providers should take the following steps:
- provide teen-friendly, culturally appropriate services for sexual and reproductive health;
- increase the availability of birth control to sexually active teens and provide instruction on using methods consistently and correctly; and
- offer teens long-acting reversible birth control (e.g., intrauterine devices and long-acting implants).
Contraceptive use is lowest and teen childbirth is highest among Hispanics and blacks, who are two to three times more likely to give birth than white teens. According to the report, girls born to teenage mothers are about one-third more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
CMS has scheduled a special open door forum via conference call on April 14 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT. The call will feature presentations highlighting physicians' successful participation in the agency's 2011 Physician Quality Reporting System incentive program and the electronic-prescribing incentive program.
According to CMS' announcement about the forum, physicians should call (800) 837-1935 to participate; at the operator's prompt, use conference ID number 44767416.