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News in Brief: Week of June 20-24
By News Staff
Texas Legislature Slashes Funds for Family Medicine Residency Programs
For 2010 and 2011, the legislature appropriated $21.2 million for family medicine residency programs. But the recently-passed budget slashes that amount to $5.6 million. The legislature also eliminated two other line items supporting residency training, resulting in an additional cut of $5.59 million.
In the meantime, the state budget also eliminated funding for the Statewide Primary Care Preceptorship Program and cut funding for the state's Physician Education Loan Repayment program by 76 percent. Altogether, Texas has reduced its investment in developing its primary care physician workforce from almost $51 million biannually to $11.2 million, a cut of 78 percent, according to Jonathan Nelson, communications director for the Texas AFP.
FPs Get Help With Prevention Message via U.S. Strategy
Presented by U.S. Surgeon General and family physician Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., the comprehensive plan was called for by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and aims to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.
According to the strategy document, all sectors of society should help achieve four broad objectives:
- building healthy and safe community environments,
- expanding quality preventive services in both clinical and community settings,
- empowering people to make healthy choices, and
- eliminating health disparities.
Obama Administration Launches PCMH Initiative for Medicare Patients
The Federally Qualified Health Center Advanced Primary Care Practice Demonstration project will enroll FQHCs to provide care for up to 195,000 Medicare patients via the medical home model, according to an HHS press release. Participating FQHCs are expected to achieve Level 3 recognition status from the National Committee on Quality Assurance, or NCQA.
The initiative, which will be operated jointly by CMS and the Health Resources and Services Administration, will pay participating FQHCs a monthly care management fee for each eligible Medicare beneficiary receiving primary care services. In exchange, the FQHCs will agree to adopt care coordination practices recognized by the NCQA.
MedPAC Report Assails Flaws in Medicare's Payment System
The system continues to call for unrealistically steep fee cuts while inherently rewarding volume over quality and efficiency, notes MedPAC. The payment system also favors procedural services over primary care, which has serious implications for the nation's future primary care workforce.
"The commission is concerned about these issues, particularly because physicians and other health care professionals are often the most important link between beneficiaries and the health care delivery system," the report says.
It points out the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula has repeatedly called for steep reductions in Medicare payment rates during the past several years -- reductions that have only been averted by congressional action. This frequent need to override increasingly steeper cuts, however, is undermining confidence in the Medicare program and jeopardizing future access to care by beneficiaries, according to the report.
New Medical Schools Get Accreditation Upgrade
The schools are the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando, the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in Miami and the Texas Tech University of Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso.
Provisional accreditation is the fourth step in a five-step process for full accreditation. It means that the schools have met a number of requirements, including that certain portions of their programs leading to the doctorate of medicine degree have met LCME standards.
The medical schools welcomed their first classes in fall 2009.
National Academies Making All Content Free to Download
The NAP began offering some free content online in 1994. The organization estimated that making all of its content free will increase dissemination of its reports from about 700,000 downloads per year to more than 3 million by 2013.
"Our business model has evolved so that it is now financially viable to put this content out to the entire world for free," executive director Barbara Kline Pope said in a June 2 news release. "This is a wonderful opportunity to make a positive impact by more effectively sharing our knowledge and analyses."
Printed books will continue to be available for purchase through the NAP website. Free PDFs are available exclusively from the NAP's website and remain subject to copyright laws. A frequently-asked-questions document has more information about the free downloads.
National Library of Medicine Launches Online Services for Medical Information
MedlinePlus.gov brings together information from the NIH, other federal agencies and reputable health information professionals and covers a wide range of health conditions and wellness issues. It includes numerous resources to inform patients about their health, according to HHS.
Physicians and patients using portals or EHRs that have implemented MedlinePlus Connect can access health information on MedlinePlus that is directly related to diagnoses, medications and lab tests. The NIH has also provided technical documentation to help users get started.