News in Brief: Week of May 30-June 3

June 01, 2011 06:05 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Join CMS Conference Call to Clarify 'Pioneer' ACO Model

CMS will host a special open-door forum( next week that will focus on the application process for the agency's "pioneer" accountable care organization, or ACO, model(, which was announced on May 17.

The conference call -- titled "The Pioneer ACO Model: A Review of the Application" -- is June 7 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. EDT. Dial (866) 501-5502 to access the call; when prompted, give conference ID number 70961782.

Call participants are encouraged to download background materials before the call, and they will have an opportunity to ask questions of CMS experts following the official presentation.

CMS will grant pioneer ACO status to qualifying organizations contracting with Medicare beginning this fall. Letters of intent from interested groups must be submitted by June 10, and applications are due by July 18.

FPs Best to Help Prevent, Manage Childhood Obesity

A new CME Bulletin on childhood obesity from the AAFP says family physicians are in the best position to assess childhood obesity and to counsel and motivate parents and children to prevent and manage it.

Although many FPs compute a child's body mass index at nearly every well-child visit, counseling is sporadic and incomplete. Of the FPs who provide counseling, 43 percent think their efforts are effective, according to the bulletin, "Childhood Obesity: Assessment, Prevention and Treatment.(6 page PDF)"

"FPs are in an excellent position to assess obesity risk in their patients and to briefly counsel and motivate parents and children to prevent and manage childhood overweight and obesity," says the bulletin.

It describes the consequences of childhood overweight and obesity, the risk factors for these conditions, brief counseling for prevention and management, treatment options, and resources for patients and parents.

The bulletin can be read online or downloaded for free. The activity is acceptable for as many as 2 Prescribed credits by the AAFP or 2 AMA PRA Category 1 credits.

The bulletin was produced by the AAFP with an educational grant from WellPoint State Sponsored Business.

Massachusetts Regional Extension Center Tops Recruitment Goal Early

According to the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, the Massachusetts Regional Extension Center is the first regional extension center, or REC, in the nation to reach its health professional recruitment goal(

The Massachusetts REC began operations in April 2010 by setting a goal to recruit 2,500 primary care physicians to the program. The recruitment goal, which is the first of three key milestones of the REC program, was met within the first year of the three-year program.

The Massachusetts REC, which is an outreach of the Massachusetts e-Health Institute(, is one of 62 federally designated RECs that were awarded federal grants in 2010. Each REC set its own recruitment goals, but the group as a whole was charged with recruiting 100,000 primary care physicians, encouraging them to adopt electronic health records and helping them meet meaningful use requirements by 2014.

HHS Increases Funding for Education and Training Programs

HHS has managed to increase funding for the education and training of family physicians under the current continuing resolution passed earlier this spring, even though most HHS programs were forced to cut funding.

The continuing resolution provides funding for the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30. According to its provisions, agencies such as HHS are required to submit spending plans to Congress. The HHS plan includes an increase in funding for Title VII, Section 747, primary care medicine training to $39 million for the rest of the current fiscal year. Although most Title VII programs received a spending cut, Title VII overall is funded at $272.5 million, an increase of $18.4 million from comparable fiscal year, or FY, 2010 levels.

The increase in Title VII overall comes from an increase for primary care, plus an increase for public health and preventive medicine of $20 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Funding for the National Health Service Corps was increased from $141 million in FY 2010 to $315 million using trust fund monies made available for that purpose in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Vermont Enacts Measure to Revamp Health Care System

Vermont has enacted a health care reform measure that is designed to control costs and improve health care access while putting the state on a path to creating the first single-payer insurance system in the country.

The measure, H.B. 202(, was signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin on May 25. It creates a new health care board with the ability to control the rate of growth in both health insurance premiums and health care provider payments, according to a press release issued by the governor's office. The board, which will be appointed and in place by October, will work with physicians and other health care providers to move away from fee-for-service payment to a value-based system that rewards efficiency and patient outcomes.

In addition, the law requires detailed planning for a single-payer health care system to "maximize savings and take health insurance off the backs of employers," according to the press release.