News in Brief: Week of Aug. 6-10

August 08, 2012 04:50 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Parity Regulation Likely Will Lead to More Physicians Accepting Medicaid, Says Study

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will increase Medicaid payment rates to Medicare levels for primary care physicians during the next two years, making it likely that more primary care physicians will accept new Medicaid patients.

That is one of the key findings from a study( (abstract) in the August Health Affairs that is based on the 2011 National Ambulatory Medicare Care Survey Electronic Medicare Records Supplement. The study found that "higher state Medicaid-to-Medicare fee ratios were correlated with greater acceptance of new Medicaid patients."

"The findings serve as a useful baseline from which to measure the anticipated impact of Affordable Care Act provisions that could boost Medicaid payment rates to primary care physicians in some states while increasing the number of people with health care coverage," says an abstract of the study.

The study also found that more than 30 percent of physicians were unwilling to accept new Medicaid patients last year, and 17 percent were not willing to accept new Medicare patients. In addition, 18 percent of physicians said they were not willing to accept new privately insured patients, according to the study.

CMS Contractor Invites Physicians to Participate in Free Call on Billing Reports

SafeGuard Services LLC, the CMS contractor responsible for randomly sending comparative billing reports (CBRs) to physicians, will host a conference call on Aug. 14 at 11 a.m. PDT that specifically focuses on CBRs that relate to evaluation and management services.

A CBR is a documented analysis that shows a physician's billing pattern for various procedures or services and then compares that billing to the physician's peers. Described as an "outreach call," participating physicians will learn more about the comparative billing reports project and what to do if they should receive a CBR in the mail.

Physicians can join the call by dialing (877) 623-8563; the conference identification number is 16520303. Materials relating to the call will be available for physicians to download( on Aug. 13. Select the tab labeled "Events Calendar" and look for the evaluation and management audio presentation.

Anti-Fraud Initiative Brings Together Public and Private Sectors

The Obama administration has launched a joint public and private anti-fraud campaign to help detect and prevent health care fraud in the public and private sectors.

The initiative, announced jointly by HHS and the U.S. Office of the Attorney General, will involve the federal government and state officials on the public side as well as anti-fraud groups and several leading private health insurance organizations on the private side. By working together, the public and private entities will share information and best practices to "improve detection and prevent payment of fraudulent health care billings," according to the HHS press release(

One of the goals of the campaign is to "reveal and halt scams that cut across a number of public and private payers," HHS says. According to the agency, "one innovative objective of the partnership is to share information on specific schemes, utilized billing codes and geographical fraud hotspots so that action can be taken to prevent losses to both government and private health plans before they occur."

Several of the nation's health insurance companies have joined the campaign, including WellPoint Inc., the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Humana Inc., and America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade organization representing the nation's largest insurance carriers.

Atypical Antipsychotics Show Limited Off-Label Success

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is offering summary materials on understanding off-label use of atypical antipsychotics.

According to a release from the agency(, the AHRQ update of a 2007 report found some evidence to support off-label use of the atypical antipsychotic medications risperidone, olanzapine and aripiprazole to treat dementia, quetiapine for treating generalized anxiety disorder, and risperidone for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Although off-label use of these medications may, in some cases, be beneficial, their off-label use is problematic "because we just don't know enough about their effectiveness and safety for multiple behavioral conditions," said AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D. "This report will give clinicians and patients additional information they can use to make the best possible decisions."

USDA, FDA Partner on Food Safety Guides for At-risk Populations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service and the FDA have joined forces to develop a series of food safety booklets( aimed at populations that are most susceptible to foodborne illness. The booklets are tailored to help older adults; transplant recipients; pregnant women; and people with cancer, diabetes or HIV infection/AIDS reduce their risk for foodborne illness.

Each 26-page booklet includes practical guidance on foodborne illness prevention presented in easy-to-read charts, illustrated how-tos, and straightforward descriptions of why each group is at increased risk for foodborne illness and symptoms that may mean trouble. The booklets contain three tear-out cards with quick-reference tips for grocery shopping, proper cooking, and eating out at restaurants for times when taking along the entire booklet would be impractical.

The booklets may be downloaded( They also can be ordered by calling the USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) MPHotline [674-6854] weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT or by sending an e-mail request.