News in Brief: Week of May 12-16

May 16, 2014 01:45 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

Boosting Physical Activity in Adults With Disabilities Focus of Upcoming Webinar

A recent Vital Signs report from the CDC( indicates that U.S. adults with disabilities -- that's more than 21 million people -- are three times more likely than the general population to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer. They are also more likely than adults without disabilities to be physically inactive and have chronic diseases.

The good news is that family physicians can make a difference. Research has shown that patients with disabilities are 82 percent more likely to be physically active if their physician recommends it.

To find out more, including tips for broaching the subject with your patients who have disabilities and what to consider when recommending specific activities, join an expert panel for a May 20 webinar from 2-3 p.m. ET.

The CDC and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities are co-sponsoring the event, and online registration is now open(

U.S. Syphilis Rates Have More Than Doubled Since 2000

Nearly eliminated more than a decade ago, primary and secondary syphilis cases in the United States have climbed steadily since then, rising from a low of 2.1 cases per 100,000 population in 2000 to 5.3 per 100,000 in 2013. That's according to the May 9 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report(

Using data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System for cases of primary and secondary syphilis that were diagnosed between 2005 and 2013, CDC researchers found the increases have occurred primarily among men, and particularly among men who have sex with men.

During that 2005-13 period, primary and secondary syphilis rates increased among men of all ages and races/ethnicities across all regions of the United States, the report stated. Among women, rates of primary and secondary syphilis increased from 0.9 to 1.5 per 100,000 population per year during 2005-08, but then decreased to 0.9 in 2013.

Have Ideas for Quality Measures? CMS Wants to Hear Them

CMS is soliciting suggestions for quality measures( that could be included in the proposed set of quality measures used in the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS). Measures submitted also will be considered for use in other quality programs for physicians and other eligible professionals.

CMS is not accepting claims-based-only reporting measures in this process. Instead, the agency is seeking a quality set of measures that are outcome-based rather than clinical process measures. CMS is also interested in measures that pertain to patient safety and adverse events, appropriate use of diagnostics and therapeutics, care coordination and communication, patient experience and patient-reported outcomes, and measures of cost and resource use.

Measures that are submitted between May 1 and June 30 of this year may be considered for inclusion on the 2014 "measures under consideration" list for implementation in PQRS as early as 2016. Measures submitted after June 30 may be considered for inclusion on the 2015 list for implementation in PQRS as early as 2017. Unlike previous years, the submission period will be open indefinitely.

PCORI Seeks Help Improving How Research Findings Are Communicated

It can take years for research findings to make their way to patients, physicians and others who make decisions about health and health care. Now, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) wants to make it easier for people to access and make use of the results of research that PCORI funds.

As part of that effort, the institute is seeking physician input. It is hoped that input will help PCORI develop strategies to streamline the process of getting needed information to patients, their families and health care professionals sooner to optimize their ability to use it when making decisions about health and health care.

More information about this project( and how to participate is available on the PCORI website. May 24 is the deadline to submit input.

New Report Highlights Savings Realized Through ACA

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) medical loss ratio (MLR) provision saved consumers $3 billion in 2011 and 2012 through either rebates or reduced health plan spending on overhead, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report( based on an analysis of insurers with 1,000 or more members per market segment.

The MLR provision, which took effect in 2011, requires small-group and individual plan insurers to spend 80 percent of premiums on medical costs and quality improvement. Large-group plans must spend 85 percent.

Prepared by researchers Michael McCue, D.B.A., of Virginia Commonwealth University, and Mark Hall, J.D., of Wake Forest School of Law, "The Federal Medical Loss Ratio: Implications for Consumers in Year 2" reports that in 2012, insurers paid out $513 million in consumer rebates, down from the $1 billion paid in 2011. This, according to the report's authors, indicates that insurers were in greater compliance with the ACA spending requirements.

Insurers also reduced profits and spending on brokers' fees, marketing and other administrative costs by $1.4 billion. Still, spending on activities designed to improve the quality of patient care reflected less than 1 percent of premiums in 2011 and 2012.

According to the authors, the MLR provision has not reduced competition in health insurance markets or consumers' choice of insurance plans. There were at least 500 insurers in each of the individual, small-group and large-group markets in 2012, only a small reduction from 2011 that does not appear related to the ACA.