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Am Fam Physician. 1998;57(1):13

Members of Medicare Bipartisan Commission Are Appointed

The President and Congressional leaders from both parties have announced appointments to the new National Bipartisan Commission on the Future Medicare. The commission is charged with providing Congress with a reform plan for the beleaguered Medicare program by March 1999. The intensely political appointment process has resulted in a commission dominated by members of Congress. These members include Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.); Jim McDermott (D-Wash.); Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chair of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee; Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, and Greg Ganske (R-Iowa); and Sens. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee health subcommittee; Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.); Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

Other commission members include Bruce Vladeck, former chief of the Health Care Finance Administration; Stuart Altman, a health policy expert from Brandeis University; Anthony Watson, chair of the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York; Samuel H. Howard, head of Phoenix Healthcare Corporation; Laura D'Andrea Tyson, former economic advisor; Deborah Steelman, a former official of the Office of Management and Budget, and Illene Gordon from the staff of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). No representative of a physician organization was appointed to the panel, although Representatives Ganske and McDermott and Senator Frist all are physicians. No chair for the commission has been announced.

Chairman Selected for the Alliance for NTI Patient Safety

Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., M.D., a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and former assistant surgeon general, has recently been named chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Health Alliance for NTI Patient Safety, a coalition of medical and patient advocacy groups dedicated to establishing patient disclosure protections for those taking narrow therapeutic index (NTI) medications. Dr. Hayes will lead the Alliance in it's effort to raise awareness among policy makers that NTI drugs require special consideration in today's health care system in which state guidelines, pharmacies and health plans often mandate less-costly formula substitutions without the knowledge of patients or approval of their physicians. Dr. Hayes currently is a professor of medicine, pharmacology, and community and preventative medicine at New York Medical College and a clinical professor of medicine and pharmacology at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. Alliance members include the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Neurology, American Health Care Association, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, Association of Black Cardiologists, Epilepsy Foundation of America, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, National Stroke Association and United Seniors Association.

NCQA Issues Final Physician Organization Certification Standards

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) released final standards for its Physician Organization Certification (POC) Program, which is designed to reduce the oversight burden for medical groups and independent practice associations by substituting a single NCQA survey for the many overlapping reviews that physician organizations may face from their managed care organization partners. The POC program allows physician organizations to pursue certification for specific standards categories, such as quality management and improvement, utilization management, credentialing, preventive health, medical records, and members' rights and responsibilities. An organization need not seek certification in all six areas to participate in the program. For more information, call the Physician Organization Certification Help Line at 202-955-3562.

Over-the-Counter Medications Have a New Uniformity Law

President Clinton has signed into law legislation ensuring national uniformity for over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The national uniformity provision is part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997. The legislation requires one national system of regulation for OTC medications and prohibits states from imposing different or additional requirements than those mandated by the FDA. In addition, the bill requires labels on OTC medication to disclose the name and quantity of all active ingredients and the name of all inactive ingredients, and provides FDA authority to inspect OTC medication facilities and records to the same extent as prescription drugs. The Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association strongly supports the new legislation.

COLA Introduces a National Speakers Bureau

COLA, a national health care accreditation organization, has introduced the COLA Speakers Bureau, a consortium of 16 professional speakers prepared to speak on topics ranging from health care initiatives to clinical advancements. The bureau includes individuals from COLA's various organizational levels, including the Board of Directors, management and staff. COLA is a nonprofit, physician directed organization promoting quality and excellence in medicine and patient care through a program of voluntary education, achievement and accreditation. It is sponsored by the AAFP, the American Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Society of Internal Medicine and the College of American Pathologists. For more information about COLA or the speakers bureau, call 800-981-9883 or visit COLA's Web site at

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Copyright © 1998 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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