New Medicare Commission Commences Work
The National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare met for the first time on April 20, hearing first from Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan. He compared the task of this commission with that of the Social Security Commission that he chaired in 1983 and suggested that the Medicare group focus its efforts on developing a range of options for congressional consideration. John Eisenberg, M.D., administrator of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, addressed issues related to the quality of care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries and emphasized that quality measures must be evidence-based and outcome-based. Other presenters included Nobel-laureate Robert Butler, M.D. The Commission has less than a year to report its findings to Congress. Its work will include field hearings this summer and in the fall to be conducted in areas with a high concentration of Medicare beneficiaries, as well as more sessions in Washington, D.C.
Medicare Private Contracting Lawsuit Is Dismissed
A lawsuit filed last December by the United Seniors Association that challenged limits on private contracting in the Medicare program was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan. Legislation that went into effect in January allows physicians to enter private contracts with Medicare beneficiaries for a specific service if the physician agrees not to file any claims with Medicare for any patients for two years. The lawsuit objected to the restriction; however, Judge Hogan said that Congress has the right to set conditions for such federal programs. Legislation introduced by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) would allow private contracting without restrictions. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is urging Congress to modify the law to allow such contracting as long as the terms are fairly stated, fees are disclosed to patients prior to their signing contracts, a prohibition on private contracting for dual eligibles (Medicare/Medicaid) is made and limits are set on private contracting for sole community providers.
AAFP Seeks Used Medical Textbooks for Airlift Project
The International Activities Department of the AAFP is collecting used medical textbooks, particularly the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR), to send on the 1998 Physicians with Heart airlift to Siberia or for use in any future philanthropic projects. All donated materials should be in good condition and within five years of the publication date (1993 to 1998). The donations must be received by August 1, 1998. A complete list of requested books can be obtained by contacting the AAFP Express-Fax system at 800-223-7397 and requesting item no. 3008. In 1997, the National Congress of Family Practice Residents and National Congress of Student Members and Heart to Heart International began a medical textbook drive to collect new and used medical textbooks and to provide them to medical institutions throughout the world that are actively involved in establishing family medicine as a specialty. Because PDRs have a new edition each year, former editions are often discarded. The donation of PDRs and textbooks will provide an invaluable gift to the advancement of family medicine throughout the international community.
Foundation Solicits Nominations for Health Leadership Awards
The Community Health Leadership Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is seeking nominations for next year's awards. This program honors 10 local community health care leaders from around the country for their work in creating or enhancing health care programs that serve communities whose needs are unmet. The award winners receive $100,000, of which $5,000 is a personal stipend and $95,000 is for program enhancement over a three-year period. Individuals who overcome obstacles to find ways to bring health care services to their communities are recognized through this program. Nominations can be made by consumers, community health leaders, health care professionals and government officials who have been personally inspired by the nominee. The deadline for letters of intent is September 16, 1998. For more information, contact the Community Health Leadership Program, 30 Winter St., Ste. 1005, Boston MA 02108.
NRHA Updates Issue Papers on Graduate Medical Education and Telemedicine
The Rural Health Policy Board of the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) has updated two previously published issue papers: “Funding of Graduate Medical Education” and “The Role of Telemedicine in Rural Health Care.” The paper on telemedicine defines and explores the history of telemedicine, and gives NRHA policy positions on the regulation, funding and reimbursement of current telemedicine services. The paper on graduate medical education addresses public funding as a source for graduate medical education, providing background on the role that Medicare has played in this funding. The current payment methodology is reviewed with recommendations for changes in key elements. All NRHA policy issue papers are available on the NRHA Web site at http://www.NRHArural.org. A free copy may also be obtained by writing to the NRHA, Communications Department, One West Armour Blvd., Ste. 203, Kansas City, MO 64111.