Medicare ‘User Fees’ and Payment Slowdowns Are Opposed by Physicians
In a strongly worded letter to Congress and the Administration, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has opposed provisions in the FY 1999 appropriations measure that would require physicians to pay fees for participating in the Medicare program. A “user fee” proposal was recently recommended because the Department of Health and Human Services faces a budget shortfall and has insufficient funds to cover Medicare administrative costs. The user fee proposal would require physicians to pay $100 for enrolling in Medicare and $25 every five years thereafter to reenroll. The plan also calls for the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to withhold $1 from every claim that is not submitted electronically and charge $1 for each duplicate or unprocessable claim that is received by Medicare. In addition, HCFA also announced it would delay payments to physicians, claiming that this will generate $30 million. Because of the potentially significant impact on family physicians and, ultimately, on patients, the AAFP strongly opposes these proposals.
HHS Announces $520 Million in Awards for HIV/AIDS Health Care
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced $520 million in formula grant awards for 1998 to improve health care and support services for people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. The funds also include a record $285.5 million earmarked for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, a 71 percent increase over 1997 funds. The grants are provided under Title II of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, which provides HIV/AIDS care to low-income, uninsured and underinsured individuals. States receiving the largest percentage of the HIV/AIDS grants include the following: New York, $87.8 million; California, $73.6 million; Florida, $53.8 million; and Texas, $35.1 million. Since 1991, more than $1.7 billion in Title II grants have been awarded.
AAFP Honors Medical Schools for Efforts to Produce More Family Physicians
The AAFP has honored 46 medical schools for their efforts in increasing the number of family physicians in this country. The Family Practice Percentage Awards program was begun six years ago to honor medical schools that have a high percentage of graduates who enter family practice residency programs.
This year, seven medical schools received the Gold Achievement Award, which honors schools that have a three-year average of over 30.0 percent for the proportion of medical school graduates who enter family practice residency programs. The seven schools are the following: University of South Dakota School of Medicine, Sioux Falls (37.1 percent); University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Grand Forks (34.3 percent); University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis (32.2 percent); Wright State University School of Medicine, Dayton, Ohio (31.9 percent); University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City (31.7 percent); University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle (31.0 percent) and East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine, Johnson City (30.2 percent).
Eleven schools received the award in the silver category, which honors a three-year average between 25.0 and 29.9 percent. These schools are the following: University of Arkansas College of Medicine, Little Rock (29.9 percent); University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno (28.6 percent); University of South Alabama College of Medicine, Mobile (28.6 percent); Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, Ga. (27.4 percent); Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, East Lansing (27.4 percent); University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City (27.2 percent); University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City (27.0 percent); Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield (26.9 percent); East Carolina University School of Medicine, Greenville, N.C. (26.0 percent); University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Oklahoma City (25.9 percent); and Morehouse School of Medicine (25.7 percent).
Twenty-eight additional medical schools received bronze awards for three-year averages between 20.0 percent and 24.9 percent.
NIMH Launches Public Campaign About Anxiety Disorders
At a news conference in Washington, D.C., in April, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) launched a campaign to increase awareness of anxiety disorders. The goal of the campaign is to make individuals who have these mental illnesses aware that they can be successfully treated. “Many of the 23 million Americans with anxiety disorders continue to suffer because of stigma and the widespread lack of understanding that these are brain disorders, as responsive to treatment as other medical disorders,” said NIMH Director Steven E. Hyman, M.D. Information about the campaign and other information about anxiety disorders are available on the NIMH Anxiety Disorders Web site at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/anxiety. Consumers and health care professionals can also obtain information about these disorders by calling a toll-free number (1-88-88-ANXIETY).
NCI Announces New Internet Site About Cancer Trials
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has launched a World Wide Web site that offers information on the role of cancer trials in advancing cancer research. The site, designed for audiences ranging from cancer patients to health care professionals, will include information about clinical trials and their role in cancer care and will help users locate trials that are open. It also includes news updates, a history of clinical research, a description of trial accomplishments and educational materials about participating in cancer trials. Users of the site can join the e-mail notification service to learn about new and upcoming information available on the site. The Web site address is http://cancertrials.nci.nih.gov.