Legislation Drafted by AAFP Would Help Residency Programs
Legislation drafted by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and introduced in the Senate would help family medicine residency programs that are currently penalized by changes in Medicare graduate medical education (GME) policies. Two identical bills were introduced during the last week of June. S. 2216 is sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) and S. 2259 is sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska). The measures would address problems in computing the cap on residents included in the Balanced Budget Act that excluded many family medicine residents who were training in ambulatory settings. The bills would enable urban residency programs that sponsor rural training tracks to gain an exception to the caps for the rural tracks. Additionally, the bills would allow an exception to the caps for about 300 hospitals that sponsor only one residency program (most of which are family medicine residency programs). A recent survey of residency programs noted that many family medicine residency programs already have experienced losses in supported positions as a result of the way caps are currently computed.
‘Negotiated Rulemaking’ Process Will Begin for Laboratory Issues
The Health Care Financing Administration has announced that it will begin a process of “negotiated rulemaking” with participation from the medical community to develop coverage and administrative policies for clinical diagnostic laboratory tests. Issues and questions to be addressed include medical conditions for which laboratory tests are covered, the use of appropriate procedure codes in billing, medical documentation required with claims, procedures for filing claims and providing remittances electronically, and limitations on the frequency of coverage of laboratory tests. The American Medical Association will participate in the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, with advice from medical specialty societies.
New Awareness Campaign Targets Persons with Diabetes Mellitus
In June, the U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., launched “Control Your Diabetes. For Life,” a campaign of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP). The campaign is designed to encourage Americans with diabetes to control their blood glucose levels. It also targets physicians to encourage them to work with patients to develop a treatment plan that will control their diabetes. Charles M. Clark, M.D., Jr., chair of the NDEP, unveiled the program's “Guiding Principles of Diabetes Care,” a document that describes the essential components of good diabetes management. There are two versions of the document—one written for health care professionals and one written for persons with diabetes. “The Principles describe the essential components of good diabetes management, while leaving the specifics of good care up to the person with diabetes and his or her health care team,” stated Dr. Clark. The educational materials will be distributed throughout the NDEP's Partnership Network which includes more than 100 public and private sector organizations and which will disseminate those materials to their constituencies. More diabetes information is available on the NDEP Web sites at http://ndep.nih.gov/ or http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/. The NDEP is a joint effort of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Health Coalition Will Survey Congressional Candidates About Health Care Policy
The National Coalition on Health Care, a Washington-based nonpartisan coalition concerned about health care access, quality and costs, will survey over 900 candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Candidates will be asked their views on many potential goals for health care policy as well as strategies for achieving goals. Survey information will be aggregated to identify trends in attitudes of candidates. The coalition is committed to educating current and future members of Congress and the public about the need to seriously address health care issues at the national level.
Grants Awarded to Help Increase the Number of Generalist Physicians
Fourteen U.S. medical schools have been awarded a total of $3.4 million by the Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to help increase the number of generalist physicians and ultimately increase assess to primary care. This is the sixth round of funding for this program. The medical schools selected for the 1998 grants each received up to $240,000 for four years to support one outstanding junior faculty member in family medicine, general pediatrics or general internal medicine. The scholars will use the research component of their grant to study a wide range of topics including the role of primary care in determining outcomes among older people with human immunodeficiency virus infection, identifying the unique information needs of generalist physicians, outcomes of pediatric trauma and computer supported preventive care for children.
The program is directed for RWJF by Evan Charney, M.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School. For information about applying for the 1999 Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program, contact Dr. Charney at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester Foundation Campus, 222 Maple Ave., Shrewsbury, MA 01545; telephone: 508-845-2641; fax: 508-845-2644.
Initiative to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Is on the Internet
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is launching a new Web site to make available information about its “Initiative to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health,” a strategy unveiled earlier this year to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in six key areas of health status by the year 2010. These areas are infant mortality, cancer screening and management, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immunizations and rates of human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Users will be able to access information about racial and ethnic health disparities in the United States as well as background material on the various components and goals of the health disparities initiative. An e-mail address is provided at the site for visitors to send feedback and comments. The Web site address is http://raceandhealth.hhs.gov.