Coalition Reports That Medicare Vouchers Pose Opportunities, Dangers
A report issued by the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) says that replacing the Medicare program with a voucher program for beneficiaries to buy health insurance from private health plans could reduce Medicare spending. However, the report warns that such a system would have to be carefully designed to avoid “devastating” effects on Medicare patients. The study, commissioned from The Lewin Group, was the basis of testimony presented in early September by NCHC co-chair, Paul G. Rogers, to the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. The commission is exploring ways to improve the Medicare program and reduce future expenditures, which are projected to increase to between $2.2 trillion and $3.0 trillion in 2030, when all 77 million baby boomers will be in the Medicare program. Rogers emphasized that a voucher program without a specifically defined benefits package (a defined contribution program) could leave millions of elderly patients with inadequate health insurance protection. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is a member of the coalition. To obtain a copy of the report, “Comprehensive Medicare Reform: Defined Benefit vs. Defined Contribution,” call the coalition at 202-637-6830 or visit the NCHC Web site at http://www.americashealth.org.
Family Physician Is Named Chair of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
John M Eisenberg, M.D., administrator of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, has announced the appointment of Alfred O. Berg, M.D., M.P.H., Seattle, as the chair of the reconvened U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Dr. Berg, an AAFP member, is professor and acting chair of the family medicine department at the University of Washington. He served on the USPSTF from 1990 to 1995 and is a member of the Institute of Medicine. Fourteen other task force members also were appointed, representing the fields of behavioral medicine, family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, nursing, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and preventive medicine. The two other representatives of family medicine on the panel are Paul S. Frame, M.D., Cohocton, N.Y., and Steven H. Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., Fairfax, Va.
The USPSTF is an independent panel of preventive health experts that was first convened in 1984 by the U.S. Public Health Service. Its charge is to evaluate the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of a range of clinical preventive services and to produce age-specific and risk factor-specific recommendations for these services.
AAFP Elects New Officers and Board of Directors at 1998 Annual Meeting
New officers of the AAFP were installed at the 1998 AAFP Scientific Assembly in San Francisco in September. Lanny R. Copeland, M.D., Albany, Ga., was installed as president. Bruce Bagley, M.D., Albany, N.Y., was inaugurated as president-elect. Richard Roberts, M.D., J.D., Madison, Wisc., and Michael O. Fleming, M.D., Shreveport, La., will be speaker and vice speaker, respectively, of the Congress of Delegates. Elected to the AAFP Board of Directors were Ross Black II, M.D., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; James Martin, M.D., San Antonio; and Jerry Rogers, M.D., Moorhead, Minn. The new resident board member is Deborah McPherson, M.D., Omaha, Neb. The student board member is Eddie Richardson, Austell, Ga. As immediate past president of AAFP, Neil Brooks, M.D., Rockville, Conn., will serve as chair of the AAFP Board of Directors.
U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., was opening speaker for the AAFP's 50th assembly. A record-breaking 19,801 persons attended this year's assembly, 7,003 of whom were physicians. Other attendees included students, other health care professionals, state chapter executives, spouses and guests of the physicians, AAFP staff members and exhibitors. In 1999, the scientific assembly will be held in Orlando.
Applicants Sought for Pisacano Memorial Foundation Scholarships
Applications are now being accepted for the 1999 Nicholas J. Pisacano, M.D., Memorial Foundation Scholars program. Up to 10 scholarships in the amount of $50,000 each will be awarded to upcoming third- and fourth-year medical students who have demonstrated a strong commitment to family practice, leadership skills, academic excellence, strong communication skills, integrity and commitment to community service. Applicants must receive endorsements from their medical schools. Each applicant is required to substantiate his or her commitment to family practice with a 500-word written statement of interest in family practice and with letters of recommendation from physicians and faculty members who will attest to the applicant's level of commitment to family practice. The application deadline for the 1999 awards is March 1, 1999. For more information on the program, contact the foundation at 606-269-5626 or 888-995-5700, or visit the foundation's Web site at http://www.njpmf.org.
COLA Offers Medical Practice Tips Free of Charge
The Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation (COLA) offers Fast Facts, educational papers that cover a variety of topics of interest to physicians, medical directors, managed care administrators, laboratories and other health care professionals. Four new Fast Facts discuss quality expectations for medical practices: “Public Accommodations and the ADA” (No. 20); “Medical Practice Tips and Techniques” (No. 21); “Medical Records: Organization and Standardization” (No. 22); and “Medical Practice Achievement” (No. 23). Two new laboratory testing Fast Facts are also available: “General Microbiology” (No. 29) and “Complication of Blood Transfusion: Discussion and Investigation” (No. 30). All Fast Facts are offered at no charge on COLA's Web site at http://www.cola.org. They may also be obtained by calling the COLA Information Resource Center at 800-981-9883. COLA is sponsored by the AAFP, the American Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine and the College of American Pathologists; and is endorsed by 29 national and state medical organizations.