AAFP Members Visit Washington to Learn About Legislative Priorities
In mid-May, over 50 family physicians from across the country visited Washington, D.C., to learn about the legislative priorities of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and to visit with their representatives and senators. Major issues discussed during the meeting included funds for family practice training, managed care reform, funds for the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, and the needs of underserved rural and urban populations. This annual spring legislative visit included members of the AAFP's Commission on Legislation, AAFP officers, physicians from various constituent chapters and representatives of academic family medicine organizations.
AHCPR Requests Topics for Evidence-Based Research
The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) is seeking topic nominations for the third round of evidence reports and technology assessments to be conducted by the 12 evidence-based practice centers (EPCs) of the AHCPR. In addition to nominations of topics for assessments and evidence reports on specific health care technologies and medical procedures, AHCPR is also inviting nominations of topics for assessments and reports relating to organization and financing of health care. The EPCs produce science reports that provide the foundation for developing and implementing practice guidelines, performance measures and other strategies to improve the quality of health care and make decisions related to the effectiveness or appropriateness of specific health care technologies. Topic nominators will serve as partners to the EPCs as they develop the reports. Although topic nominations are accepted by the AHCPR on an ongoing basis, the deadline for the third round of EPC reports is July 6, 1999. Nominations should be submitted to Douglas B. Kamerow, M.D., M.P.H., Center for Practice and Technology Assessment, AHCPR, 6010 Executive Blvd., Ste. 300, Rockville, MD 20852. For additional information on the evidence-based reports and the AHCPR, visit the Web site at http://www.ahcpr.gov.
Congressional Briefing Held on Impact of Hepatitis C Virus on Veterans
Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) joined with health policy experts in April to brief congressional staff on the impact of the hepatitis C virus on U.S. veterans and the need to ensure that veterans who have the virus receive optimal treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. Because symptoms of hepatitis C may not appear for years after infection, it is sometimes difficult for veterans to establish a service-related connection to the disease. In March, Representative Snyder, a Vietnam veteran, and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) introduced legislation (HR 1020 and S 71) that would establish a presumption of service connection for veterans with hepatitis C. Both bills have been referred to committee for review. “The number of hepatitis C cases reported among veterans has increased in the last decade,” said panel member Gary Roselle, M.D., VA Medical Center, Cincinnati. “In 95,447 tests for hepatitis C conducted among veterans last year, 31 percent were positive for the hepatitis C antibody.”
AAMC Calls for Restoration of BBA Medicare Cuts to Teaching Hospitals
Cuts authorized by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA) are threatening the financial stability of U.S. teaching hospitals, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported at a news briefing in Washington, D.C., in April. At the briefing, the AAMC released study results estimating that BBA Medicare payments will have a cumulative loss of $45.8 million in Medicare support for a typical, non-federal Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health System's member by 2002. “Federal policy makers need to make immediate and substantive corrections to the BBA before it is too late and the damage is done,” states Jordan J. Cohen, M.D., AAMC president. AAMC Chair Bill Peck, M.D., appointed a Medicare Special Action Committee chaired by AAMC Chair-elect Ralph Muller, M.D., to encourage federal action to make the corrections. The committee's primary goal is to ameliorate the BBA's severe impact on teaching hospitals.
FDA Names Director of Center for Devices and Radiologic Health
Jane E. Henney, M.D., commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has announced the appointment of David W. Feigal, Jr., M.D., M.P.H., as director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The center is responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of all medical devices. It also ensures the safety of radiograph and mammography equipment. Dr. Fiegal has been with the FDA since 1992. He has most recently been medical deputy director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, where he focused on the blood and tissue products, including medical devices involving blood and tissues. A native of Minnesota, Dr. Feigal graduated from Stanford University Medical School and received his M.P.H. from the University of California, Berkeley. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of California, Davis. He joined the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, in 1984.
Group Launches an Osteoporosis Prevention Education Campaign
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) launched a new osteoporosis prevention education campaign in May. The goal of the campaign is to encourage Americans to adopt bone-healthy behaviors and to dispel the misconception that stooped posture and fractures are an inevitable part of aging. “Because osteoporosis is so prevalent in our society, we want this campaign to not only raise awareness of the disease, but to make baby-boomers realize that they need to take action now to maintain their bone health,” says Sandra C. Raymond, executive director of NOF. According to the NOF, four components to prevention of osteoporosis are a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D; weight-bearing exercise; a healthy lifestyle with no smoking or heavy alcohol consumption; and bone density testing and medication when appropriate. The NOF Web site address is http://www.nof.org.