Changes in Law Will Help Family Medicine Programs
Technical amendments included in the Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Insurance Program Balanced Budget Refinement Act of 1999, signed into law on November 29, will help family practice education programs. The changes address Medicare graduate medical education requirements. Hospitals will be allowed to increase by three the number of primary care residents in their base year; hospitals in rural areas will be able to increase the cap on their number of residents by 30 percent; and nonrural programs operating separately accredited rural training tracks will be able to receive direct and indirect medical education payments for cost reporting periods after April 1, 2000. The changes were strongly advocated by the family medicine community.
U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher Releases Report on Mental Health
At a White House ceremony on December 13, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher released a report on mental health in the United States. Bruce Bagley, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), attended the ceremony. The new report emphasizes that the efficacy of mental health treatments is well documented and a range of treatments exists for most mental disorders. The Surgeon General urged Americans to take advantage of this tremendous growth of science and “to seek help if you have a mental health problem or think you have symptoms of a mental disorder.” The report, commissioned by the Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, also focuses on the connection between mental health and physical health, barriers to receiving mental health treatment, and the specific mental health issues of children, adults and the elderly. The AAFP commends Dr. Satcher on his efforts to increase awareness of mental health and mental illness needs of all Americans.
The 500-page publication, “Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General,” defines mental disorders as diagnosable conditions that impair thinking, feeling and behavior, and interfere with a person's capacity to be productive and enjoy fulfilling relationships. The report uses the term mental illness to refer collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders.
Further information may be obtained by calling 877-9-MHEALTH or by writing to Mental Health, Pueblo, CO. An executive summary of the report, a resource directory, fact sheets and a catalog of related materials offered by federal agencies are available. A complete copy of the report is posted on the World Wide Web at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov.
AAFP Receives Excellence Award for 1998 ACF Initiative
AAFP has received an award from the American Society of Association Executives for the AAFP's 1998 Annual Clinical Focus (ACF) Initiative on prevention and management of cardiovascular disease. The 1999 Award of Excellence in Education trophy was presented to AAFP representatives during the ASAE's Management and Technology 1999 Conference in Indianapolis in December. The ACF is a year-long effort that allows physicians to learn more about a specific health topic of national importance. The focus changes annually beginning in January. The topic of the 2000 ACF is mental health.
National Cancer Institute Offers a New Atlas of Cancer Mortality
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has published a new atlas titled “Atlas of Cancer Mortality in the United States, 1950–94,” which shows the geographic patterns of cancer death rates in over 3,000 counties across the country for more than four decades. The 254 color-coded maps in the atlas will help researchers and health departments to identify places where high or low rates of cancer occur, and to uncover patterns of cancer. For the first time, maps will be presented for white and black populations.
To order a single copy of the atlas, call the NCI Cancer Information Service at 800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237). It may also be ordered from the NCI online Publications Locator Service at http://publications.nci.nih.gov.
HHS Secretary Donna Shalala Appoints New COGME Members
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Donna Shalala appointed four new members to the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME). In addition, one member was reappointed to a second term. The four new members are William Ching, medical student, New York University School of Medicine, representing medical students and hospital staff; Susan Schooley, M.D., chair, Department of Family Practice, Henry Ford Health System, representing primary care physicians; Lucy Montalvo-Hicks, M.D., California Department of Social Services, Division of Disability and Adult Programs, representing international medical graduates; and Douglas L. Wood, D.O., Ph.D., president, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, representing osteopathic schools of medicine. Carl J. Getto, M.D., dean and provost of the Departments of Medical Education and Psychiatry at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, representing allopathic schools of medicine, was reappointed to the council. He is chair of the Graduate Medical Education Financing Workgroup. The new members will serve until September 2003.
AHRQ Releases Data on Prescription Drug Expenditures
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), formerly called the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, has released 1996 data on expenditures for prescription medications. The data are from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) Household Component. Each prescription record includes the medication's drug code, generic or brand name, strength and quantity, as well as its total expenditure and payments by source, and information about why it was prescribed. MEPS is an ongoing, national survey of the health care experience in the United States. The files can be obtained through the MEPS Web site at http://www.meps.ahrq.gov.