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Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(1):31-32

NRHA Names Rural Health Practitioner of the Year

At its 23rd annual conference, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) recognized Patricia Raftery, D.O., as the rural health practitioner of the year. In addition, three persons and two organizations were honored for their work on rural health issues. Raftery works in the Sparta, Wis., area where she started her practice in 1979 as a National Health Service Corps physician. She has spent vacations serving as a medical missionary in underserved nations such as Haiti and Nicaragua. Closer to home, she has worked with Mennonites and migrant farm workers. Other 2000 NRHA award recipients are Warren C. Larson, North County Health Services, Bemidji, Minn.; Mountain Comprehensive Health Corp., Whiteburg, Ky., Lois Baker, executive director; University of Kentucky Center for Excellence in Rural Health, Hazard, Ky., Loyd Kepferle, director; Robert B. Walker, M.D., Marshal University School of Medicine, Huntington, W.Va.; and Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine. For more information about the NRHA, visit their Web site at

Hotline Connecting Parents with Health Insurance for Children

The Insure Kids Now! Hotline has received more than 250,000 phone calls in the first year since its launch by President Clinton. The toll-free number, 877-543-7669 (877-KIDS-NOW), is managed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Callers can be connected to their state hotline for State Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid information. The hotline was set up to help the 11 million American children who are uninsured. Information is also available on the Web at

“Our children are this nation's key to a strong future,” said Marilyn Hughes Gaston, M.D., associate administrator for primary health care of HRSA. “So, we need the whole village—national, state and community organizations—to help make sure that all eligible families know about this coverage and enroll their children in the State Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid for a true healthy start in life.” The Web site of HRSA can be found at

U.S. Hospitals Receive Medication Safety Assessment Tool

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has provided hospitals with a self-assessment tool designed to improve safety of drug administration. The 30-page assessment is one of many products being shared at no cost with hospitals under a partnership between the ISMP and the American Hospital Association (AHA). The self-assessments will help hospitals evaluate their medication safety systems and identify areas for improvement. The assessment asks hospitals to answer questions about the communication of drug orders; drug labeling, packaging and nomenclature; drug standardization, storage and distribution; purchasing, using and monitoring medication delivery devices; education for personnel and patients; and hospital quality processes and risk management. The ISMP will follow up with hospitals by telephone to encourage the use of the self-assessment and will develop a confidential database of the assessment findings. Hospitals are being asked to turn in their data by July 31, 2000. For more information, visit ISMP's Web site (

The self-assessment tool is endorsed by the AHA, the American Organization of Nurse Executives, the American Pharmaceutical Association, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Amerinet, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Catholic Health Association, the Federation of American Health Systems, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the National Association of Children's Hospitals, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, Premier, United States Pharmacopeia and VHA.

One Half of Consumers Report Problems with Health Plans

In a survey of 2,300 adults ages 18 to 64 who have medical insurance, 51 percent reported having a problem with their health plan within the past year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Problems were categorized into four areas: Delays or denials of coverage or care (reported by 17 percent of respondents); difficulty seeing a physician (14 percent of respondents); billing and payment problems (12 percent of respondents); and customer service difficulties (7 percent of respondents). Women, persons in “strict” managed care plans, and those who are in fair or poor health or who have a health condition were most likely to report problems. “When one out of every two people reports having a problem with their health plan, it suggests that the pressure behind the patients' right debate is grounded in real patient experiences, not just anecdotes,” said Drew Altman, Ph.D., president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But we also need to keep in mind that most of these problems are more hassle than horror story,” he said. However, 21 percent of persons having insurance problems said they missed time from work or school as a result, and another 21 percent said the problems led to a decline in their health status. For more information, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's Web site (

Study Reports Medicaid Enrollment on the Rise

A study by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured indicates that Medicaid enrollment is rising again. Data from 21 states, which account for 73 percent of nationwide enrollment, showed 22.9 million Medicaid enrollees in June 1999, up from 22.6 million the previous year. According to the Kaiser Commission, 28 percent of the enrollment gain between December 1998 and June 1999 was the result of Medicaid expansions undertaken as part of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. For more information, visit the Kaiser Commission's Web site (

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