Conference Committee Reaches Funding Decisions
Members of a House-Senate conference committee for Labor/Health and Human Service appropriations reached agreement on funding levels for key health programs. The news for key programs of interest to the family medicine community is good. The health-professions program, which funds several grants for family medicine residencies and departments of family medicine in medical schools along with programs for other disciplines, is slated to receive $410 million, up from $341.9 million in fiscal year 2000. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) also fared well in the conference. Under the agreement reached at the end of July, the agency would receive $270 million in fiscal year 2001, a $66 million increase over current year funding. Of this increase, $50 million would be earmarked for research to reduce medical errors. Although there are other aspects of this funding bill that will require further negotiation between the White House and Congress, and the legislative future is uncertain, it appears likely that Congress will ultimately fund these health-related programs at levels agreed on by conferees.
Foundation Urges Enrollment of Children in Insurance Programs
A national program supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is aimed at enrolling the 7 million uninsured children who are currently eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program or Medicaid. The initiative is timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year, and seeks to bring together advocates for children's health and education to accomplish its objectives. Information about the program is available by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A National Summit on Medical Errors Is Announced
The first National Summit on Medical Errors and Patient Safety Research is scheduled for September 11, 2000, in Washington, D.C. The goal of the meeting is to review the information needs of persons involved in the process of reducing medical errors and improving patient safety. The summit aims to set a research agenda to fill these identified needs. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is organizing the meeting. Information about the meeting is available at http://www.quic.gov.
Thimerosal-Free Vaccines for Infants Are Recommended
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has put its weight behind a joint statement that calls for removing or reducing thimerosal from childhood vaccines. The statement was issued at the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting on June 21-22. Thimerosal is derived from ethylmercury and has been used since the 1930s as an additive to vaccines because it effectively kills bacteria and prevents contamination, particularly in opened multidose containers. At least two vaccines for hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B are free of this preservative. Only one DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccine is free of thimerosal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires that infants born in the United States be vaccinated for DTaP. AAFP and ACIP were joined by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service in making this recommendation.
AHRQ Announces Development of Ambulatory Surgery Databases
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) announced the availability of new databases from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP)—a collaboration between government and industry dedicated to building a multistate data system and making quality health care data readily available to researchers and policy analysts. Called the State Ambulatory Surgery Databases (SASD), this new resource provides data on ambulatory surgery encounters in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York and Utah. The databases add an important new source of research, said AHRQ Director John Eisenberg, M.D. “As health care increasingly moves to the outpatient setting, databases with information about access, cost and quality of care in these new sites are needed to provide a comprehensive picture of health care delivery in the United States,” Dr. Eisenberg said. SASD files contain abstracts from hospital-affiliated ambulatory surgery sites; some also include records from freestanding surgery centers. Files are available on CD-ROM. For more information, call the HCUP Central Distributor at 805-681-5876.
Conference Addresses Mental Health Services at Nursing Homes
Mental health reforms are needed at U.S. nursing homes, according to attendees of the first multidisciplinary consensus conference convened on the topic. “Our society is experiencing unprecedented growth in the elderly population and in the number of people who require nursing home care,” said William E. Reichman, M.D., president of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP). The conference, in Washington, D.C., brought together medical directors, nurses, pharmacists and experts in geriatric psychiatry and psychology. Experts say that more than 1.5 million people in long-term care are underserved, and they encourage an overhaul of the system. For more information, contact the AAGP at 301-654-7850, or visit the Web site at http://www.aagpgpa.org.