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Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(7):1481-1482

Report Highlights What Older Americans Think About Medicare

A new report from The Commonwealth Fund reveals that older Americans are optimistic about the Medicare program. Titled “Counting on Medicare: Perspectives and Concerns of Americans Ages 50 to 70,” the report notes that people in this age group have highly positive views about Medicare. However, a serious concern is the lack of prescription drug benefits. Those aged 50 and older who are not on Medicare trust it for their future health coverage and express interest in entering the program early. Of those 50 to 64 years of age, many report problems with their current health insurance, and 15 percent were uninsured in 1999. Nearly one half of these uninsured persons said they had either not seen a physician, gone without medications or skipped recommended tests of medical treatment because of the cost. When respondents were asked which source they would trust most to insure people their age, Medicare outranked employer-sponsored coverage and direct purchase of insurance. More information about the report may be found on the Web site of The Commonwealth Fund at

Decisions on Health Bills Uncertain in This Session of Congress

Congress returned from its August recess the first week of September; however, the future of many health-related bills remains unclear. With the end of the fiscal year just weeks away, Congress must work with the White House to reach agreement on appropriations for key federal health programs. This is critical for the family medicine community, particularly the funding for health professions education programs and for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Many in the hospital community are looking to Congress to restore some of the Medicare funding cuts that resulted from the Balanced Budget Act. Physician organizations used time in August to pursue issues related to pain management, patient protection, Medicare prescription drug coverage, National Health Service Corps funding and resource-based Medicare payment. With time running out before the November elections and before Congress adjourns, the prospects for many of the bills are uncertain.

$35,000 Grant Paves Way for Tool to Prevent Prescription Errors

The American Pharmaceutical Association Foundation's Quality Center has pledged $35,000 toward the development of a national self-assessment tool for use by chain and retail pharmacies. The tool, called the Medication Safety Self Assessment Guide for Community Pharmacy, will eventually be made available via widespread distribution and analysis of results will be reported to a voluntary, confidential database developed by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. The assessment tool will focus on important aspects of community pharmacy practice, including communication of drug orders and drug information; drug labeling, packaging and naming; drug storage and distribution; and patient monitoring. Results of the assessment will allow pharmacies to evaluate their medication practices, identify areas for improvement and compare experiences with demographically similar pharmacies.

FDA Launches Oncology Tools Web Site

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now provide cancer-related information on its new Web page. The page, found at, can be navigated by using specific types of cancer or approved drug therapies as key words. Patients and consumers will be able to obtain information about clinical trials and support groups. Visitors to the site can also directly access documents on cancer drug labeling, approval summaries and advisory committee transcripts. Health care professionals will find specialized information such as references for performing clinical studies and drug dose calculators. For more information, visit the Web site or send e-mail to

Federal Funds Support Research in Women's Health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it will fund 11 awards toward the development of new research in women's health. The program, “Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health,” seeks to increase the number of researchers working on women's issues and to establish a mentor program where junior researchers are paired with senior researchers in an interdisciplinary scientific setting. The program, sponsored by the Office of Research on Women's Health at the NIH, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and nine NIH institutes, will award 5.5 million to 11 universities.

Surgeon General's Report on Tobacco Use Draws AMA Approval

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently applauded Surgeon General David Satcher's conclusions in his report on smoking and health, delivered at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health. Key points in Satcher's report are:

  • The tobacco industry's influence as well as its promotion of tobacco products is a major obstacle to the efforts of the public health community to reduce the use of tobacco.

  • Comprehensive approaches to tobacco control, including economic, regulatory and clinical interventions, should be implemented together to maximize their impact.

  • State tobacco control programs have produced encouraging evidence of the efficacy of this comprehensive approach.

The AMA is calling on Congress to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco. Toward this end, the association is calling for higher excise taxes, stronger indoor air regulations and further curbs on tobacco industry advertising.

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