New Guidelines Address Antibiotic Resistance Problem
Concerned by the health threats from excessive antibiotic use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convened a panel of health experts, including a representative from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), to develop treatment guidelines. “Principles for Appropriate Antibiotic Use” offers guidance for treating adults with colds and upper respiratory infections and has been published in the March 19, 2001 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says physicians will need to educate their patients about proper use of antibiotics. “We are attempting to change the entire culture around which antibiotics are prescribed,” says Thompson. “We are working toward a day when a patient or parent sees his or her health care provider and rather than requesting an antibiotic, asks for the best treatment available.” The document can be accessed athttp://www.annals.org/issues/v134n6/full/200103200-00013.html.
Vaccine Shortage Prompts AAFP to Update Policy
On March 16, 2001, in response to a shortage of tetanus and diphtheria toxoids (Td) and tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccines, the AAFP Board of Directors approved a new policy to prioritize use of these vaccines. The shortage of these vaccines is expected to continue for up to 18 months; additionally, there is the potential for a shortage of tetanus and diphtheria toxoids and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine. The policy complies with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations for prioritization, which can be accessed fromhttp://www.cdc.gov/mmwr. The AAFP policy can be found on the AAFP Web site athttps://www.aafp.org/policy/camp/28.html.
HRSA Awards More Than $500 Million for HIV/AIDS Care
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced nearly $583 million in Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act grants to fund primary health care and support services for low-income persons in 51 metropolitan areas hardest hit by human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). The communities were chosen, because “each year local communities disproportionately affected by the epidemic rely on these grants to continue delivering quality HIV/AIDS care and improving the lives of their citizens,” according to HRSA administrator Claude Earl Fox, M.D., M.P.H. The largest awards went to New York City ($119 million), San Francisco ($35.7 million), Los Angeles ($35 million) and Miami ($25.4 million).
APA Director Joins Senators to Introduce Parity Legislation
American Psychiatric Association (APA) Medical Director Steven Mirin, M.D., has joined Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) in introducing the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act of 2001. “The time has come to end the discrimination that denies adequate insurance coverage to people with mental illness,” said Dr. Mirin. The purpose of this bill is to tighten the provisions of the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 so that insurers who offer mental health benefits will no longer be able to opt out by claiming a 1 percent increase in costs. The bill will also expand access to care to more Americans by limiting the exemption to small businesses.
AAFP Announces Support for Patient-Protection Bill
The AAFP is backing patient-protection bills put forth by the House and Senate. The purpose of the Bipartisan Patient Protection Act, S. 283, and an identical bill, H.R. 526, is to ensure that all Americans are covered by basic managed care reforms, including the right to seek legal redress against ERISA plans in state courts and receive basic information about plan networks and provider qualifications. The bill includes language that ensures that patients have independent appeals available for the denial of medical care. The bills were introduced in February by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Reps. Greg Ganske (R-Iowa) and John Dingell (D-Mich.).
Study Shows Health Care Spending Is on the Rise
According to an annual Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) study, the United States spent $1.2 trillion on health services in 1999, up 5.6 percent from 1998. And growth rates are expected to accelerate in the next few years, fueled largely by prescription drug spending, reports Stephen Heffler, deputy director of HCFA's National Health Statistics Group. “This accelerated growth is driven in part by rising provider costs, insurers' inability to negotiate price discounts and greater income growth that will drive increased consumer demand,” says Heffler. In addition, the report states that prescription drugs accounted for 9.4 percent of personal health care spending in 1999. That number could reach 16 percent by 2010. The report also found that although employers have offered employees “less restrictive” health plans in recent years, the trend would likely change after 2002, with employers facing rising health insurance premiums and medical costs. The HCFA findings will likely intensify debate over adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.
NRHA Plans Annual Conference in Dallas
The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) is expecting nearly 1,000 rural health professionals to attend the 24th annual conference in Dallas. The theme of the event, to be held May 23–25 in Dallas, is “2001: A Rural Health Odyssey—New Horizons, New Paths.” The keynote session will feature Bernard A. Harris Jr., M.D., who traveled aboard the space shuttles Columbia and Discovery. Dr. Harris will address advances in the future of medicine. Registration and complete program and exhibit information about the conference are available on the association's Web site (http://www.NRHArural.org/conf/conf2001.html) or by telephoning 816-756-3140.