Secretary Thompson Announces Reorganization and Name Change for HCFA
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson recently announced that the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) will become the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and will be restructured into three centers that reflect the agency's primary lines of service. The Center for Medicare Management will be responsible for the management of traditional fee-for-service Medicare, including the development of payment policy and management of the Medicare fee-for-service contractors. The Center for Beneficiary Choices will focus on providing beneficiaries with information on Medicare, Medicare Select, Medicare+Choice and Medigap options, as well as management of the Medicare+Choice plans, consumer research and demonstrations, and grievance and appeals functions. The Center for Medicaid and State Operations will handle state-administered programs, including Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, insurance regulation functions, survey and certification, and the Clinical Laboratory Improvements Act. The new name reflects the scope of the agency's mission to serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. An advertising campaign will be launched in the fall corresponding with the 2002 open enrollment period informing Medicare beneficiaries about these expanded services. It will include national television, radio and print advertisements. For more information on the reorganization of the HCFA, visithttp://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2001pres/20010614a.html.
NRC Urges Routine Childhood Screening for Autism
A new report from the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies urges the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education to promote early routine screenings of children for autistic spectrum disorders similar to screening for hearing and vision problems. The report offers a comprehensive assessment of the science base regarding educational interventions for young children with these disorders. According to the report, experienced professionals can reliably diagnose autism in children as young as two years of age. Early diagnosis of autism is important because prompt educational intervention is essential to the child's mastery of fundamental communication, social and cognitive skills. “As soon as children are recognized as having any autistic spectrum disorder, they should receive intensive intervention,” said Catherine Lord, chair of the committee that authored the report, and professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago. For more information on this report, visithttp://www4.nationalacademies.org/news.nsf. Printed copies are available for purchase by calling 202-334-3313 or 800-624-6242.
HHS Initiative Aims to Increase Access to Prescription Drugs
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson announced a new initiative that will assist community health centers and other safety-net providers develop new strategies for expanding their ability to buy medication and increase access to prescription drugs for uninsured or underinsured patients. The new initiative will allow organizations that participate in the 340B drug discount program to reduce administrative costs and make buying medications easier for patients. HHS will select organizations to serve as pilot projects. Selected organizations will be able to participate in single purchasing and dispensing systems that serve covered entity networks, contract with multiple pharmacy services providers and use contracted pharmacy services to supplement in-house pharmacy services. Approved pilot projects will be time-limited and evaluated on benefits provided and compliance with requirements of the 340B law. If the pilot programs are successful, the new methods of accessing discounted drugs will be incorporated into Section 340B of the Public Health Service Act. Eligible organizations should submit proposals to the Health Resources and Services Administration's Office of Pharmacy Affairs. For a description of the proposal requirements and to review criteria, go tohttp://www.hrsa.gov/odpp, click on “What's New” and then click on “Alternative Method Demonstration Projects.”
HRSA Grants Will Increase Number of Health Professionals in Needy Areas
Three sets of grants totaling more than $23 million will be administered during the fiscal year 2001 by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) with the purpose of increasing the number of primary care physicians, dentists and physician assistants (PAs) providing health care in medically underserved areas. The sets include the following: 88 grants of about $16.5 million to increase the number of primary care physicians providing care or teaching medicine; 22 grants totaling almost $3.7 million to increase the number of PAs providing health care; and 15 grants worth nearly $2.9 million to increase the number of general and pediatric dentists providing dental services. The primary care physician grants are made under three different programs (predoctoral training, residency training and faculty development training) to allopathic and osteopathic medical schools, public or private nonprofit hospitals or other training institutions for projects in family medicine, general internal medicine and general pediatrics. The dental grants will be distributed among institutions in eight states and the District of Columbia. The grants for PAs will be given to universities in 18 states to train students to become PAs and PA program instructors. For a list of the grant recipients, go tohttp://hrsa.gov/newsroom/releases/2001%20Releases/threegrants.htm.
Americans View AIDS as One of the Top Health Concerns Facing the Nation
Americans view human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) as the number one global health issue and still see it as one of the most urgent health problems facing the nation, according to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The survey focused on the views of Americans about the HIV/AIDS epidemic 20 years after the first cases were documented. The results show Americans are concerned about their own and their families' risk for HIV infection. Two thirds (66 percent) of those surveyed believe that the federal government is not doing enough to fight the epidemic in the United States, and more than one half believe that state and local governments and schools are not doing enough. The respondents expressed strong support for federal spending on AIDS. The survey results can be found on the KFF Web site athttp://www.kff.org/content/2001/3026/Press%20Release2.htm.