Guidance Issued on New Federal Protection Rules on Patient Privacy
On July 6, the Department of Health and Human Services issued initial guidance on new federal privacy protections for medical records and other personal health information. This is the first of several clarifications that will be developed to assist health care professionals and health plans in complying with the regulation by the April 14, 2003, effective date. Known informally as the HIPAA rules, based on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 that included the medical record privacy provisions, the regulation has caused significant confusion within the medical community as to what is actually required to meet compliance. Some interpretations called for health care facilities to build soundproof rooms to ensure that conversations would not be overheard, and for prohibitions on a relative picking up a patient’s prescription at the pharmacy. The guidance clarifies that these interpretations are not accurate, calling instead for reasonable safeguards to protect confidential information. The guidance is available online at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa.
Participants Are Needed for Prostate Cancer Prevention ‘SELECT’ Trial
A prostate cancer prevention trial known as the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) is being coordinated by the Southwest Oncology Group to evaluate the effect of selenium and vitamin E in reducing the incidence of prostate cancer. SELECT will be conducted at more than 200 study centers across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Over a five-year period, researchers will recruit 32,400 healthy men 55 years of age and older (50 years and older for black men) who have a total prostate specific antigen value of 4.0 ng per mL or less and a negative digital rectal examination (no suspicion of cancer). Participants will be given 200 mg of selenium, 400 mg of vitamin E, selenium plus vitamin E, or a placebo for up to 12 years. SELECT will also investigate the effectiveness of these nutrients in reducing the incidence of lung and colon cancer and will assess the participants’ quality of life, molecular and genetic markers of cancer risk, other biomarkers, measures of nutrient intake and the effect on men with high-grade precancerous lesions. For more information about the trial, contact: Deana Overton, Prostate Cancer Research Data Manager at the Virginia Prostate Center at 757-668-2788 or the National Cancer Institute Cancer Information Service at 800-4-CANCER. Information is also available online at http://www.swog.org/Home.html.
Document Compares Five Federal Prescription Drug Coverage Proposals
A document recently released by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation entitled “Prescription Drug Coverage for Medicare Beneficiaries: A Side-by-Side Comparison,” compares five major federal proposals for providing outpatient prescription drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries. The report begins with a summary of each proposal’s major features, followed by a detailed comparison: Breaux/Frist I (S. 357), Breux/Frist II (S. 358), Sen. Tom Daschle’s Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Act of 2001 (S. 10), Rep. Greg Ganske’s Drug Availability and Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 1387) and President George Bush’s Immediate Helping Hand proposal. Modeled after two earlier side-by-side comparisons prepared for the Kaiser Family Foundation during the 106th Congress, this document summarizes the key provisions of leading proposals as part of the Foundation’s continuing effort to monitor the Medicare prescription drug debate. To access the report, visit http://www.kff.org/content/ 2001/1635 and click on “Prescription Drugs Coverage for Medicare Beneficiaries: Comparison of Selected Proposals.”
HHS Awards $75.4 Million in Grants to Reduce High Infant Mortality Rates
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced that $75.4 million in new grants will be awarded to 73 communities in 34 states and the District of Columbia to reduce high infant mortality rates and other health problems related to pregnancy and women’s health. The Healthy Start Initiative grants will extend from prenatal care through the infant’s first year of life. The core services that will be provided include a community-based consortium of families, local leaders and public and private organizations; case management and links to health care and other services for mothers and their infants; direct outreach from trained community members; health education to address risk factors; and a plan that mobilizes community-based organizations and local, state, public and private providers to identify and address barriers to quality family-centered services. Six of the new Healthy Start recipient communities were awarded additional funding up to $250,000 to provide services to medically high-risk women and infants and to follow mothers and infants for two years or through the next pregnancy. Eight of the new grantees will use other grants to establish a network of community health and mental health service providers, enabling early identification and referral of pregnant and postpartum women who are experiencing depression. The HHS Health Resources and Services Administration will oversee the 2001 fiscal year grants. “These new grants incorporate vital services that research from earlier Healthy Start projects found to be effective in fighting infant mortality,” said Secretary Thompson. “We know these funds offer real solutions for women and children who live in communities where they are at a higher risk of maternal and child health problems.” A list of grantees are available online at http://www.hrsa.gov/newsroom/releases/2001%20Releases/healthystart.htm.