Budget Includes Increases for National Health Service Corps
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced in January that President's Bush's 2003 budget will include $191.5 million for the National Health Services Corps, representing a $44 million increase. The increased funding will be used to provide scholarships or loan assistance for approximately 1,800 physicians, dentists, and other clinicians to practice in underserved areas. The National Services Health Corps supports physicians and clinicians who serve in rural and inner-city areas where people face financial and social barriers to accessing high-quality health care. “The President's proposal recognizes the importance of increasing access to quality health care in local communities and improving the health of the nation's underserved individuals,” Secretary Thompson said. “The National Health Services Corps has served millions of people, and expanding this program will help even more uninsured individuals and those in underserved areas to get the health care they need,” he added. The President's budget also includes a total of $15 million, a 50 percent increase, to expand the Nursing Education Loan Repayment program to help address the nation's growing need for nursing professionals. The program repays the education loans of clinical care nurses who agree to work for two years in designated public or nonprofit health facilities. For more information, visit the HHS Web site atwww.hhs.gov/news/press/2002pres/20020122.html.
Medicare Adds Glaucoma Detection Examination to Coverage
Effective January 1, 2002, an annual dilated eye examination for beneficiaries at high risk of glaucoma will be covered by Medicare according to the National Institutes of Health. Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, affects about 3 million Americans—one half of whom do not know they have the eye disease. This new coverage is consistent with the recommendations of the National Eye Institute as well as several eye care professional organizations and consumer groups. The new benefit defines high-risk Medicare beneficiaries as patients with diabetes, patients with a family history of glaucoma, and blacks aged 50 years or older. Glaucoma is five times more likely to occur and four times more likely to cause blindness in blacks than in whites. “The expanded Medicare coverage will help people keep their vision, especially those at high risk for eye disease,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. “Studies have shown that the early detection and treatment of glaucoma, before it causes major vision loss, is the best way to control the disease,” he continued. For more information and the NIH press release, go towww.nih/gov/news/pr/jan2002/nei-22.htm.
New Guide Offers Ways to Manage Chronic Disease Through Nutrition
The Nutrition Screening Initiative recently made available A Physician's Guide to Nutrition in Chronic Disease Management for Older Adults that discusses the benefits of healthy nutrition in managing chronic illnesses and gives patients suggestions for making healthful nutritional decisions. Eight diseases (including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, dementia, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and osteoporosis) are summarized with an emphasis on essential nutrition information for each disease including nutrition screening parameters and interventions for each disease. “Doctors want information that is easy for their patients to understand and use, and this guide meets that need,” said Warren Jones, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). “The Guide offers doctors an efficient way to integrate nutrition planning into their daily practice,” he added. The Nutrition Screening Initiative, a partnership of the AAFP, the American Dietetic Association, the National Council on the Aging, and a diverse coalition of over 25 national health, nutrition, medical and aging-related organizations, implements a multifaceted strategy that includes research, professional education, consumer outreach, and policy. To download a free copy of the guide, go to the AAFP's Web site atwww.aafp.org/nsi/physiciansguide.pdf.
HHS Secretary Announces New Regulatory Reform Committee
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced the creation of a new Advisory Committee on Regulatory Reform, whose task will be to reduce the regulatory burden for health care providers, patients and consumers. Thompson said the committee will identify and then modify or eliminate HHS regulations “that form barriers and discourage health care providers from doing what they are trained to do: deliver safe, high-quality care, services, and products to patients and consumers.” HHS encourages physicians and patients to assist the committee by reporting their own regulatory problems and offering suggestions of how to change specific rules, especially rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Statements can be submitted through the committee's Web site (www.regreform.hhs.gov) or at one of several meetings scheduled this year across the country.
Patient Education Conference Calls for Presentations
The 2002 Conference on Patient Education, taking place November 21 to 24 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is inviting proposals for a variety of presentations at the conference. Submissions may cover any area of patient education. Presentations offer various levels of involvement in the conference, including workshops, seminars, lectures, papers, poster displays, and special interest discussions. Submissions must be postmarked by March 15 and mailed to the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, 11400 Tomahawk Creek Pkwy., Ste. 540, Leawood, KS 66211. For more information, contact Ashley Boroson at 800–274–2237, ext. 5415, (e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the AAFP Web site atwww.aafp.org/pec and click “Call for Presentations.”