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Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(5):717-719

Senate to Take Action on Medicare Physician Payment Issue

When the Senate returns from recess this month, it is expected to consider Medicare payment issues. A starting point in these discussions may be measures passed in June by the House of Representatives. The House voted to increase Medicare physician payments by about 6 percent over the next three years. Physicians, including many family physicians, had protested a projected 14 percent cut over the next three years, and the House understood the impact the cut might have on care for seniors. The House also voted to explore ways to restructure the payment formula so that physicians' reimbursement might no longer plummet when the economy slumps. The House provisions, however, are part of a controversial bill on prescription drug benefits for seniors. At this point, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFPs') Government Relations Division, the best hope for physician payment relief lies with the Senate. To contact the Senate in support of Medicare payment reform, go online to and, at “Action Alert,” click under “Update on the Medicare Physician Payment Crisis,” and follow the instructions.

HHS Releases $100 Million in Emergency Assistance Funds for Severe Heat

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced that President Bush directed HHS to release $100 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) emergency funds to 33 states and the District of Columbia that have been most affected by the extreme heat this summer. These funds were taken from the fiscal year 2002 LIHEAP contingency fund, which is used to respond to energy emergencies such as extreme weather conditions, supply disruptions, or price spikes. “Severe heat can be devastating, especially for our children, older Americans, and people with disabilities,” Secretary Thompson said. “This emergency aid will help states that have recently experienced unusually high temperatures and need additional resources to support low-income families through the rest of the summer.” LIHEAP supports more than 4 million low-income households annually with energy costs related to extreme heat and cold. Many of the families who benefit from the LIHEAP program include small children, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.

Bilingual Booklet to Assist Low-Income Familes with Health Insurance

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced the release of a new bilingual booklet to help Spanish-speaking residents and others learn about the availability of free and low-cost health insurance for children in low-income families through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and Medicaid. The 13-page booklet, written in Spanish and English on alternating pages, is titled, Protect Your Family's Health…with Confidence (Proteja la Salud de su Familia…con Confianza). The booklet's sections include: information about state and federal health insurance benefits for children and the importance of health insurance to a child's overall health; how to contact a state's SCHIP program; answers to common questions regarding the SCHIP program; and definitions of terms such as SCHIP, Medicaid, and public charge. HHS is also providing these booklets to community health centers and other organizations and will work with states that want to add information about their programs to this booklet. For a free copy of the booklet, go online and click on the booklet's title. For additional free copies, call 888-275-4772.

2002 AAFP Scientific Assembly Preregistration Deadline Is September 10

The deadline to preregister for the 2002 AAFP Scientific Assembly, to be held Oct. 16 to 20 in San Diego, is Sept. 10. After this date, registration will be conducted on-site only beginning Oct. 15 for general attendees. AAFP members can register online at Registration information can also be obtained by calling 800-926-6890. Check the AAFP Web site for listings of continuing medical education lectures, papers and proposals, exhibitors, and satellite events that will be available at this year's Assembly.

HRSA Report Provides Strategies for Combating Domestic Violence

A new document from the HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) profiles domestic violence programs at nine HRSA-funded health centers serving both rural and urban areas that will help health care professionals establish similar programs in their communities. The assessment, Healing Shattered Lives: Assessment of Selected Domestic Violence Programs in Primary Health Care Settings, contains clinical protocols and detailed program information with examples targeted to specific populations such as homeless women, disabled women, women living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and residents of public housing. Copies of the report may be downloaded online or ordered from the HRSA Information Center at 888-ASK-HRSA (888-275-4772)

FDA Names Commissioner of Office of External Relations

Lester M. Crawford, Jr., D.V.M., Ph.D., deputy commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recently announced the appointment of Linda Arey Skladany as the FDA's senior associate commissioner in charge of the new office of external relations, where she will direct the FDA's relations with the public and constituent groups. In this position, she will oversee the FDA's advisory committee oversight and management staff, the office of the executive secretariat, the office of the ombudsman, the office of public affairs, and the office of special health issues. Skladany served for the past seven years as the vice president for congressional relations for the Washington, D.C., firm of Parry, Romani, DeConcini, and Symms.

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Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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