Report Shows Americans Support Limits on Medical Malpractice Awards
According to results from a health poll report conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the majority of those polled (72 percent) favored placing limits on the amount patients can be awarded for emotional pain and suffering and 64 percent favored limits on the amount that can be awarded for physician negligence or carelessness. Nearly three fourths (74 percent) considered the issue of medical malpractice insurance to be a “crisis” or a “major problem.” The report also found that 60 percent of those polled associated medical malpractice lawsuits with the rising cost of health care. The only factor that was ranked higher was the high profits made by drug companies. More than one half of those polled (54 percent) indicated that having more malpractice lawsuits would be at least somewhat effective in reducing preventable medical errors. However, in a similar poll in 1993, 88 percent thought the malpractice system made physicians charge more for services to cover their insurance costs and 80 percent thought it caused physicians to order unnecessary tests to avoid being sued. The full report can be found by going to the Kaiser Family Foundation Web site atwww.kff.org, and clicking on “Kaiser Health Poll Report.”
AAFP Supports Five Medical Reform Bills Currently in the House, Senate
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recently announced support for five new medical reform bills currently in Congress. One of the bills, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), would make health coverage more affordable to uninsured Americans by calling for changes in Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and the federal income tax code. The AAFP also supports matching bills introduced by Senator Bingaman and Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) in the Senate and the House, respectively, titled the Rural Equity Payment Index Reform Act, that would phase in a minimum level for the Medicare “physician work adjuster” to ensure that rural physicians' reimbursements do not fall below a certain level. The Health Care That Works for All Americans Act of 2002, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), also has drawn the support of the AAFP. This bill would mandate that public meetings are held in communities across the nation to solicit input about ways to improve the health care system. The fifth bill that the AAFP has supported would amend the Controlled Substances Act by placing certain substances, such as anabolic steroid precursors, on the schedule of controlled substances. This bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.), chair of the Health Subcommittee of the House of Energy and Commerce Committee.
Family Physicians Should Be Recognized as Mental Health Care Providers
In a recent letter from AAFP Board Chair Warren Jones, M.D., Ridgeland, Miss., to five major health care employer groups, Jones stressed that family physicians play a vital role in the diagnosis and management of mental illness. The five business groups were the Washington Business Group on Health, the National Business Coalition on Health, the Pacific Business Group on Health, the Leapfrog Group, and the Midwest Business Group on Health. Jones encouraged these groups to direct their member companies to “structure their health care benefits to cover mental health care services provided to their employees and their families by family physicians.” Included with each letter was a copy of the AAFP position paper, “The Provision of Mental Health Care Services by Family Physicians.” Statistics from this paper showed that 32 percent of asymptomatic adults would first present to a primary care physician when a mental health issue arises compared with only 4 percent of patients who indicated they would first approach a psychiatric professional. A copy of this position paper is available online atwww.aafp.org/x6928.xml.
AAFP Recommends UpToDate Web Site, Offers Free Trial to Members
The AAFP recently recognized the high quality and value of UpToDate, a clinical information resource that provides physicians with expert answers to questions that arise at the point of care. AAFP members can register for a free 14-day trial by going online towww.aafp.org/ uptodate.xml. UpToDate is a comprehensive synthesis of the latest scientific evidence and expert opinion that is organized to answer specific clinical questions. The staff of approximately 3,000 physicians provides practical guidance on diagnosing and treating individual cases. A completely updated version of UpToDate is released every four months and is available on the Web, or in CD-ROM and Pocket PC handheld formats. UpToDate allows subscribers to: access information regarding best current practices on any aspect of family medicine; recognize the clinical manifestations of a wide variety of diseases and disorders and review current options for diagnosis, management, and therapy; and evaluate and treat system-specific manifestations of systemic disorders. UpToDate in Family Practice can be ordered online athttps://store.utdol.com/app/ordernow.asp or by calling 800-998-6374 in the United States and Canada and 781-237-4788 elsewhere. For more information visitwww.uptodate.com.
WONCA Web Site Provides Daily Alerts of Medical News
The World Organization of Family Doctors' (WONCA) Web site,www.globalfamilydoctor.com, is now offering free e-mail alerts sent every weekday that provide breaking news on medical issues. The WONCA staff scans articles from over 60 family medicine, general, and specialty journals and news services to produce synopses of the latest medical news, clinical reviews, cutting edge clinical research, and disease alerts. Previous alerts are archived on the WONCA Web site. To enroll for the daily alerts, go towww.globalfamilydoctor.com/enrollment.htm.