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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(5):789-790

AAFP President's Letter Addresses HIPAA Transactions Deadline

The American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP's) President James Martin, M.D., San Antonio, recently sent a President's Letter to all AAFP members discussing their readiness for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's (HIPAA's) transactions and code sets standards. Dr. Martin reminded AAFP members that, beginning Oct. 16, Medicare and other health plans will deny non–HIPAA-compliant claims and will not accept paper claims after this date unless the practice has fewer than 10 employees and is granted a waiver by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The letter outlined nine steps for physicians to ensure that claims submitted electronically after Oct. 16 are not rejected, including directions on how to deal with the practice management billing system or billing system vendor. Dr. Martin advised members to be ready for cash flow disruptions “by anticipating a 10 to 20 percent increase in rejected or delayed claims during the fourth quarter of 2002.” He also stressed the long-term benefits of the standardization of business transactions. The full letter can be found online

AAFP's Positions on Legislative Issues Available Online

The AAFP's positions on legislative issues critical to family physicians and their patients are now available online This Web page, titled “Legislation Endorsements and Letters to Congress,” also includes the letters that AAFP leaders have sent to lawmakers in Congress. Issues include Medicare physician reimbursement, Medicare prescription drug coverage, health care reform, rural reimbursement, graduate medical education, funding for family medicine training, and electronic prescribing.

IOM Issues Report on Increasing Access and Availability of Vaccines

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently issued a report that proposes strategies for assuring access to vaccines and sustaining the supply of current and future vaccines. The report, “Financing Vaccines in the 21st Century: Assuring Access and Availability,” proposes a federal mandate that would require all insurance plans to include vaccine benefits and would create a subsidy and voucher program for vaccines. Under this proposal, the federal government would subsidize health plans and providers for the purchase costs and administration fees of the vaccines, and uninsured persons would receive a voucher that could be used to receive a vaccination from any provider. The report also recommends changes to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and calls for a series of meetings, a postimplementation study, and the development of a research agenda to facilitate the implementation of the plan. The report was produced to address some of the challenges of the national immunization system, such as recent vaccine shortages; continued disparities in immunizations across geographic and socioeconomic populations; the diminishing number of vaccine suppliers; concerns about the level of private investment in current vaccine production and future vaccine development; and the fragmentation of insurance coverage for immunizations. Additional information on this report is available online The AAFP legislative position on childhood immunizations and policy on the cost of immunizations is available

HRSA Releases Updated Statistical Report on Women's Health in the United States

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently released “Women's Health USA 2003” that provides updated statistical data on the health of women in the United States, especially the impact on women of chronic health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and asthma. The report, updated from last year's first edition, includes the most recent federal data on health and health-related indicators from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal departments and agencies. The data book highlights disparities between men and women for 26 health indicators and behaviors, including physical activity, smoking, and asthma, and racial and ethnic disparities among women for 29 health topics. The report also tracks preventive health measures in community and migrant health centers that receive support from HRSA. Also included in this year's report is a section on special populations such as women living along the border between the United States and Mexico, women in rural and urban areas, and women who are immigrants, incarcerated, or older. The full report can be found online

HHS Awards $45.7 Million to Provide Health Care to Patients with HIV/AIDS

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced the award of 61 grants totaling more than $45.7 million to assist states, territories, and communities in planning for and providing comprehensive health care services (including medications) to patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the United States. The grants include the following: 24 grants totaling $22.6 million under the Title IV Comprehensive Family Services Program to provide comprehensive HIV/AIDS care for women, infants, children, youth, and their affected families; 17 matching grants totaling $21.4 million under the Title II Supplemental AIDS Drug Assistance Program to help 14 states, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico provide life-saving medications for persons living with HIV/AIDS; 14 grants totaling $1.4 million under the Title III Capacity Building Program to help organizations strengthen current health care plan delivery systems and expand high-quality HIV primary health care services; and six one-year grants totaling approximately $300,000 to help organizations prepare to provide high-quality comprehensive HIV primary health care services. The grants are from programs funded by the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency (CARE) Act. Since fiscal year 1991, Congress has appropriated $13.6 billion in CARE Act funding, which helps an estimated 533,000 persons annually receive essential health care services. A complete list of grant recipients can be found online

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