HHS Announces Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card Program
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced an interim final regulation for the Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card Program, designed to help persons who are covered by Medicare with the cost of prescription drugs. This regulation is the first action resulting from the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. All Medicare beneficiaries, except those who already have Medicaid outpatient drug coverage, will be able to enroll in the Medicare-approved prescription drug discount program in spring 2004, with benefits beginning in June. The more significant provision of the law, which creates new Medicare drug coverage available to all Medicare beneficiaries, will take effect in 2006. Officials estimate that seniors and persons with disabilities who purchase the discount cards will save 10 to 15 percent on their total drug costs, with discounts of up to 25 percent on individual prescriptions. In the spring, beneficiaries can get information on the operation of the discount drug program, who can qualify, and how to join by going online to http://www.medicare.gov or by calling 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).
Future of Family Medicine Project Recommendations Available Online
A summary of the findings and proposed recommendations of the Future of Family Medicine project can be accessed online at the project's Web site. Go to http://www.futurefamilymed.org, click on “Project Update,” accept the terms for viewing, and click on “Recommendations.” A full report of these recommendations will be published as a supplement to the March/April 2004 issue of Annals of Family Medicine. More than 40 recommendations have been submitted that reflect priorities for the specialty such as a new model of family medicine, health care coverage for all, adopting an electronic health records system, family medicine leadership, development of a research agenda, and family medicine education. The FFM project is supported by the following family medicine organizations: the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), AAFP Foundation, American Board of Family Practice, Association of Departments of Family Medicine, Association of Family Practice Residency Directors, North American Primary Care Research Group, and the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM). Major support has been contributed by Eli Lilly Foundation, Pharmacia Corporation, Pharmacia Foundation, Pfizer Corporation, Pfizer Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and generous support has been obtained from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Schering Laboratories/Key Pharmaceuticals, and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases to Be Held
The 2004 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases will be held Feb. 29 to March 3, 2004 in Atlanta. The goal of the conference is to encourage public health professionals to exchange scientific and public health information on global emerging infectious disease issues. The program will include plenary and panel sessions with invited speakers as well as oral and poster presentations on emerging infections. Major subjects covered will include the following: bioterrorism and preparedness, antimicrobial resistance, global health, foodborne and waterborne illnesses, molecular diagnostics and epidemiology, nosocomial infections, vectorborne diseases, zoonotic diseases, and socioeconomic and political factors of infectious diseases. Organizers of the conference include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Society for Microbiology, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and the World Health Organization. AAFP is a cosponsor of this conference. There also will be satellite meetings at the International Conference on Women and Infectious Diseases: From Science to Action on Feb. 27–28 in Atlanta.
HHS Funds Disease Surveillance System Along U.S.-Mexico Border
The HHS recently provided $5.4 million in funds for the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to enhance binational early warning infectious disease surveillance programs to identify naturally occurring infectious diseases, potential bioterrorism agents, and other major threats to public health. The funds will be made available to six Mexican border states and to the Secretariat of Health of Mexico to aid existing efforts by the Mexican government and help create early warning infectious disease surveillance systems in those six Mexican states and the four U.S. states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) that share the border. HHS previously provided supplemental funds to enhance surveillance programs to the U.S. border states. The program will be implemented over a three-year period. Funds will be applied to disease detection and reporting, epidemiologic investigations and information technology, and education and training activities needed to develop an early warning infectious disease surveillance system. Additional information about this commission is available online at http://www.borderhealth.org.
Conference on Patient Education Celebrates 25th Anniversary
The 25th Anniversary Conference on Patient Education, which was held in San Antonio in November 2003, was attended by 324 family physicians, residents, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and other primary care health educators and professionals. The theme of the conference was “Partnering with Patients: Forging the Future.” The next patient education conference will be held in San Francisco, Nov. 11–14, 2004. Attendees can choose from more than 100 continuing medical education workshops, seminars, and Internet/computer sessions; gain practical skills to increase patient education satisfaction and ensure high-quality patient care; learn team strategies for their practice or residency program; and visit the exhibit area for patient education materials and resources. For more information on the conference, go to https://www.aafp.org/pec.xml. Conference sponsors include AAFP and STFM.