Legislation Clears Resident Matching Program of Antitrust Allegations
Section 207 of the Pension Funding Equity Act of 2004 enacted on April 10 absolves the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) of antitrust violations. In a lawsuit filed in May 2002, three residents alleged that the NRMP and other medical organizations and hospitals had violated the federal antitrust laws by imposing anticompetitive restraints that depressed resident physician compensation, artificially slowed the rate of compensation increases, and resulted in longer working hours than would be required in a competitive market. As a result of the lawsuit, the number of hours residents can work has been limited to 80 hours per week and medical students will have access to contract information before the February deadline for ranking programs. More information is available online athttps://www.aafp.org/x24982.xml. For the full text of Section 207, go tohttp://thomas.loc.gov; search for HR3108; and open the fifth version of the bill.
AHRQ Report States That Poor Literacy Hinders Health Care Quality
In the report, “Literacy and Health Outcomes,” the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) states that adults with poor reading skills are less likely than others to seek well-child care, screening tests, influenza shots, and pneumonia vaccines. Patients with low literacy skills cannot read directions for taking medications or hospital discharge instructions. These patients also have a limited understanding of informed consent forms and their children's diagnoses and medication instructions. The AHRQ offers low-literacy publications to help patients avoid medical errors, take medicine safely, and get appropriate preventive care (http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/pathqpack.htm).
Decisions Define Scope for Chiropractors Within the VHA
In March, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) released decisions about access to chiropractic care. According to Secretary Anthony Principi of the Department of Veterans Affairs, access to chiropractic care should be through referral from a primary care physician, and these physicians should be responsible for understanding what care is being provided and for coordinating that care. These decisions incorporate recommendations of an 11-member committee that was created after physicians, including about 7,800 family physicians, objected to legislation that would have given chiropractors primary care status within the VHA. More information is available online athttps://www.aafp.org/x27089.xml.
CMS Reminds Medicare Providers About HIPAA Compliance
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has posted an article about the recent developments affecting the implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The article, “Medicare Providers: Their Vendors, Clearinghouses, or Other Third Party Billers, and the HIPAA/Medicare Contingency Plan,” reminds Medicare providers that the February 27, 2004, modification of the contingency plan gave a grace period to providers who were not ready to submit HIPAA-compliant claims. According to the modification, Medicare will continue to accept claims electronically in a pre-HIPAA format after July 1, but these claims will not be paid until at least 27 days after receipt. Payment turnaround is normally 14 days. The article includes a checklist of questions for providers to use. It is available online athttp://www.cms.hhs.gov/medlearn/matters/mmarticles/2004/SE0414.pdf. More HIPAA information is available athttp://www.cms.hhs.gov/hipaa.
Commonwealth Fund Report Finds Deficits in Children's Health Care
In a report on children's health care that was released in April, the Commonwealth Fund focused on problems throughout the health care system and reinforced points in the Future of Family Medicine (FFM) project. “Quality of Health Care for Children and Adolescents: A Chartbook,” reviews 500 studies performed from 2000 to 2003, highlighting deficiencies in children's health care. According to the report, about 25 percent of children did not receive recommended vaccine doses on time; about 33 percent with asthma did not get appropriate maintenance medications; low-income children with sickle cell disease received less than one half of the recommended prophylactic antibiotics, and 10 percent received none; and 79 percent of children who needed a mental health evaluation did not receive an examination or treatment. The chartbook is available online athttp://www.cmwf.org/programs/leatherman_pedchtbk_700.asp. The FFM project report is available online athttp://www.annfammed.org/content/vol2/suppl_1.
HHS Warns of Potential Medicare Drug Card Scams
According to the CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a number of potential drug card scams have arisen in several states. The CMS and HHS are reminding Medicare beneficiaries to be wary of anyone who calls or comes to the door claiming to sell drug cards or other Medicare products. Before marketing for the drug card program began in May, some beneficiaries had already received calls from individuals and companies posing as Medicare officials in an effort to gain personal information. Beneficiaries should be reminded to never give out bank account, social security, or health insurance card numbers. A CMS fact sheet is available online athttp://www.cms.hhs.gov/media/press/release.asp?Counter=1018.