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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(6):987-988

AAFP Web Resource Answers Questions About Medicare Part D

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has launched a new Web-based resource to provide physicians with information about Medicare Part D prescription benefits. The Web page, “Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Medicare Part D)” at, is a collaboration between the AAFP and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It provides links to a fact sheet about the new Medicare prescription drug coverage and the CMS’s Healthcare Professionals Toolkit, which includes: a calendar of enrollment deadlines and dates for the beginning of Part D coverage; reproducible brochures and art for distribution to patients; “Coverage Good for You, Your Patients and America,” a fact sheet for health care professionals; “Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Basics” fact sheets that explain the program, its formularies and its relationship with Medigap, retirement, and other plans; “Quick Facts About Medicare’s New Coverage for Prescription Drugs” for patient education; and “Quick Facts About Medicare’s New Coverage for Prescription Drugs for People with Limited Income and Resources,” which explains additional resources available to beneficiaries who meet income eligibility requirements.

Ambulatory Care Quality Standards Endorsed by NQF

The National Quality Forum’s (NQF’s) board of directors recently endorsed a set of national consensus standards for gauging and voluntarily reporting the quality of ambulatory care, giving its stamp of approval to 36 standardized performance measures. The approved performance measures are split into seven health care categories: asthma and respiratory illness; behavorial health and depression; bone conditions; heart disease; hypertension; prenatal care; and preventive services, including immunization and screening. The standards are part of NQF’s Standardizing Ambulatory Care Performance Measures project, an initiative charged with identifying ambulatory care standards from measures submitted by the American Medical Association’s Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement’s Physician Performance Measures set, CMS’ Doctor’s Office Quality Project, and the National Committee for Quality Assurance. The AAFP is a member of the alliance.

NIGMS Allocates $9 Million to Centers for Stem Cell Research

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded three new exploratory centers for human embryonic stem cell research. These centers, which will receive an estimated $9 million over three years, join three others that the institute funded in September 2003. All of the centers are limited to using federally approved stem cell lines listed on the National Institutes of Health Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry. Each center will establish a core facility to support and train scientists and to define the growth conditions and molecular characteristics required for maintaining human embryonic stem cells in an undifferentiated state. Scientists at the centers also will work on specific pilot projects to advance fundamental knowledge of human embryonic stem cell properties and functions. The new centers are: Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, where researchers will study the growth, differentiation, and genetic alteration of human embryonic stem cells and focus on developing methods to genetically modify stem cells; Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where researchers will study how specific proteins control the growth and differentiation of human embryonic stem cells and will analyze genetic networks and study DNA replication and gene expression in stem cells; and the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Calif., where researchers will study the molecular signals that enable stem cells to self-renew and specialize, develop a novel imaging technology to study the cells in real time, and improve methods for the cells’ growth and maintenance. The group will also lead training courses for other scientists. More information about NIGMS stem cell initiatives is available online at

AHRQ Study Finds Medical Disparities Are Narrowing

An increasing percentage of black enrollees in Medicare managed-care plans are being screened for breast cancer or treated for diabetes or heart disease in accordance with nationally recognized quality measures, according to a study in the August 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Health Resources and Services Administration, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found, for example, that in 2003, low-denisty lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels were measured in 92 percent of black enrollees with diabetes, compared with 61 percent in 1999—a 31 percent gain. The percentage of black enrollees with diabetes whose LDL levels were controlled increased even more, by 46 percent (from 23 percent in 1999 to 66 percent in 2003). White enrollees’ rates also improved for both measures, but the gains made by blacks narrowed their gaps with whites from 9 to 2 percent for LDL testing and from 13 to 7 percent for LDL control.

AHRQ Issues New Data on Uninsured Americans

More than one in three Hispanics in the United States is uninsured, and 25 percent have only public health insurance, according to a study released by the AHRQ. In addition, Hispanics constitute 36 percent of all uninsured children younger than 18 years. The 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) findings released by the AHRQ provide data on the uninsured, including detailed breakdowns by subpopulation groups, to help policymakers understand health insurance status. Among adults younger than 65 years, white non-Hispanics made up 65 percent of the U.S. population and almost 50 percent of the uninsured. About one in seven whites was uninsured, and 10 percent had only public insurance. Black non-Hispanics made up almost 13 percent of the population and almost 15 percent of the uninsured. About one in five blacks was uninsured, and 28 percent had only public insurance. Among persons younger than 65 years, 19 percent (48 million) were estimated to be without health insurance. Nearly 12 percent of children younger than 18 years were uninsured. Additional information about the MEPS study is available online at

HHS Awards $16.2 Million for Methamphetamine Abuse Treatment

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded 11 three-year grants totaling more than $16 million to centers that provide treatment for methamphetamine abuse for adults in rural communities. The grants, which were awarded to centers in California, Georgia, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas, support treatment in rural areas that have been particularly hard hit by methamphetamine abuse.

Registration Open for AAFP Urgent-Care Course

The AAFP’s Emergency and Urgent Care Course will be held October 26 to 29 in San Antonio. Topics will include managing acute strokes, seizures, and respiratory emergencies; performing cervical spine and joint evaluations; reversing dehydration in children and adolescents, and gynecologic emergencies. Additional topics to be covered in breakout sessions include hypertension, skin problems, toxicology, asthma, back pain, sexually transmitted diseases, deciphering medical literature, and deciding when a patient should return to work. A discount is available to physicians who register by September 26. Additional information, including online registration, is available at

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