AAFP Adopts New Physician Workforce Policy to Counter FP Shortage
A report calling for significant increase in the number of family physicians (FPs) to meet the growing needs of the U.S. population has been adopted as the official workforce policy of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The report, “Family Physician Workforce Reform: Recommendations of the American Academy of Family Physicians,” confirms data indicating that there is a shortage of primary care physicians in the United States, particularly FPs. The authors warn that the shortage will become more severe in the next 10 years unless there are changes in the health care system. In response to the study, the AAFP set itself a number of goals to help achieve FP workforce reform. These include encouraging members to implement the TransforMED Model of Care; supporting efforts toward universal health care access; lobbying for increased payments to FPs; and working with health insurance companies, medical schools, and residency programs. To view the full policy, go tohttps://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/policy/policies/w/workforce.html.
CMS Proposes Allowing Use of Part D Data for Research Initiatives
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that would make Medicare Part D claims data available to researchers and federal agencies. Under the rule, Medicare drug claims would be linked to information on other aspects of patient care such as hospitalizations and physician visits. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS would be able to use the data to evaluate the impact of drug use in the Medicare prescription drug program, to conduct demonstration projects assessing drug coverage, and to make recommendations for improving the program. Other federal agencies and researchers could access the data under existing restrictions—allowance of only the minimum data needed for the study, withholding of identifiers unless necessary for the study, and use of strict privacy protections when identifiers are disclosed. The proposal was published in the October 18, 2006 Federal Register (http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20061800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/pdf/06-8750.pdf). Comments will be accepted until December 18, 2006.
AAFP Speaker Testifies on Payment System Reform, Medical Homes
Speaker for the AAFP Tom Weida, M.D., testified on the issue of pay for performance before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health at the end of September. The AAFP supports the restructuring of Medicare payments to reward quality and care coordination, Weida told the subcommittee, but stated that this must be built on a revaluing of the services offered by physicians. AAFP's recommendations to the government included provision of a positive Medicare physician update for 2007, immediate incorporation of the concept of a medical home into Medicare physician payment reform, and phasing in of a pay-for-performance system with positive incentives. For more information, visithttps://www.aafp.org/news-now/government-medicine/20061009weidatestifies.html.
Code Change for Fecal Occult Blood Tests Takes Effect January 2007
On January 1, 2007, the code for fecal occult blood tests administered to Medicare beneficiaries will change. Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code G0107 (Colorectal Cancer Screening; fecal-occult blood test, 1–3 simultaneous determinations) will be retired and replaced by Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code 82270. Claims using HCPCS code G0107 for fecal occult blood tests with dates of service on or after January 1, 2007, will be returned as unprocessable. For more information, visithttp://www.cms.hhs..gov/MLNMattersArticles/downloads/MM5292.pdf.
CMS Announces Demonstration Project for Performance-Based Payment
A demonstration project evaluating performance-based payment will be implemented in 2007, CMS announced. The initiative is aimed at physicians in solo, small, or medium-sized practices in Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, and Utah and will last for three years. Approximately 800 practices will be recruited for participation; to be eligible, physicians must be the main provider of primary care to at least 50 fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries. Physician groups in the demonstration will continue to receive payment on a fee-for-service basis, but physicians will submit data on a range of quality measures related to chronic disease and preventive care. The first year will involve a pay-for-reporting initiative. In subsequent years the program will offer annual performance quality incentives of up to $10,000 per physician. For more information, go tohttp://www.cms.hhs.gov/DemoProjectsEvalRpts/MD/list.asp.
HHS Secretary Champions Technology Use in Health Care System Reform
In his keynote address at the third annual Health Information Technology (HIT) Summit in Washington, D.C., HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt spoke of the value of HIT in helping to transform the U.S. health care system. Speaking to national, regional, and state health care decision makers, Leavitt said health care in America should be reorganized into a system of value-driven competition. He outlined four cornerstones of a future health care system—compatible and connected HIT systems, quality standards of measurement, cost comparisons, and consumer and physician incentives—adding that without a sustainable health care system America would not remain prosperous in the global marketplace. For more information, visithttps://www.aafp.org/news-now/government-medicine/20061006leavittreform.html.
Pilot Program Aims to Improve Telemedicine Access in Rural Areas
A pilot program established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aims to improve health care providers' access to telecommunications and information services, particularly in rural areas. Financed through the FCC's rural health care funding mechanism, the program will help public and nonprofit health care providers create statewide and regional broadband networks dedicated to health care services. The program will fund up to 85 percent of the costs involved in deploying the networks, as well as those of connecting them to nationwide backbone Internet2. According to the FCC, telemedicine applications allow patients to access medical subspecialists without leaving their communities, reduce hospital stays, and aid transmission of emergency medical records. The FCC hopes the program will make telemedi-cine services available in areas that need them. For more information, visithttps://www.aafp.org/news-now/professional-issues/20061018fccpilot.html.
CDC Launches Five-Year Collaborative Study on Autism Risk Factors
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a collaborative study that will attempt to identify risk factors for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental disabilities. The five-year study will involve around 2,700 children of ages two to five years and their parents at five participating sites, including the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in California and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Researchers will study various factors that could be associated with ASDs, such as infections, genetic factors, maternal reproductive history, hormone functions, smoking and drug use during pregnancy, and family history of developmental issues. Information will be gathered through conduction of interviews and examinations, cheek swabs, and blood and hair sampling. The CDC hopes the study will provide more information about the characteristics of children with ASDs and how genes and the environment may affect child development. For more information, visithttp://www.cdc.gov/autism.