Archive for May of 2010

Health Policy Notes

May 28, 2010
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that, at the request of Congress, it has now delayed the enforcement of the “Red Flags” rule until December 31, 2010; the Red Flags rule was scheduled to go into effect on June 1. The AOA has joined with several fellow medical associations in calling upon the FTC to exempt physicians from the rule completely.

President Obama has proclaimed this week as Small Business Week 2010, honoring small business owners-like DOs who own private practices-and the proud tradition of private enterprise they represent.

The 5/21/10 CQ HealthBeat reported on the health reform law's provision enabling young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26: currently there are 14 million uninsured Americans between age 19 and 26, representing three of every 10 people who lack insurance.

Health Policy Notes

May 27, 2010
AOA staff attended a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) press conference in Washington, DC, on 5/26/10, at which company executives announced that their anti-fraud efforts have resulted in savings and recovery of more than $510 million in 2009. BCBSA anti-fraud hotlines received 5,028 complaints in 2009, of which 1,044 cases were referred to law enforcement officials, resulting in 490 arrests and/or indictments and 355 criminal convictions.

Modern Healthcare reported on 5/25/10 that $112 million in federal funding provided by the health care reform law to support health information technology training is being distributed to dozens of colleges and universities across the country.

The 5/21/10 CQ HealthBeat reported that the health reform law also provides funding to expand school-based health centers; currently there are 2,000 school-based health centers serving 1.7 million students in 44 states.

Health Policy Notes

May 26, 2010
USA Today reported on 5/25/10 that a 2009 law to expand health insurance to 4 million more low income kids through the Children's Health Insurance Program by providing $10 billion in federal aid has had a slow start due to state budgetary setbacks; about 15 states actually scaled back coverage, and many states are leaving federal money unspent-and kids uninsured.

A study of 3,000 employees conducted for the National Business Group on Health found that 94% said controlling health care costs is most important to them in the health care overhaul; only 48% ranked providing coverage to all Americans as important, although uninsured patients drive up health care costs when they need care.

The 5/24/10 Health Day News reported on a study published in Pediatrics that found no benefit from delaying or spacing out infants' recommended vaccines, a practice some parents have started over concerns that their babies were getting too many shots too soon.

Health Policy Notes

May 25, 2010
This week, Medicare beneficiaries across the country should receive mailed copies of "Medicare and the New Health Law-What it Means for You," a brochure from CMS outlining key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Tell your patients they can log on to or call 1-800-MEDICARE to get their questions about Medicare or the Affordable Care Act answered.

About 30% of Americans say their most important source of news and information about health care reform has been the cable TV news channels or their Web sites, according to a recent Politics Daily poll. Fox News and CNN are the most popular sources among this 30%.

The 5/24/10 Chicago Tribune reported that the number of children younger than 5 worldwide who die this year will fall to 7.7 million, down from 11.9 million in 2008; however, the U.S.'s rank in terms of child mortality has fallen dramatically, from 29th overall in 1980 to 42nd this year.

Health Policy Notes

May 24, 2010
American Medical News published an article on 5/24/10 regarding the devastating impact the pending 21.3% Medicare payment cut would have on access to physician services, citing the AOA Medicare Physician Payment as a key indicator and source.

On 5/21/10, CMS issued new guidance to Part D plan sponsors to help Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Part D prescription drug plans see 50% savings on their brand name and authorized generic drugs when they enter the coverage gap, or "donut hole," during 2011.

The 5/21/10 Chicago Sun-Times reported on a new study finding that women over age 70 diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer who skip radiation therapy after a lumpectomy are no more likely to die of cancer than women who get radiation.

Health Policy Notes

May 21, 2010
The Washington Post reported on 5/21/10 that the National Institutes of Health has proposed new funding guidelines to prevent financial conflicts of interest between researchers and pharmaceutical companies, including lowering the minimum funding amount researchers must report.

The 5/17/10 CQ HealthBeat reported that brand name prescription drug prices rose 9.7% in the last 12 months while general inflation rates remained relatively flat. This was the largest 12-month drug price growth since 2002, according to a new report from the AARP.

Health Day News reported on 5/20/10 that America could reduce its total number of heart attacks by 18,000 each year--an 11% drop--if all states were to enact a statewide ban on smoking in public spaces like offices and restaurants; 39 states currently have some sort of smoking ban in place.

Health Policy Notes

May 20, 2010
A new report by the Alzheimer's Association predicts that more than 13.5 million Americans will be afflicted with the disease by 2050, causing annual costs for treatment to climb to more than $1 trillion annually, according to the 5/19/10 CQ HealthBeat.

The 5/17/10 Chicago Tribune reported that a provision in the Child Nutrition Act passed by the Senate would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to regulate nutrition standards for school lunchrooms and items sold in school vending machines and a la carte. The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering the bill.

A 5/13/10 New York Times Op/Ed, written in follow-up to an article on unseen expenses in primary care, examines the "crisis point" primary care physicians are facing and different strategies and models that aim to preserve primary care access and practice.

Health Policy Notes

May 19, 2010
This week is Emergency Medical Services Week 2010, according to a presidential proclamation designating 5/16-22/10 to urge all Americans to recommit to supporting all emergency medical services providers and celebrate their selflessness and courageous contributions to the Nation.

At the 5/6-7/10 Association of American Medicare Colleges' 6th Annual Workforce Conference attended by AOA staff, AAMC Workforce Studies Center Director Edward Salsberg announced that health care reform is likely to increase the demand for physicians by 4%.

The 5/17/10 Wall Street Journal reported that the number of Americans who get their health insurance through their employers has been decreasing gradually for years and now totals 63.3% of working-age adults, down from about 69% in 2000.

Health Policy Notes

May 18, 2010
President Barack Obama has nominated Dr. Harold Varmus, former Director of the National Institutes of Health, to lead the National Cancer Institute, Reuters reported on 5/17/10. Dr. Varmus is a Nobel Prize recipient for his research into the genetics of cancer.

American Medical News reported on 5/10/10 that four preventable risk factors-being overweight or obese, elevated blood glucose levels, hypertension and smoking-collectively reduce Americans' life expectancy by 4.9 years for men, 4.1 years for women.

Speaking of preventing obesity, the 5/14/10 Detroit Free Press reported that the Obama Administration is supporting a $10 billion bill that would boost the Child Nutrition Act, increase the number of kids who receive meals, and help schools add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to their menus.

Health Policy Notes

May 17, 2010
James N. Weinstein, DO, and Jim Yong Kim, MD, wrote an Op/Ed published in the 5/17/10 Washington Post regarding how health care reform tries to expand the field of health care delivery science to provide high quality health care and lower costs.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius posted an update on the White House blog on 5/10/10 regarding the health care reform provision that allows parents to keep their children on their health care coverage until age 26, praising the 65 major insurance companies who have promised to enact this provision by this summer. Read the post online.

The CDC has issued a health alert regarding reports of dengue fever among relief workers returning from Haiti, where the disease is endemic. Health care providers in the U.S. should consider dengue when examining anyone who has recently been in Haiti or other countries where dengue is being transmitted.

Health Policy Notes

May 14, 2010
The Primary Care Medical Education Branch of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is seeking grant reviewers for several Section 747 grant program areas in primary care that provide funding to train primary care health professionals Interested individuals can apply to become a grant reviewer online.

The 5/7/10 CQ HealthBeat reported that the IRS shipped postcards to more than four million small business owners this week to advise them that a new tax credit is available to them if they help pay for their employees' health insurance premiums.

The Institute of Medicine has released Evaluation of Biomarkers and Surrogate Endpoints in Chronic Disease, a report that discusses food manufacturers' health claims for products. It recommends that the FDA adopt a rigorous scientific process to vet these claims. Download a copy online.

Health Policy Notes

May 13, 2010
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to State Governors and Insurance Commissioners urging them to re-examine attempts by WellPoint health insurance affiliates to raise insurance rates after one affiliate in California withdrew its plan to raise premiums in the State by 39%.

The Alliance for Health Reform held a panel discussion in Washington, DC, to discuss major opportunities for innovation in health payments. Participants found that such opportunities are present and could improve quality while saving costs, but such innovations may not pay off for many years to come, the 5/10/10 CQ HealthBeat reported.

The 5/6/10 USA Today reported on the potential health risks for people living near or working to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana; expert opinions differ on whether and how exposure to the oil spill can hurt human health.

Health Policy Notes

May 12, 2010
First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" childhood obesity campaign has released its Interagency Childhood Obesity Task Force Report regarding opportunities for non-profits and other entities to partner with. The report is 124 pages and is available online.

May 2010 is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, designated by Presidential Proclamation to encourage Americans to recommit to making healthy choices that will reduce our risk of chronic diseases and help our families lead longer, happier lives.

The AOA and the Ohio Osteopathic Association have collaborated with several fellow medical organizations in submitting an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court of Ohio in support of reversing a lower court's decision that greatly expanded application of the "loss of chance" doctrine, which is a theory of liability that allows plaintiffs to recover for medical malpractice even if the professional negligence was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury.

Health Policy Notes

May 11, 2010
The National Health Service Corps is now accepting applications for its 2010 Scholarship Program that awards scholarships to students pursuing careers in primary care. Applications are due by 5 p.m. EDT on 6/1/10; visit the NHSC for more information on how to apply.

The 5/3/10 Roll Call newspaper reported that medical interest groups representing doctors, drug companies and insurers spent an estimated $876 million in lobbying expenses during the 15 months between January 2009 and March 2010, when Congress passed the PPACA health care reform law.

USA Today reported on 5/5/10 that America's use of CT scans has grown dramatically, rising from 3 million scans annually in 1980 to 72 million scans in 2007. In response, physicians are exploring ways to reduce the amount of radiation exposure from medical imaging, which causes 29,000 new cancers a year, according to a report in the December 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine.

Health Policy Notes

May 10, 2010
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will hold a Special Open Door Forum at 3 p.m. ET on 5/19/10 to discuss Medicare ordering and referring issues, documentation requirements, and the internet-based Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS), among other topics. To participate, dial (800) 603-1774 and reference conference ID #61448973.

USA Today reported on 5/9/10 that the birth control pill turned 50 years old on, coincidentally, Mother's Day this year. The FDA approved the first contraceptive, Enovid, on 5/9/60. Birth control pills were also the first prescription drug to contain an insert about possible risks and side effects.

The 5/5/10 USA Today reported that hospitals can slow heart patients' rate of return by following up promptly with patients to ensure they get the right outpatient care: patients discharged from hospitals that check up promptly were almost 15% less likely to need rehospitalization.

Health Policy Notes

May 07, 2010
The 5/6/10 CQ HealthBeat reported that as many as 57 million Americans with pre-existing conditions stand to benefit from the health care reform law's provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on 5/6/10 that it is sharing more than $15 million in savings with 166 home health agencies based on their performance during the first year of the Medicare Home Health Pay for Performance demonstration.

The American Cancer Society has responded to the federal government's 240-page report on cancer risks from chemicals and other hazards in the environment, saying the report overstates risks and is unbalanced, according to the 5/6/10 New York Times.

Health Policy Notes

May 06, 2010
The 5/6/10 Washington Post reported that more babies are born to women over age 35 than to women in their teens, according to a Pew Research Center study, which attributed the trend towards older mothers to medical science, later marriages and evolving attitudes about motherhood.

The Denver Post reported today on a patient-centered medical home demonstration project underway in Colorado, finding that the system uses innovative means like group visits to provide patients greater access to physicians while giving physicians more robust compensation for comprehensive care and bonuses for quality improvement.

The Commonwealth Fund has opened its 2011-12 Australian-American Health Policy Fellowship, which is open to any DO with experience in health policy and health services research. The fellowship will provide up to a 10-month research program, conducted in Australia, for the study of mutual areas of health care. For further information, click here.

Health Policy Notes

May 05, 2010
The 5/5/10 AHIP Smart Brief reported that primary care physicians will earn about $2.7 million less during their career than their specialist colleagues, according to a Duke University study published in Health Affairs. The study predicts that a cardiologist can expect to earn about $5.2 million in lifetime wealth, compared with about $2.5 million for a family physician or internist.

The Washington Post reported on 4/30/10 that some health insurers-including WellPoint, United Healthcare, BlueCross BlueShield, Cigna and Aetna-have started adopting some new rules from the health care reform law early, including ending the practice of "recission," or dropping coverage for people who develop costly conditions, and allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents' health insurance plans.

The 4/30/10 Washington Times reported that the U.S. economy grew by 3.2% during the first quarter of 2010, signaling that our economy is slowly recovering from the "Great Recession." However, this growth is weaker than the fourth quarter of 2009, which grew at 5.6%.

Health Policy Notes

May 04, 2010
AOA Government Relations staff reports that Congress will revisit the Medicare physician payment issue prior to the extension's current expiration date, 5/31/10. Another extension bill that moves the deadline to September (H.R.4213) is currently being reconciled between House and Senate versions.

The 4/17/10 issue of the Economist reported that the American government spends $24 billion a year on dialysis, or $71,000 per year per patient, ranking the U.S. as the "most lucrative dialysis market."

The USA Today reported on 4/25/10 that the Pentagon's spending on health care has increased from $19 billion in 2001 to a projected $50.7 billion in 2011-a 167% increase-while U.S. spending on healthcare has climbed to nearly $2.7 trillion in 2011, an 84% increase since 2001.

Health Policy Notes

May 03, 2010
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that, as of 4/30/10, it has heard from 21 states and the District of Columbia that they will form their own high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions; 11 states are voluntarily opting out and will be replaced by federal alternatives, the 4/30/10 CQ HealthBeat reported. reported on 5/2/10 that body mass index, or BMI, measurements are not an accurate measure of obesity: A study of more than 1,200 patients found 66% of those deemed obese based on dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans had BMI values in the non-obese range.

CMS's Provider Communications Group will host a national provider conference call regarding the 2010 Physician Quality Reporting Initiative and Electronic Prescribing Incentive Program from 1:30 p.m.-3 p.m., EDT, on 5/12/10; click here to register.