The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed new benefits for Medicare beneficiaries and will implement the 1.5 percent increase in payment rates for physicians in 2005 as mandated under the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA). The new benefits are primarily aimed at disease prevention and management, including an initial preventive physical examination for all new beneficiaries. The 1.5 percent payment increase mandated under the MMA effectively avoids a projected cut of 3.7 percent under previous law. Incentive payments of up to 5 percent would be made to primary care and specialty physicians practicing in “physician scarcity areas.” Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until Sept. 24. CMS plans to publish the final rule by Nov. 1, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2005.
FTC, DOJ recommend eliminating CON laws
In a new joint report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust division recommend that states reconsider whether Certificate of Need (CON) Programs best serve their citizens’ health-care needs. On balance, the FTC and DOJ believe that such programs are not successful in containing health care costs and pose serious anticompetitive risks. Improving Health Care: A Dose of Competition also recommends eliminating other barriers to competition and seems to support the growth of specialty hospitals, pay-for-performance incentives and expanded state licensure boards as ways to increase quality and lower health care costs. It includes a roadmap for state and federal legislators to increase competition in health care to lower costs and improve quality. For more information and a link to the complete report: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/07/healthcarerpt.htm
Senate passes medical errors reporting system legislation
The U.S. Senate has approved legislation creating a confidential, voluntary reporting system for disclosure of medical errors without fear of legal repercussions. The bill, S720, must be reconciled with a similar measure passed by the House last March. It creates a reporting system of Patient Safety Organizations that would collect information on errors from physicians, hospitals and health care providers. Those supplying data would be assured confidentiality and legal protection.
AAOS secures orthopaedic research funding in DoD appropriations bill
With the help of Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), AAOS secured orthopaedic research funding language in the 2005 fiscal year Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations bill, which passed both the House and Senate and awaits President Bush’s signature. The bill, through the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), encourages funding for “orthopaedic extremity trauma research” and appropriates $50 million, to be distributed through a grant process, for 21 health research topics recommended by Congress for funding through the PRMRP. Grant applications are typically due in March of each year, and AAOS fellows will be kept apprised of deadlines. AAOS’ legislative efforts are part of the Academy’s larger goal and commitment to support orthopaedic surgeons serving in the military.
Choose your own password to access AAOS member-only Web areas
AAOS members can establish a personal password, different from the Academy’s identification number, to access several areas of the AAOS Web site. The AAOS Information Services Department encourages members to take advantage of this new security feature. Passwords can be changed and reset at any time. A member who forgets his/her personal password can use the password help option provided on the Log-in screen at any time or contact AAOS Member Services (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-626-6726) during business hours to obtain a new password. Members who use the electronic password help option will receive their password via return e-mail. Although not all sections of the AAOS Web site currently support a personal password, this option is gradually being added to the remaining password-protected areas. Pages that have not yet been converted direct members to use their “AAOS ID.” Those that use personal passwords state “Password.”
AAHKS produces documentary on joint replacement
The American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) has produced a video documentary on total joint replacement. The 52-minute film provides an inside look at four patients and their families as they make the decision to have hip or knee replacement surgery. The goal is to create awareness about the benefits of total joint replacement in restoring an individual’s quality of life. The AAHKS partnered with the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation to sponsor this project. AAOS members can order a VHS videotape of the documentary at a cost of $19.95. Visit the AAHKS Web site at: http://www.aahks.org/documentary