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Sebelius resigns amid ACA rollout problems
On April 10, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced her resignation. Her five-year tenure in that post was marked by widespread Republican criticism that increased dramatically after the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act last fall.
In an April 11 announcement in the White House Rose Garden, President Barack Obama announced that he has nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius. Burwell has led OMB since taking over from Jacob J. Lew, who is now Secretary of the Treasury. Last year, Burwell was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 0 for her post as head of OMB. Her background includes work in the Clinton administration and at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Obama praised Sebelius’ stewardship of HHS during a tumultuous time. “The final score speaks for itself,” Obama said. “There are 7.5 million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for the very first time, and that’s because of the woman standing next to me today.” White House and HHS officials have said that Sebelius made the decision to resign and was not forced out. In an April 11 statement, Sebelius said she hoped — but did not expect — that her departure would represent the beginning of a more cooperative period in Washington to make health care better.
Obama urged the Senate to take quick action on Burwell’s nomination, noting that she was confirmed unanimously as OMB director just a year ago. “I’m assuming not much has changed since that time,” he said.
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Medicare data release
On April 8, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services posted searchable, physician-specific Medicare claims data on its website. The spreadsheet files show for each physician their NPI, name and address, average charge and Medicare payment amounts, unique beneficiary counts, and other information for the various Medicare services they provide.
It is the understanding of the American Medical Association, AAGP, and other physician organizations that CMS has received a very large volume of Freedom of Information Act requests for the data that the agency did not feel could be handled on a case-by-case basis. These FOIA requests were the result of a recent court decision that reversed an injunction that previously prevented CMS from making the data available to the public. Given the broad interest in viewing the data, CMS determined that it should be made public and accessible to all. Similar information has been available for several years on Medicare hospital payments.
While AAGP understands and appreciates the growing interest in price transparency and believes that cost and quality data can be used appropriately to help improve care, there should be safeguards to protect physicians and patients from misuse of inaccurate or misleading data. Many of these safeguards were included in data release provisions of the bicameral, bipartisan strategic growth rate repeal legislation (H.R. 4015/S.2000) that was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate earlier this year. Unfortunately, the data posted by CMS are not subject to these safeguards. Physicians were not given the opportunity to review their data for accuracy prior to their publication and users of the data are not required to disclose the methodology they use in manipulating it. There needs to be responsible use of the data. For example, more than one provider may submit bills under a physician’s NPI so that conclusions that one physician is responsible for an extraordinarily high service volume may not be accurate.
AMA has advised AAGP that it is examining the data and is also exploring opportunities to help physicians respond as individuals to inquiries they may receive about their personal data. Information about the analyses will be provided when it is available.
The Alzheimer's Accountability Act introduced in Congress
Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Reps. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., introduced The Alzheimer’s Accountability Act (S. 2192/H.R. 4351) this month. The legislation would require the director of the National Institutes of Health to submit an annual budget to meet the goal of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2025. The budget would be submitted directly to the President for review and transmitted to Congress and would estimate the funding necessary for NIH to fully implement the National Alzheimer’s Project Act.
AAGP member news
AAGP member Gary Epstein-Lubow, MD, of Providence, R.I., wrote about his mother-in-law’s dementia, and the impact on the family, in an article in the April 14 Washington Post.
NICHE June 2014 Leadership Training Program for geriatric nurses
NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders), an international program designed to help hospitals improve the care of older adults, is accepting registrations for its June 2014 Leadership Training Program. The six-week, web-based program provides an interdisciplinary hospital team with the tools and resources to begin the process of increasing the quality of care for older adult patients at their facility and achieving NICHE designation. Registration information for the LTP starting June 9 is available at www.nicheprogram.org/LTP.
The APA 2014 Psychiatric Services Achievement Awards: Applications due May 12
The American Psychiatric Association invites applications for the 2014 Psychiatric Services Achievement Awards Competition, which is designed to recognize and publicize national models of creative service delivery. Applications are sought from innovative programs that deliver services to the mentally ill or disabled, have overcome obstacles, can serve as models for other programs, and have been in full operation for a minimum of two years before the application deadline. Programs may be based in a school, a clinic, a hospital, or the community itself. Programs that provide unique human resource development, prevention, or administrative models that improve clinical care are eligible.
Awards will be presented at the Opening Session, APA Institute on Psychiatric Services, October 30, San Francisco. Winning programs will present at a special afternoon workshop following the Opening Session and will receive coverage in two APA publications, Psychiatric News and Psychiatric Services. Learn more and apply at www.psychiatry.org/achievementawards. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.907.8612.
AFA's Community Memory Screenings and Awareness-Raising Education (AFA C.A.R.E.S.) program
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America invites health care professionals and community organizations to participate in its new Community Memory Screenings and Awareness-Raising Education (AFA C.A.R.E.S.) program. AFA C.A.R.E.S. promotes the importance of early detection and intervention for memory loss. It builds on AFA’s successful National Memory Screening Day held each November and is designed to meet the increasing demand for memory screenings year-round.
Participants can offer free, confidential memory screenings to the general public or targeted groups at their organization/facility (e.g., hospital, senior center, pharmacy, long-term care residence, community agency) or at events such as health fairs and educational workshops—on a regular basis (e.g., daily, weekly or monthly) or as a one-time event. A memory screening takes 5 to 10 minutes to administer by a qualified health care professional; it is not a diagnostic test, but the results can indicate whether a person might benefit from a more extensive medical exam. AFA will provide a free turnkey toolkit of materials in English and Spanish, including instructions, forms, screening tools, posters, educational booklets and publicity tools; and will list your event details on its website. If needed, AFA can also help toward the cost of a professional to administer the screenings.
Sign up today at www.nationalmemoryscreening.org, or for more information, contact Melissa Austen at email@example.com or 866-232-8484.
Gene linked to Alzheimer's poses a special threat to women
A gene associated with Alzheimer's disease appears especially dangerous to women and may be one reason that more women than men are diagnosed with the disease.
The gene, known as APOE4, increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's in both sexes. But a study published in the Annals of Neurology found that the gene had only a minimal effect on men, while in women it nearly doubled the risk of developing Alzheimer's or a related condition called mild cognitive impairment.
New approach may help manage the most troubling symptoms of dementia, lessen use of drugs
A new approach to handling agitation, aggression and other unwanted behaviors by people with dementia may help reduce the use of antipsychotics and other psychiatric drugs in this population, and make life easier for them and their caregivers, a team of experts says.
Publishing their recommendations under the easy-to-remember acronym of "DICE", the panel of specialists in senior mental health hope to spark better teamwork among those who care for dementia patients at home, in residential facilities and in hospitals and clinics.
Photographing Alzheimer's patients helps with her loss
Statesman Journal via USA Today
Photographer Diane Beals gathered the courage to get back behind the lens documenting Alzheimer's patients after she lost her father to the disease.
She started capturing images for her Faces of Alzheimer's exhibit three years ago as her father, LeRoy Beals, struggled with losing some of his most basic memories.
Researchers: Aggression strongly signals pain only when dementia reaches advanced stages
For a person with dementia, the link between aggressive behavior and physical pain is strong only in the condition's advanced stages, University of Florida researchers have found.
The investigators analyzed Minimum Data Set information from Florida long-term care facilities in 2009. This was the first “comprehensive assessment data from residents with dementia” in Medicare- or Medicaid-certified nursing homes, the researchers stated.
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March 25, 2014
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