The current issue of AAMC News and Leadership Announcements is now available:
Ann Bonham, Ph.D., AAMC Chief Scientific Officer, posted an essay on the Wing of Zock innovation web site on Monday responding to recent actions in Congress questioning peer-review-based decision making by Federal science agencies. The article is entitled “Leave Judging Science in the Hands of Scientists.” The posting also includes brief video remarks from Vivian Lee, MD, PhD, Dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of University of Utah Health System. Dr. Lee is chair of the AAMC Advisory Panel on Research.
Dr. Jay L. Hess has been named the new vice president for university clinical affairs and dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine, subject to the approval of the IU Board of Trustees at its June meeting. Dr. Hess is currently the Carl V. Weller Professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. He will succeed Dr. D. Craig Brater, who is retiring June 30 after 13 years as dean and 27 years at IU.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday issued a proposed rule to implement the provision of the Affordable Care Act that reduces Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) allotments. The ACA mandated reductions in fiscal years 2014-2020 and detailed factors to guide the allocation methodology. The proposed rule details the specific methodology to be used in FY 2014 and 2015, during which years the reductions in DSH payments will be $500 million and $600 million, respectively.
An article in the Shreveport Times posted Monday evening reported that “If Shreveport’s LSU Medical School can’t find a way to boost its budget by $42 million, it could have to close in January. LSU Health Chancellor Dr. Robert Barish and Dr. Hugh Mighty told the Senate Finance Committee [Monday] that the medical school has about seven months’ funding in the Jindal administration and House-passed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The funding problem resulted largely from a change in the Medicaid reimbursement rate required by the federal government and the state doesn’t have the money to secure more federal funds.”
Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal reported that physician-owned hospitals are lobbying Congress to amend restrictions on their operations included in the Affordable Care Act. The article further reported, “Meanwhile, to grow without running afoul of the rules, some of the country’s roughly 275 doctor-owned hospitals are expanding their operating hours, increasing procedures in ways not restricted by the law and rejecting patients on Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled.”
An article in Tuesday’s Denver Post discussed the assessment of hospital facility fees that are surprising consumers. The unexpected charges are due to hospital purchases of physician practices.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce shortly its decision in the case Fisher v. University of Texas, which focuses on the constitutionality of UT’s race-conscious admissions policy. AAMC has released a podcast for its members on preparing for the decision. The College Board also issued a guide related to the decision.
A lengthy article in the new issue of The New Yorker discusses various issues related to massive open online courses, or MOOCs, and their potential to radically alter higher education.
The New York Times on Tuesday featured an article, “Doctors’ Lucrative Industry Ties.” The article reported that information on industry payments to physicians is now available in some states, but that “Next year, the data should be available nationwide when the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act goes into effect.” The article noted, “The data will be a treasure trove for researchers. For patients, the question is what to make of this information and whether to seek it out when choosing a physician or making an important medical decision.”
The Washington Post on Sunday published a page one story, written by ProPublica, asserting that CMS “has failed to properly monitor safety” in the Medicare prescription drug program. According to the article, “An analysis of four years of Medicare prescription records shows that some doctors and other health professionals across the country prescribe large quantities of drugs that are potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive for their patients. Federal officials have done little to detect or deter these hazardous prescribing patterns.” However, the article notes, that “officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say the job of monitoring prescribing falls to the private health plans that administer the program, not the government. Congress never intended for CMS to second-guess doctors – and didn’t give it that authority, officials said.”
The new issue of The Economist featured an article on “The Health Paradox.” The article reported, “As public health spending continues to grow, it threatens to widen America’s deficit and eclipse other public programmes, such as infrastructure and education. Nearly every politician, regardless of party, agrees that this is dangerous. On the local level, however, the mood is rather different. The trillions spent on health care do not disappear into the ether, but support hospitals, drug companies, insurers, nursing homes, information-technology firms and the millions of people they employ. Health spending may be disastrous for America’s economic future; for many local economies, it is a boon.”
Monday’s Federal Register contains a proposed change to the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant of Synethtic Nucleic Acid Molecules, intended to streamline review of certain human gene transfer trials that present a low biosafety risk. Comments are being accepted until June 12th. Specifically, the NIH is proposing “to remove the requirement that institutional biosafety committees (IBCs) review and approve certain human gene transfer clinical trials that use plasmids and certain attenuated, non-integrating viral vectors, provided the clinical trial follows an initial study in humans that was previously approved” by an appropriately registered IBC.
The New York Times on Monday featured an article about hospital mergers and their impact on access to reproductive services, including abortions. According to the article, “…a wave of proposed and completed mergers between secular and Roman Catholic hospitals, which are barred by church doctrine from performing procedures that could harm the unborn, is raising the prospect that unelected health care administrators could go where politicians could not.” Discussing the situation in Washington State, the article reported, “The concentration of mergers here…is particularly pronounced. If all the proposed religious and secular combinations go through, almost half of the hospital beds in the state – the highest percentage in the nation, and up from less than a third at the beginning of last year – would be controlled by the Catholic health systems…” Washington is the only state to have approved abortion rights through the ballot and the state legislature appears likely to pass legislation this week “requiring health insurers to pay for elective abortions, another first for the state if it makes it to [the governor’s] desk.” Another area of contention is the state’s physician-assisted suicide law for terminally ill people, which was also adopted by referendum.
An article in Saturday’s issue of Chicago Tribune discussed a state legislative battle over legislation to allow psychologists to prescribe certain drugs for treating mental health issues. The physician workforce shortage, especially in rural areas, is giving the legislation some traction.
The Texas House on Friday rejected a legislative proposal concerning the location of a proposed medical school to be created as part of a proposed “new mega university in the Rio Grande Valley.” An earlier agreement left the decision on the location of the school in the hands of the Texas regents.
Leonard Ross, PhD, died on May 10 at the age of 85. Dr. Ross was provost of Hahneman University, and dean of the Hahnemann University School of Medicine. He also served as dean of the combined Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University before they were absorbed by Drexel. He was an anatomist and had earlier served on the faculty of UAB and Cornell.
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