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August 2, 2000

Top Stories:

1. AMA takes fight for patients' rights to floor of Republican convention

2. World Health Organization blasts Big Tobacco

Federation News:

3. ASCO battles HCFA proposal that would severely disrupt patient care

4. ISMS speaks out against death penalty

5. MSSNY keeps up fight against physician profiling bill

6. AAO pursues legislation to fight glaucoma

7. MSMA helps physicians recover

Public Health:

8. AMA seeks consumer attitudes about genetics

9. JAMA to release theme issue during world tobacco conference

10. Billboard ban doesn't deter tobacco industry


11. AMA Group Practice Office seeks nominations, requests input

12. News Fact

Top stories:

1. AMA takes fight for patients' rights to floor of Republican convention

The AMA is reminding Republican delegates and party leaders that if a real patients' bill of rights is good enough for Texas Gov. George Bush, it should be good enough for them. On the convention floor, the AMA is using a selectronic billboard (32 TV screens put together to make a big screen) to say, "Senate GOP: pass a REAL patients' bill of rights." The ad appears every five minutes and runs 19 hours a day.

"We'll take our case to anyone, anywhere, anytime," said D. Ted Lewers, MD, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees. "We will be relentless in our pursuit of this legislation until they pass a real patients' bill of rights."

The AMA has been campaigning for Senate passage of the Norwood-Dingell patients' rights bill that an overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives passed last year with 275 votes. Recent votes indicate that meaningful patients' rights legislation is within one vote of approval in the Senate.

In the meantime, the AMA and other groups are aggressively pushing for action by Congress after the August recess.

The AMA believes that a real patients' bill of rights must:

  • Allow physicians to make medical decisions -- not insurance companies;

  • Hold health plans accountable when they make decisions that hurt patients;

  • Allow patients an independent, timely appeal if care is delayed or denied; and

  • Protect all Americans covered by managed care plans -- not just some.

In a recent national poll, 81 percent of registered voters said they favor patient protections similar to those in the Norwood-Dingell bill. The poll -- by The Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health -- also found that health care has emerged as the top voting issue for 44 percent of all voters, more than the economy, crime, jobs or education.

"The insurance industry is spending a fortune to kill this bill, but we believe the Senate will put patients first and address the only special interest that really counts -- the needs of the American people," Dr. Lewers said.

Click here for more news from the AMA in Washington


2. World Health Organization blasts Big Tobacco

Amid the buildup toward the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health (WCTOH), the World Health Organization (WHO) today released a 248-page report that claims Big Tobacco engaged in a "global strategies to discredit and impede WHO's ability to carry out its mission."

The report was conducted by an independent panel of experts assembled by WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland, MD, who will give the opening address at the WCTOH, hosted by the AMA, American Cancer Society and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The WHO report cites evidence that the tobacco industry systematically tried to discredit and stop the development of WHO to combat tobacco use in Third World countries. The report also quotes from a wealth of tobacco industry documents that discuss the need to "allocate the resources to stop [WHO] in their tracks," and "work with journalists to question WHO priorities, budget, role in social engineering, etc."

The report's authors, Thomas Zeltner, MD; David A. Kessler, MD; Anke Martiny, MD; and Fazel Randera, MD; urged the WHO to increase public awareness of tobacco company influence on international control policies.

For a related story, read the Aug. 2 USA Today

The 11th WCTOH runs from Aug. 6-11.


Federation news:

3. ASCO battles HCFA proposal that would severely disrupt patient care

The American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) wants to ensure Medicare patients can continue to receive chemotherapy in the setting of their choice. However, a recent HCFA proposal to decrease reimbursement for chemotherapy drugs would override existing congressional policy and create a situation where physicians will no longer have adequate resources to provide their patients in-office chemotherapy.

ASCO is telling legislators, HCFA officials and White House staff that if HCFA's proposed rule goes forward, patients will be forced to seek care elsewhere -- significantly interrupting their medical treatment and personal care. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the resulting flood of patients to hospitals that would result as a consequence of the rule could be handled by existing hospital resources.

ASCO encourages the Federation to ask:

  • HCFA to withdraw its proposal to insurance carriers until a study of the full ramifications of its proposal on the delivery of cancer care can be completed; and

  • Congress to mandate that a study of the ramifications of the proposal be completed before any change in drug reimbursement is contemplated.

Furthermore, ASCO actively supports language calling for such a study proposed by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R, Conn.). The legislation is scheduled to be addressed by Congress in September.

"If HCFA is not willing to withdraw the proposal pending completion of studies, we support and will actively work for legislation that would bar HCFA from implementing the plan," said Joseph S. Bailes, MD, ASCO immediate past president.

Without action, HCFA's revised reimbursement policy is expected to go into effect Oct. 1.

For more information, visit the ASCO Grassroots Center home page


4. ISMS speaks out against death penalty

Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) President LeRoy Sprang, MD, testified today for an end to physician involvement in executions. Dr. Sprang was part of a large contingent of public leaders who spoke at the Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment in Chicago.

"Active physician participation in an execution is a violation of the ethical standards of the profession," said Dr. Sprang.

Dr. Sprang was joined by representatives from Amnesty International, the Council of Religious Leaders, the United Church of Christ, the Chicago Archdiocese, the Chicago Council of Lawyers, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and the Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project.

Read the ISMS news release


5. MSSNY keeps up fight against physician profiling bill

The Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) is pulling out all stops to try and prevent Gov. George Pataki from signing two bills that will negatively change the liability landscape for New York's physicians.

In a flurry of electronic and fax communications, MSSNY is having its members use its grassroots advocacy Web site, which has a "pop-up" letter for physicians to sign and send to the governor.

MSSNY wants Gov. Pataki to reject:

  • A physician profiling bill that would establish an unfair airing of both settled and awarded amounts of suits against physicians; and

  • A contingency fee bill that would eliminate the statutory limitation on contingency fees for attorneys for all medical, dental and podiatric malpractice actions. The current sliding scale schedule was enacted in 1976 in response to the medical liability crisis that existed at that time.

"We want the governor to reject this misguided legislation, and we want to make it as streamlined as possible for our members to voice their opinions," said Charles M. Aswad, MD, MSSNY executive director.

For more information, e-mail MSSNY's Mike Murphy or phone (518) 465-8085.


6. AAO pursues legislation to fight glaucoma

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) wants Congress to help save the eyesight of approximately 20 percent of the Medicare population. AAO is supporting legislation (HR 2620) it helped write with Reps. Mark Foley (R, Fla.) and John Lewis (D, Ga.) that would provide a glaucoma detection eye examination every two years for Medicare-eligible patients, 60 or more years-old, with a family history of the disease.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States and is the number one cause of irreversible blindness in African-Americans, so to let such a void continue would be a travesty," said Catherine Cohen, AAO vice president of governmental affairs.

AAO will try to include HR 2620 in Medicare reform legislation when it is considered later this year. Currently, the bill has 22 cosponsors.

For more information, e-mail AAO's Sandra Remey, or phone (202) 737-6662.


7. MSMA helps physicians recover

The Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) believes the carrot is mightier than the stick when it comes to helping physicians battle addiction. Since 1998, MSMA and the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure have run the Mississippi Recovering Physicians Program, a confidential treatment program for physicians who come forward voluntarily with alcohol or drug addictions.

MSMA believes physicians are more likely to seek help if they know they won't immediately face sanctions or be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

Mississippi is one of only nine states that does not place its physicians, who are battling addiction, on public Web sites. However, physicians will be reported if they suffer a relapse.

"We want to allow physicians the chance to get the help they need without having to fear for their professional lives," said William Roberts, MSMA executive director.

Sixty physicians went through the program in the past year.

For more information, e-mail MSMA's Karen Evers or phone (601) 853-6733.


Public health:

8. Production problems may lead to flu vaccine shortage

The AMA currently is conducting a survey on public attitudes toward genetic medicine including genetic testing for inheritable diseases, and it seeks your participation through a short survey.

Current advancements in science are making genetic medicine an important issue for physicians and their patients. This June, an international team of scientists from both the private and the public sectors announced a completed rough draft of the human genome. As scientists move forward with the human genome project, more applications toward clinical medicine will become available.

While the possibility of getting individual genomes sequenced is still many years away, finding out more about consumer attitudes now can help the AMA as it prepares materials and resources for physicians on genetic medicine.

Take the consumer attitude survey


9. JAMA to release theme issue during world tobacco conference

Tobacco use by college students, a successful tobacco control program aimed at youth, validating the federal estimates of deaths caused by smoking, and the risks of cigar smoking will be among the new research presented in the upcoming JAMA theme issue on tobacco. A media briefing will be held Aug. 8 during the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health.

AMA President Randolph D. Smoak Jr., MD, will be joined at the briefing by JAMA Editor Catherine D. DeAngelis, MD, and:

  • Nancy Rigotti, MD, director, Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, Massachusetts General Hospital;

  • Ursula Bauer, PhD, chronic disease epidemiologist, Florida Department of Health;

  • Michael Thun, MD, vice president, Department of Epidemiology and Surveillance Research, American Cancer Society; and

  • Frank Baker, MD, vice president for behavioral research, American Cancer Society.

For more information, e-mail the AMA's Jim Michalski


10. Billboard ban doesn't deter tobacco industry

The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between state attorneys general and the tobacco industry was supposed to influence the ways Big Tobacco markets its products. However, research conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) reveals tobacco marketeers have simply shifted their strategy and their dollars.

The findings indicate tobacco companies have increased their point-of-purchase exposure by using interior and exterior advertising of tobacco products, promotions -- including multi-pack discounts, and branded functional objects, such as clocks and shopping baskets.

"We know that, like advertising and promotional strategies used in publications with high youth readerships, the point-of-purchase environment has high levels of youth exposure and is likely to influence youth perceptions and use of tobacco," said Frank Chaloupka, UIC professor of economics and the study's lead researcher.

Read the full UIC study
Note: You will need to use Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the study.



11. AMA Group Practice Office seeks nominations, requests input

The AMA Office of Group Practice Liaison is seeking nominations to the AMA Advisory Committee on Group Practice Physicians. The advisory committee, comprised of 10 group practice physicians, advises the AMA Board of Trustees and oversees the newly created Group Practice Caucus. Comments and suggestions for the committee are welcome at any time.

On Dec. 2, the caucus will meet at the AMA Interim Meeting in Orlando, Fla. to discuss the issues important to the group practice community.

Nominees to the committee should be practicing group practice physicians who are AMA members and active in organized medicine. The committee's charter runs from July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2002 and the committee meets prior to the Interim and Annual meetings. The AMA pays travel and meeting expenses.

Nominations -- including a letter of recommendation, candidate's curriculum vitae and information about his or her group or faculty practice -- must be received by Aug. 18 in the Office of Group Practice Liaison, American Medical Association, 515 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois 60610.

For more information, or to send comments to the advisory committee, e-mail Keri Bahar or phone (312) 464-4062.


12. News Fact

More than 15 million children are exposed to secondhand smoke at home each year, which costs the U.S. health care system as much as $4 billion, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids


External links to Web sites and e-mail addresses are offered to provide readers with additional sources of news and information. The AMA is not responsible for the content contained in these external sources.

If you have any questions regarding this newsletter, or if you have difficulty opening the attached files, please e-mail Daniel Blaney-Koen or call (312) 464-4415.

Last updated: Aug 02, 2000

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