Stop-Smoking Coverage Expanded
Physicians will be reimbursed for counseling any Medicare patient about smoking cessation, not just those with tobacco-related illness, under new guidelines approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Previously, a patient needed to at least show signs of illness related to smoking before Medicare would pay. Now, any smoker covered by Medicare can have up to eight smoking cessation sessions per year from a physician or another Medicare-recognized health practitioner, CMS said. American Medical Association President Cecil Wilson applauded the coverage expansion. “This expansion of coverage takes an important step toward helping Medicare patients lead healthier, tobacco-free lives,” he said in a statement.
Court Will Not Block Generic Lovenox
A U.S. District Court judge has refused to grant a motion for preliminary injunction against a generic version of Lovenox (enoxaparin sodium injection) that was filed by Lovenox maker Sanofi Aventis. In July, the Food and Drug Administration approved a generic version made by Sandoz Inc. Sanofi immediately sued the FDA and also sought an injunction to withdraw the approval. The Lovenox maker has not said yet whether it will appeal the judge's decision, but according to the Wall Street Journal, two other companies, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, have also applied for approval to market a generic version of Lovenox.
CMS Okays Pritikin, Ornish
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said that it will now pay for Medicare enrollees who participate in the Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease and the Pritikin Program (also known as the Pritikin Longevity Program). Cardiac rehabilitation has been a covered benefit since 1982, but a new Part B benefit was more recently established for Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation. The Pritikin and Ornish programs fall within that new benefit.
Consumers Wary of Drug Influence
Almost 70% of Americans who take prescription drugs believe that drug makers have too much influence over doctors when it comes to those prescriptions, and 50% believe that doctors prescribe drugs even when a person's condition could be managed without medication. The data are the result of a Consumer Reports magazine poll. On the basis of the survey of more than 1,150 adults, the magazine asserted that 51% of Americans don't think their doctors consider patients' ability to pay for prescribed drugs, 47% think gifts from pharmaceutical companies influence doctors' drug choices, 41% think their doctors tend to prescribe newer and more expensive drugs, and 20% have asked for a drug they've seen advertised. In those cases, 59% of the respondents said their doctors prescribed what they requested.
First EHR Certifying Bodies Named
A nonprofit organization dedicated to health information technology and a software-testing lab have been chosen as the first two bodies to officially test and certify electronic health record (EHR) systems for the federal government. The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology and the Drummond Group can immediately begin certifying EHR systems as HHS-compliant, the Department of Health and Human Services said in an announcement. Now that HHS has named the certifying organizations, vendors can start applying for certification of their EHR systems and physicians soon should be able to purchase certified products, the HHS said.
Outcomes Research Funded
HHS will provide grants totaling nearly $17 million for “patient-centered outcomes research” (PCOR), which focuses on treatments and strategies that might improve health outcomes from the patient's point of view. Most of the announced grants will support outcomes research in primary care, HHS said. As part of the grant program, five health organizations will attempt to show that providers and academic institutions can partner on PCOR. Each organization – in Illinois, California, New York, Massachusetts, and Oregon – will receive about $2 million over 3 years to create a national network for evaluating the patient-centered approach in patient populations that are not always adequately represented in other studies, according to HHS.
AMA Opposes Tax Change
The American Medical Association and 90 medical organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians, have written to the Department of the Treasury urging it not to allow trial lawyers to deduct court costs and other expenses. Making such a change to tax law could encourage trial lawyers to file more claims, the organizations claimed. “Even though a substantial majority of claims are dropped or decided in favor of physicians, the cost of defending against meritless claims averages over $22,000,” their letter said. The organizations urged the treasury department to reconsider rumored plans to change current policy, which does not allow such tax deductions.