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College calls for funds to combat bioterrorism

ACP-ASIM has urged Congress to give the CDC additional funding to prepare for a biological attack.

In a Sept. 26 letter to President George W. Bush, ACP-ASIM President William J. Hall, FACP, said that the United States is now more vulnerable to bioterrorism and must act to strengthen its response planning. The College expressed concern about the country's unpreparedness for a biological attack, which it said could result in an epidemic of diseases such as smallpox or anthrax. The problem would be especially difficult to solve if physicians could not correctly diagnose these conditions, most of which are foreign to them.

The College argued that because internists are familiar with infectious diseases, they are "well prepared to receive the additional training and education needed to deal with this menace." ACP-ASIM would like additional funding to be used to educate and train health care professionals.

ACP-ASIM has established an online Bioterrorism Resource Center (www.acponline.org/bioterro/index.html) with more information on bioterrorism.

The College's letter to the president is online at www.acponline.org/hpp/bioterrorist.htm.

New efforts needed to help uninsured

The College is supporting Congressional efforts to reduce the nation's uninsured population, particularly in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In an Oct. 8 letter to the members of Congress, ACP-ASIM President William J. Hall, FACP, applauded the proposed COBRA Plus Action of 2001 legislation. The bill would extend COBRA coverage by nine months and help subsidize part of the costs of that coverage through an individual tax credit.

Dr. Hall said that the College believes the legislation could reduce the number of uninsured and alleviate some financial burdens on individuals and families involved in the tragic events of Sept. 11.

In another letter sent to members of the House and Senate on Sept. 26, Dr. Hall said ACP-ASIM supports a Congressional budget resolution to establish a $28 billion reserve fund to extend health insurance. He suggested, however, that the funding be used to reach a broader set of goals.

In both letters, the College urged Congress to provide coverage for the parents of uninsured children through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) or Medicaid; to simplify enrollment in those programs; to provide transitional coverage for up to 24 months to Medicaid and S-CHIP enrollees who risk losing their benefits as they improve their economic situations; and to provide subsidies for individuals who have lost coverage because of changing economic conditions or unemployment because of disastrous events, such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Oct. 8 letter is online at www.acponline.org/hpp/reduce_uninsure.htm.

The Sept. 26 letter is online at www.acponline.org/hpp/health_access.htm.

Changes in payment, coding will boost immunizations

ACP-ASIM is urging the federal government to change its payment policy and simplify its coding requirements for administering vaccines.

In a Sept. 26 letter to Thomas Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the College said that such changes would encourage more providers to offer immunization services. The letter noted that many physicians refuse to offer immunizations because vaccine reimbursement does not cover their expenses.

The College asked CMS to update Medicare's physician fee schedule by assigning values to CPT codes 90471 and 90472. (The government created the codes to cover vaccine administrations, but it has not assigned any dollar value to them.)

In terms of coding policy, ACP-ASIM urged CMS to replace HCPCS codes G0008, G0009 and G0010 with CPT codes 90471 and 90472. This action, the College said, would simplify the coding process by placing Medicare more in line with "the majority of private insurance plans."

The College's letter is online at www.acponline.org/hpp/vaccine_pol.htm.

Needed: funds for system to report violent deaths

The College is urging Congress to give the CDC funding to create a national violent death reporting system.

In a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittees and the HHS Secretary, the College urged the federal government to appropriate at least $10 million for such a program.

By standardizing data collection, ACP-ASIM said, a national reporting system would help health researchers define the scope of the problem. Researchers would then be able to better evaluate interventions implemented by the criminal justice system, schools, social service agencies and health care providers.

The letter is online at www.acponline.org/hpp/nvd_reportsys.htm.

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