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February 27, 2006

2006

February 27, 2006

HEADLINE

ATS to Survey New Procedure Codes for Ventilator Management

The ATS, in conjunction with our sister societies, is conducting a survey of a new set of procedure codes to describe ventilator management services provided in  the hospital, nursing home and home setting.  Physicians who provide ventilator management services to patients are encouraged to participate in a web-based survey to help establish the relative value units for these newly developed ventilator management codes.  The relative value units play an essential role in setting the Medicare reimbursement rate for the new codes. 

The follow four new codes were recently approved by the American Medical Association Current Procedural Terminology Committee (AMA CPT Committee) to better describe the types of ventilator management services being provided to patients:

9465X1 - Ventilation assist and management, initiation of pressure or volume preset ventilators for assisted or controlled breathing; hospital inpatient/observation; initial

9465X2 - hospital inpatient/observation, each subsequent day

9465X3 - nursing facility, per day

9465X4 - Home ventilator management care plan oversight of a patient (patient not present) in home, domiciliary or rest home (eg, assisted living) requiring the review of status, review of laboratories and other studies and revision of orders and respiratory care plan (as appropriate), within a calendar month, 30 minutes or more.

The survey process will start March 1 and will extend through March 15.  If you perform ventilator management services and are interested in participating in the survey effort, please contact Gary Ewart in the ATS Washington Office for further details.  Mr. Ewart can be reached at (202) 785-3355 or via email at gewart@thoracic.org.

ASBESTOS

National Settlement Legislation Stalled in Senate

Legislation to create an national administrative claims system for asbestos-related disease compensation lost a key procedural vote in the Senate by a narrow margin, severely reducing the chances the legislation will be passed by the Senate this year.  The bill came two votes shy of the needed 60 votes to pass a budget point of order.  Eleven Republicans joined 30 Democrats in voting against the legislation.  Supporters of the legislation note that Sen. Akaka (D-HI) – a supporter of the asbestos bill – was absent during the vote, so the legislation is one vote away from passing the point of order vote.  Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) expressed his support for the bill and intent to bring the bill up again for consideration.

TUBERCULOSIS

Global Plan to Stop TB Released

On January 27, a new plan designed to outline strategies to combat global TB was released.  The Global Plan to Stop TB, 2006-2015 is a comprehensive assessment of the action and resources needed to implement the Stop TB strategy and make an impact on the global TB burden. 

For more information about the Global Plan to Stop TB, 2006-2015, please go to:

http://www.stoptb.org/globalplan.

TOBACCO

VirginiaSenatePasses , Then Virginia Assembly Kills Public Smoking Ban Legislation

This month, the Commonwealth of Virginia came a step closer to joining the list of states that have enacted legislation banning smoking in public places.  The Virginia Senate passed legislation banning smoking in most public places, including restuarants.  Attention then moved to the Virginia Assembly where the legislation was effectively killed in committee.  Newly elected Democrat Gov. Tim Kaine expressed opposition to the legislation. 

CLEAN AIR

EPA to Field Hearings on Proposed Particulate Matter Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will hold field hearing to collect public input on the recently proposed EPA rules for controlling fine (PM 2.5) and coarse (PM10-2.5) particulate air pollution.  The field hearings will take place Wednesday, March 8 at: 

Chicago - Hyatt Regency

151 E. Wacker Dr.
(312) 565-1234

Philadelphia - Holiday Inn Historic District,

400 Arch St.
(215) 923-8660

San Francisco - Courtyard Marriot 299 Second St. (415) 947-0700

The EPA is proposing a new national stand for particulate matter of:

  • 15 µ/m3 average annual exposure
  • 35 µ/m3 24-hour exposure

The proposed standard represents a tightening of the 24-hour standard, but does not change the current average annual standard.  The ATS feels strongly the proposed standards are far less stringent than justified by current research.  Since the standards were first established in 1997, hundreds of scientific studies have documented serious adverse health effects at levels well below standards that the EPA has now proposed. Adverse health effects include low-birth weight, increased emergency room use, increased heart attack rates and premature death.

For fine particulate matter, the ATS supports a more stringent standard of:

  • 12 µ/m3 annual average exposure
  • 25 µ/m3 24-hour exposure

Additionally, the EPA is proposing PM10-2.5 rule that applies to urban areas only.  The proposed rule would exempt all rural areas and any coarse thoracic particle emissions for mining and agricultural activities.  The ATS supports a national rule with no exemptions.

Representatives of the ATS will testify at each of the three field hearings.  If you are also interested in reserving time to speak at the field hearing, please contact Tricia Crabtree at EPA.  Ms. Crabtree can be reached at (919) 541-5688 or via email at crabtree.tricia@epa.gov

RESEARCH

ATS Honors Dr. David Schwartz on Capitol Hill

On February 8, the American Thoracic Society and the Friends of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Coalition hosted a congressional reception for Dr. David Schwartz, Director of the NIEHS.   The reception was an opportunity to introduce Dr. Schwartz to Capitol Hill.  Over 100 people attended the reception, including members of Congress, congressional staff and members of the environmental health community.  In addition, ATS’ President, Dr. Peter Wagner and Immediate Past President, Dr. Sharon Rounds, attended the reception to support, Dr. Schwartz, who is an ATS member.

During the reception, Dr. Schwartz highlighted the new NIEHS initiative entitled the Genes and Environment Initiative (GEI). The GEI is a research effort at NIH to combine a type of genetic analysis and environmental technology development to understand the causes of common diseases. GEI will have two main components: a laboratory procedure for efficiently analyzing genetic variation in groups of patients with specific illnesses and a technology development program to devise new ways of monitoring personal environmental exposures that interact with genetic variations and result in human diseases.

For more information about the GEI, please go to: 

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/oc/news/gei.htm

HHS Secretary Testifies about FY07 Health Initiatives

On February 15, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Mike Leavitt testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the health budget priorities for fiscal year 2007 (FY07).  Secretary Leavitt stated, “[t]the FY07 budget protects the health of Americans against the threats of both bioterrorism and a possible influenza pandemic; provides care for those most in need; protects life, family and human dignity; enhances the long-term health of our citizens; and improves the human condition around the world.� 

In addition, Secretary Leavitt reiterated the Administration’s commitment to medical research and public health programs of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  However, Secretary Leavitt stated that in order to attain the Administration’s goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, HHS had to make tough choices. Responding to criticism about the level funding or cuts to research and public health programs, Secretary Leavitt said, “[w]hen there are fewer resources available, someone has to decide that it is better to do one thing rather than another, or to put more resources toward one goal instead of another.� He stated that HHS reduced or eliminated funding for programs whose purposes are duplicative of those addressed in other agencies.

Also during the hearing, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) stressed the importance of reforming reimbursement to physicians, noting that Congress cannot simply continue to delay cuts to the physician fee schedule and that reform to the payment system must occur. Secretary Michael Leavitt agreed to work with Chairman Barton on the reform initiatives. Secretary Leavitt also indicated that he would like to see a shift to a system of payment based on performance.

To read Secretary Leavitt’s full testimony, please go to:

http://www.hhs.gov/asl/testify/t060215a.html 

COPD

COPD Information Added to NIHSeniorHealth Website

On January 30, information about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) was added to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website designed especially for seniors. NIHSeniorHealth is a joint effort of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). It features age-related data for seniors who surf the web for their health and medical information. 

The new COPD information provides information about the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, Director of the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood stated, “[t]he new COPD topic on NIHSeniorHealth is an excellent source of information that will benefit older adults at risk.�

The ATS welcomes the news that COPD information was added to the NIHSeniorHealth website.  For more information, please go to:

http://nihseniorhealth.gov.



Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator