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October 30, 2006

2006

October 30, 2006

HEADLINE

ATS Urges Attorney General to Appeal Remedies in the USA v. Philip Morris Case

This week, the American Thoracic Society joined several other tobacco control organizations in a letter to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales encouraging the Department of Justice to appeal the remedies provision in the recent federal court case USA v. Philips Morris.

As was reported previously, Federal court judge Gladys Kessler found the tobacco industry has violated the Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organization law (RICO) by engaging in a decade long campaign of deceptive practices to sell tobacco products.  These violations include: hiding from the public the known health effects of tobacco, deliberately manipulating nicotine content to enhance the addictive powers of tobacco products, and intentionally marketing tobacco products to children. 

In her strongly worded opinion against the tobacco industry, Judge Kessler stated she was prevented from issuing other more forceful corrective actions, such as financial fines, by a previous appellate decision of the court regarding this case. 

The goal of the letter to Attorney General Gonzales is to appeal the remedies section to include a more comprehensive set of remedies against the tobacco industry.  The letter specifically calls for:  ·         A well-funded, sustained, national smoking cessation program to help the nation’s 47 million smokers to quit.

·         Significant financial penalties if the tobacco companies continue to market to our children and fail to achieve targets to reduce youth smoking rates.

·         A national public education and counter-marketing campaign to correct more than 50 years of tobacco industry lies and prevent future deception.

·         An independent, court-appointed monitor charged with supervising the implementation of the remedies ordered by the Court.

PHYSICIAN PRACTICE

ATS Signs Letter to CMS Protesting Split-Shared Policy

This week, the ATS joined over 40 other medical professional organizations in a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expressing concern with Medicare’s recent policy prohibiting split-shared billing for consultation services.  Split-shared billing describes when a physician and a qualified non-physician practitioner with Medicare billing privileges jointly provide and bill for a consultation service.  Prior to 2005, Medicare had reimbursed split-shared billing for consultation services.  However, in December 2005, CMS issued a transmittal that prohibited split-shared billing for consultation services.

The letter signed by the physician organizations notes that CMS had previously allowed for split-shared billing and that the recent prohibition is not supported by Medicare law or regulations.  The letter also points out that prohibiting split-shared billing for consultation services does not reflect the growing trend of team-based medicine. 

CLEAN AIR

Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Recommends Lower Ozone Level

In October, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) - a public scientific advisory committee convened to provide technical guidance to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - recommended that EPA significantly tighten the current standard for ozone exposure.  In its letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, CASAC issued the follow key unanimous findings: ·         There is no scientific justification for retaining the current primary 8-hr NAAQS of 0.08 parts per million (ppm)

·         The primary 8-hr NAAQS needs to be substantially reduced to protect human health, particularly in sensitive subpopulations.

·         CASAC unanimously recommends a range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm for the primary ozone NAAQS.

·         The form of the ozone standard should be changed to measure ozone at parts per billion or equivalently to the third decimal place on the parts per million scale.

The recommendation closely adheres to the recommendations submitted by ATS during public hearings on the ozone standard setting process.

The CASAC comment letter is notable on three points.  First, in that the CASAC letter specifically states that retaining the current standard is not a viable policy option.  This statement contradicts a previous EPA staff report that suggested retaining the current standard of 0.08 ppm.  Secondly, the recommendations represent the unanimous position of all members of the CASAC panel.   Thirdly, the comment letter went to great lengths to dispel any notion that there is scientific uncertainty regarding the need to tighten the ozone standard.

It appears the CASAC panel is hoping to avoid the situation that occurred during the EPA standard setting process for particulate matter, where EPA Administrator Johnson retrained the existing standard for the annual particulate matter exposure, in contradiction to the CASAC panel’s recommendation.  Administrator Johnson justified his decision to ignore CASAC recommendations due to “scientific uncertainty” and because CASAC particulate matter recommendation was not unanimous - being supported by only 20 of the 22 panel members. 



Points of Contact

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