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February 2, 2007

2007

February 2, 2007

HEADLINE

House Passes FY07 Funding Measure – Increases NIH Funding

In a victory for health research and services, the House of Representatives this week approved a $2.3 billion increase for health and education programs, including the NIH, over last year’s funding level. The bill includes a $620 million increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  This funding boost will allow NIH to create a new $40 million program to support innovative research and provides $91 million for grants to new investigators. Under the funding resolution, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is also slated to receive a $100 million increase. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a parallel measure.  The Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations fiscal year 2007 funding resolution now goes to the Senate for consideration next week.  The ATS Washington office will alert members when their action is needed to support this increased funding for health research and services.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

CMS Public Comment Pulmonary Rehabilitation Coverage Ends Friday

Last week, ATS, ACCP, AACVPR and NAMDRC submitted comments on CMS National Coverage Analysis public comment period in support of establishing a national coverage policy for pulmonary rehabilitation.  The joint comments responded to a number of questions posed by CMS, including: 

  • What is an appropriate definition of pulmonary rehabilitation;
  • What are the components of pulmonary rehabilitation;
  • Is pulmonary rehabilitation conducted similarly in all settings;
  • What are patient outcomes for pulmonary rehabilitation?
  • Is there adequate evidence, including clinical trials, for evaluating health outcomes of pulmonary rehabilitation in the Medicare population?

Several patient organizations submitted comments that supported the ATS position.  A final decision is expected from CMS in September, 2007.

CLEAN AIR

EPA Staff Recommends Tightening Ozone Standard

This week, EPA professional staff issued a “staff options paper” which called for a tightening of the existing National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone.  The staff paper stated the current standard (0.08ppm averaged over eight hours) is not protective of public health and recommended tightening the standard anywhere between 0.080 to 0.060ppm.  Additionally the staff paper recommended the addition of 3rd significant digit in the ozone measurement. 

ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee member Dorr Dearborn, M.D., in speaking to reporters regarding the EPA staff paper said, "I am pleased EPA staff have seen the need to lower the standards."  The ATS has submitted formal comments to EPA in support of tightening the standard to 0.060ppm and adding the significant digit for measurement purposes.

Ozone is a regulated pollutant under the Clean Air Act and the EPA is required by law to review the existing standard every five years and amend the standard when necessary to protect the public health.  The current standard has been in place since 1997.

CLINICAL PRACTICE

AMA and ATS to Conduct Physician Practice Information Survey

The American Medical Association (AMA) with the support of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and more than 60 other medical specialty societies will begin conducting a multi-specialty survey of America’s physician practices beginning in 2007.  The purpose of the survey is to collect up-to-date information on physician practice characteristics in order to develop and redefine AMA and ATS policy.  Data related to professional practice expenses will also be collected.  The AMA and ATS will survey thousands of physicians over the year from virtually all physician specialties to ensure accurate and fair representation for all physicians and their patients.

During the year 2007, you may be contacted by the Gallup Organization to participate in this study.  We encourage your participation in this survey, as the data obtained will be a critical source of information for the AMA and ATS.   Should you be called upon to contribute, your participation ensures that the information collected will represent you and your patients’ concerns to national policy-makers.  Please watch for this survey in 2007 and do your part in completing it in a thorough and accurate manner.



Points of Contact

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