A Medical Device Daily

During this week's Lung Cancer Alliance Advocacy Conference, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) introduced S.Res. 408 for Senate consideration. Congressman Clay Shaw (R-Florida) introduced H.Res. 739, a similar resolution, in the House of Representatives. Both resolutions ask the president to declare lung cancer a national public health priority.

Laurie Fenton, president of The Lung Cancer Alliance (Washington), praised the legislation as historic, saying that for the first time “we have the House and Senate recognizing that lung cancer is not a political issue, rather, it's a major public health epidemic affecting smokers and non-smokers. This must be addressed as a disease – not a punishment.“

The bipartisan effort calls for a 50% reduction in lung cancer's high mortality rate by 2015. It lays out multi-agency action emphasizing the need for a coordinated approach among federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Department of Defense.

The Lung Cancer Alliance emphasizes that lung cancer “is under-funded and under-researched. Only $1,829 is spent per lung cancer death, the least amount of cancer research dollars per death for the nation's leading cancer killer. By comparison, breast cancer research receives $23,474 per estimated death, and prostate cancer receives $14,369.“

Hagel's state will be the first in the nation to initiate a statewide screening program for lung cancer.

“Over 900 Nebraskans will die from lung cancer in 2006,“ he said. “We have made great advances in breast and prostate cancer survival rates. We must commit ourselves to making the same progress in lung cancer.“

Senator Clinton noted that lung cancer is now killing nearly twice as many women as breast cancer and that despite gains in cancer treatment, “we have made far too little progress in addressing lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in our nation.“

Shaw, a lung cancer survivor, has been a leading spokesman for lung cancer in the House of Representatives. Recently he sent a letter signed by 73 members of both parties of the House asking the National Cancer Institute about its 2015 target for “ending the pain and death from all cancer.“

“That cannot be done,“ said Shaw, “if we continue to under-fund research and early diagnosis in the biggest cancer killer.“

Barr: patients must 'own' health information

Former Georgia congressman and U.S. attorney Bob Barr has called for “clear language“ from the government stating that the patient owns his or her own medical information – important, he says, for avoiding the access of proposed electronic health records by anyone who might want it.

Writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Barr said that since 9/11 “the federal government is using the excuse of 'protecting us from acts of terrorism' to snatch what little privacy we might have.“

He said that the Bush administration “is pushing“ Congress to consider legislation that would require doctors and those who create, develop and maintain medical records to follow uniform federal standards. The standards would allow the creation of a National Health Information Network, which would house the “health records on virtually every person receiving healthcare,“ according to Barr.

Support for the idea, he said, comes from those who would use a single electronic system of health information to fend off possible bioterror attacks. But he says that such a system “would be the death knell of private medical information in America“ because it would be impossible to keep patient medical records from being accessed by “every company out there with even the most remote claim to having something to do with healthcare.“ These would include employers, banks and law enforcement agencies.

Thus, he says that patients and citizens must “demand“ clear language in federal legislation that “it is the patient who owns his or her medical information.“

Budgeting 'backwards' for home nursing care

Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association (Washington), said at a recent briefing that the 2007 budget plan proposed by President George Bush would make the quality of nursing home care “go backwards.“

The plan includes $36 billion in Medicare spending reductions, such as a zero market basket update for skilled nursing homes in FY 2007 and the elimination of reimbursements to providers for uncompensated care.

The Senate budget resolution approved earlier this year does not include the Medicare spending reductions, and the House has not voted on a budget resolution. Yarwood said that the Medicare spending reductions in large part would affect the wages of nursing home employees and would limit planned technological advances, such as the implementation of information technology systems.

At the briefing, Toni Fatone, executive vice president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said that the Bush budget plan also would limit the amount of federal funds states receive through state taxes on long-term care providers. The plan would reduce the maximum rate of the provider tax from 6% to 3%, Fatone said, adding that many states need revenue from the tax to maintain their Medicaid programs.