June 14, 2013

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Letters to Congress and the Administration
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AACP Advocacy Updates and Alerts

June 14, 2013 

United States Congress

House acts on appropriations bills: The House of Representatives has passed the appropriations bill that funds the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs programs for FY14. The VA programs include the medical and prosthetic research programs that are of interest to academic pharmacy. HR 2216 and the accompanying report 113-90 increase the medical and prosthetic research program by $2 billion above the FY13 amount of $43 billion.

The House Appropriations Committee passed the appropriations bill funding the US Department of Agriculture for FY14 on Thursday June 13, 2013. The House agriculture appropriations bill includes funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The subcommittee is considering an increase in funding for the FDA from $3.8 billion in FY13 to $4.2 billion in FY14.

Funding levels for some of the programs within both the MilCon/VA and Ag/FDA of interest to academic pharmacy are available on the AACP Advocacy appropriations tables Web page.

Accreditation in the hot seat: The House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce held a hearing on Thursday June 13, 2013. The hearing focused on the role of accreditation in higher education. From a federal perspective, accreditation provides both a quality improvement and a gate-keeping role. Institutions of higher education must be accredited by an agency recognized by the US Department of Education in order to receive federal student financial assistance. The subcommittee, chaired by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) heard from a panel that included regional accreditation agency representatives and two individuals recognized for their outspoken opponents of the current accreditation system.

In her opening statement, Chairwoman Foxx stated, “However, as our higher education system adapts to embrace 21st century technologies and changing student demographics, we must now explore whether the accreditation system is also due for reforms.” Committee member questions to the panel members indicated a lack of understanding and overall distrust of the current accreditation process. Many members agreed with the panelists that oppose current accreditation lacking value to institutions, students and the taxpayer.  Of greatest concern is the impression by committee members that accreditation:

  • does nothing to ensure or improve education quality;
  • is cloaked in mystery and is not transparent in its process;
  • is generally perceived among institutions of higher education as overly burdensome;
  • use of peer-review is unimportant to the process and is a conflict of interest for the institution and accreditor;
  • does not support innovation or evolving approaches to content delivery; and
  • is more focused on inputs than outcomes.

What do you think of the accreditation process? How would you respond to the impressions of the committee members? Feel free to confidentially share your thoughts with Will Lang at wlang@aacp.org.


Continued call for quality measure reform: In the June 7th Policy and Advocacy Update, a report from Urban Institute presented  recommendations moving health quality performance measures from process oriented to outcomes oriented outcomes. This week an article, authored by the Director Office of the National Coordinator, Farzad Mostashari, CMS Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway and AHRQ Director, Carolyn Clancy, called for a new approach to health quality outcomes measures. “The Future of Quality Measurement for Improvement and Accountability,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), reiterates the call for measures to move towards outcomes. The article recommends that new quality measures be aligned with the six domains presented in the National Quality Strategy and new measures developed and less effective measures discontinued that best meet the needs of patients, providers and payers. Inter-operable health information technology will be important in helping establish and monitor these new outcome measures.

Keeping medical devices safe: The Food and Drug Administration has published a set of draft guidelines intended to strengthen the capacity of medical devices to fend off cyber attacks. The FDA seeks public comment on the draft guidance which will establish requirements for manufacturers of medical devices to present in their premarket approval process. The guidance includes a statement of general principle: “Manufacturers should develop a set of security controls to assure medical device cybersecurity to maintain information confidentiality, integrity, and availability.”

Education moves on gainful employment: The US Department of Education is moving ahead with a discussion of gainful employment through the negotiated rule making process. This approach will possibly lead to a new set of rules related to how institutions of higher education meet government criteria aligned with employment statistics of graduates. Institutional compliance with these criteria would allow students attending these mostly for-profit institutions, to maintain access to federal financial assistance programs. The Department announced the establishment of a new negotiated rule making committee in the June 12, 2013 edition of the Federal Register. It appears that the Department will seek a new approach to gainful employment instead of challenging a court ruling striking parts of the final rule it implemented in 2010.

Annual FASFA verification list available: The June 13, 2013 edition of the Federal Register includes a notice for the US Department of Education. The notice lists the information and the data required to substantiate that information used for verification of certain components of the Free Application for Student Financial Assistance (FASFA). The Department is required to publish the information verification list on an annual basis. This notice meets that requirement for the 2014-2015 award year.

PCORI is seeking reviewers: The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) was established through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). An important and novel idea of PCORI is the input it seeks from a variety of stakeholders in order to meet the expectations of patient-centeredness. One of those stakeholder groups is scientists. Pharmacy faculty with interest and research portfolios that include health services research should participate as PCORI reviewers. The Web pages dedicated to PCORI reviewers include information for submitting your information to be considered as a PCORI reviewer

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