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U.S. Department of Education (DoE)

White House Unveils College Scorecard; Replaces Ratings Plan

The White House recently announced its new College Scorecard site that has replaced its college ratings plan.  The new site includes new information such as measurements of students’ earnings six and 10 years after they started at a college and data showing the proportion of the college’s students who are repaying their student loans.  However, most of the information on the new Scorecard is already available in existing federal databases, such as College Navigator.

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Education had receded on the proposed college ratings system tied to federal financial aid, and announced the release of a web-based consumer-facing tool for data intended to allow viewers to compare only two- and four-year institutions, including admissions information, student body make-up, cost of attendance, student earnings and loan repayment rates, and completion rates. 

AACOM had concerns with the now debunked college ratings plan and submitted comments expressing its concern with the implementation process of the system in terms of data, metrics, and the potential regulatory burden on educational institutions.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Mary Wakefield Named New HHS Acting Deputy Secretary

On 3/12/2015, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced that Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will serve as Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  In an announcement to departmental employees touting Wakefield’s accomplishments, Burwell stated, “She has improved access to health for millions of patients, strengthening America’s healthcare workforce, and modernized HRSA’s organizational infrastructure”.  Wakefield was appointed HRSA Administrator by President Obama in 2009 and will replace current Acting Deputy Secretary, Bill Coor, in April. HRSA Associate Administrator for Primary Health Care, Jim Macrae. MA, MPP, will serve as the Acting HRSA Administrator.

Senate Approves Dr. Vivek Murthy as U.S. Surgeon General

On 12/15/14, the U.S. Senate confirmed Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, by a vote of 51-43, as the nineteenth U.S. Surgeon General. Nominated in November 2013 by President Obama, Dr. Murthy succeeds Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, who resigned in July 2013; Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, had served as acting Surgeon General until Dr. Murthy’s confirmation. 

Prior to his confirmation, Dr. Murthy worked as an internal medicine attending physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and as an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

As U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Murthy is responsible for communicating the best available scientific information to the American public regarding ways to improve personal health and the health of the nation. He also oversees the operations of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, comprised of approximately 6,800 uniformed health officers who serve in locations around the world to promote, protect, and advance the health and safety of the U.S.

Burwell Sworn In as HHS Secretary

On 6/24/14, Sylvia Mathews Burwell was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden as the 22nd U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This follows Ms. Burwell’s Senate confirmation by a bipartisan vote of 78-17 on 6/5/14. Due to rule changes imposed by Senate Democrats, 51 votes in the Senate were required for Ms. Burwell’s confirmation as HHS Secretary.  Prior to the final vote on the Senate floor, Ms. Burwell’s nomination was approved by the Senate Finance Committee by a vote of 21-3 on 5/21/14. On 5/8/14, Ms. Burwell went before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee for a hearing; the Senate HELP Committee did not vote on Ms. Burwell’s nomination. Immediately preceding her appointment, Ms. Burwell was the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

Senate Approves Tavenner as CMS Administrator

On 5/15/13, the U.S. Senate confirmed Marilyn Tavenner by a vote of 91-7, as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). She is CMS's first Senate-confirmed administrator since 2006 and has served for more than a year as acting CMS administrator. President Obama on 2/7 re-nominated Tavenner to be CMS administrator. As the head of CMS, she is responsible not only for Medicare and Medicaid, but also for implementing the insurance reforms and exchanges, included in the Affordable Care Act.

Federal Advisory Committees/Councils

AACOM Government Relations Staff Attends COGME Meeting

AACOM government relations staff participated in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) meeting on March 12 and 13, 2015.  Attendees were welcomed by COGME Chair David Reines, MD, Professor of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University and Director of Continuing Medical Education at Inova Health System.  Keith Watson, DO, President, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences-College of Osteopathic Medicine, who AACOM nominated to serve on this committee, was appointed to COGME in the fall of 2010, and also participated in the meeting.

Meeting agenda topics included an agency update from Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, Administrator of Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA). Mark Miller, PhD, Executive Director of the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee (MedPAC) listed his group’s recommendations on financing Graduate Medical Education (GME) with an emphasis on a need for Congress to authorize the Secretary to change Medicare’s funding of GME to support the workforce skills needed in a delivery system that reduces cost growth while maintaining or improving quality. Participating COGME members also discussed their Twenty-Second Report that focuses on the role of graduate medical education in the new healthcare paradigm and their role as a Council in moving GME needs forward. For more information on COGME, please visit: http://www.hrsa.gov/advisorycommittees/bhpradvisory/cogme/.

AACOM Government Relations Staff Attends ACTPCMD Meeting

AACOM GR staff participated in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry (ACTPCMD) on Feburary 6, 2015. ACTPCMD advises and makes recommendations to the Secretary of HHS concerning policy, program development, and other matters concerning the HRSA Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr) family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, general dentistry, pediatric dentistry and physician assistant programs. Led by Caswell A. Evans, Jr, DDS, MPH, Chair of ACTPCMD, agenda items included an updated on the Primary Care Training and Enhancement Program by Sherrillyn Crooks, PA, and a discussion on the supply and demand of primary care physicians lead by Dr. George Zangaro, PhD, RN. Additionally, ACTPCMD reviewed the latest draft of its Twelfth Report to Congress, with emphasis on SMART objectives, incorporating faculty development into the curriculum, and the inclusion of medical students in future conversations involving rural health centers. Learn more about ACTPCMD.

AACOM Nominee Selected to Serve in USDE Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Title IV Loan Issues

On 1/28/15, Clair Jacobi, Director of Financial Aid at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYIT-COM), who AACOM nominated to serve on the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Title IV loan issues, was selected to serve.  Ms. Jacobi, who has worked in the financial aid industry for nearly 30 years, currently oversees NYIT-COM’s financial aid programs and provides oversight of compliance with all federal, state, and university regulations as they pertain to financial aid programs. 

The upcoming USDE Negotiated Rulemaking Committee will be tasked with preparing proposed regulations governing the Federal Direct Loan Program under the Higher Education Act.  Specifically, the committee will draft new regulations allowing additional Federal Direct Loan borrowers to cap repayments.  The regulations will allow more Direct Loan borrowers to become eligible for the administration's Pay-As-You-Earn income-based repayment program in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued on June 9, 2014.

GR Staff Attends National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity Meeting

On 12/11/14, AACOM GR staff participated in the meeting of the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). This committee advises the USDE Secretary on matters related to higher education accreditation, including the following: the recognition of specific accrediting agencies, associations, or specific state approval agencies; the eligibility and certification process for institutions of higher education under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA); and the enforcement of criteria for recognition of accrediting agencies or associations under Title IV of the HEA.

Convened by NACIQI Chair Susan D. Phillips, PhD, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at the University of Albany/State University New York (SUNY) and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the meeting opened with Ted Mitchell’s, USDE Undersecretary, welcoming remarks. Additionally, the committee discussed matters related to its draft policy recommendations to the USDE Secretary regarding the reauthorization of the HEA and reviewed several accrediting agencies per its standard review procedure. To learn more about NACIQI, visit http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/naciqi.html#purpose.

Department of Education Public Meeting on PAYE

On 10/23/2014, AACOM GR staff attended the first of two public hearings held by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a negotiated rulemaking effort to amend Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 on the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) loan repayment plan. Under Secretary of Education, Ted Mitchell PhD, provided opening remarks. His colleagues Lynn Mahaffie, Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education and Brian Siegel, Office of the General Counsel, joined him as a hearing panel. Among the list of 21 presenters in support of PAYE were student advocates from a coalition of 26 national organizations called Higher Ed Not Debt.  A petition begun by the coalition included more than 26,000 signatures. Other presenters represented Clemson University’s Office of Financial Aid, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Generation Progress, Corinthian Colleges, Americans for Financial Reform, Center for American Progress, American Medical Association, Champion College Services and the U.S. Students Association.

PAYE is a program which is part of a broad college affordability initiative aimed at helping students overcome the challenges of rising college costs, and ensuing student debt burden. It is also the goal of the administration to provide more robust loan counseling to borrowers. On 6/9/2014, a Presidential Memorandum was issued by the President, authorizing the Secretary of Education to expand the PAYE loan repayment program to more borrowers. The Secretary is responsible for selecting a rulemaking committee by December 2014 and is required to publish a final rule outlining specific changes to borrower eligibility by December 2015.

Under current law, borrowers who demonstrate a partial financial hardship qualify for PAYE and never pay more than 10% of their discretionary income based on a 10-year standard repayment plan. Any remaining balances after 20 years are forgiven. Currently, the program only applies to new borrowers who originated loans after September 30, 2007 and received a disbursement of a Direct Federal loan on or after October 1, 2011. The Presidential Memorandum would qualify all eligible borrowers for PAYE regardless of when the loans were originated. The loans eligible under PAYE include Direct Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans to graduate or professional students, and Direct Consolidation Loans that do not include PLUS Loans made to parents.

AACOM President and CEO Participates in VA NAAC Meeting

AACOM President and CEO Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH participated in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Academic Affiliations Council (NAAC) meeting on October 16 – 17, 2014, in Washington, DC.  AACOM Government Relations and Office of the President staff attended the meeting.  Dr. Shannon was appointed by former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in 2011 to serve on NAAC. Attendees were welcomed by Malcolm Cox, MD, NAAC Chair. Members then reviewed action plans developed by the Council earlier in the year, from which staff members from the VA Office of Academic Affiliations provided updates and status reports. The discussion primarily centered on the need for additional graduate medical education (GME) funding to increase the number of GME positions within the VA, in addition to improving veteran access health care in rural and underserved areas. The Council also deliberated on recommendations to provide to the VA Secretary regarding implementation of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), legislation signed into law this year which provides a comprehensive framework for improving veterans’ timely access to health care.

Additionally, on October 6, 2014, AACOM led a conference call discussion with the Veterans Health Administration Office of Academic Affiliations, which was cosponsored by the American Osteopathic Association and the Association of Osteopathic Directors and Medical Educators, regarding the new opportunity to expand the number of GME positions through passage of VACAA and its impact on the osteopathic medical education community. Please see the following link for further information regarding the call and to listen to the call recording: http://tinyurl.com/ked49uw.

For more information about NAAC, visit: http://www.va.gov/OAA/NAAC/index.asp.

AACOM GR Staff Attends ACTPCMD Meeting

On 9/15/2014, AACOM GR staff participated in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry (ACTPCMD).  ACTPCMD advises and makes recommendations to the Secretary of HHS concerning policy, program development, and other matters concerning the HRSA Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr) family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, general dentistry, pediatric dentistry and physician assistant programs.  Led by Caswell A. Evans, Jr., D.D.S., M.P.H., Chair of ACTPCMD, agenda items included the discussion of health literacy in the context of improving dental outcomes.  Also, Candice P. Chen, M.D., M.P.H. was introduced as the new Director of the HRSA Division of Medicine and Dentistry.  Additionally, ACTPCMD reviewed the latest draft of its Eleventh Report to Congress, and members agreed to move forward with next steps in submitting the report to the Secretary of HHS.  For further information about ACTPCMD, please visit:  http://www.hrsa.gov/advisorycommittees/bhpradvisory/actpcmd/About/index.html.

AACOM GR Staff Attends COGME Meeting

AACOM government relations staff participated in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) meeting on September 12, 2014.  Attendees were welcomed by COGME Chair David Reines, M.D., Professor of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University and Director of Continuing Medical Education at Inova Health System.  Keith Watson, D.O., President, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, who AACOM nominated to serve on this committee, was appointed to COGME in the fall of 2010.

Meeting agenda topics included an agency update from Jennifer Fiedelholtz, Acting Director of the Office of Workforce Development and Analysis at the HRSA Bureau of Health Workforce, where she discussed new federal funding opportunities and provided an update of various initiatives taking place throughout the Bureau of Health Workforce. Additionally, Candice P. Chen, M.D., M.P.H. was introduced to committee members as the new Director of the HRSA Division of Medicine and Dentistry. Participating COGME members also continued to work on the Twenty-Second Report that focuses on the role of graduate medical education in the new healthcare paradigm. For more information on COGME, please visit: http://www.hrsa.gov/advisorycommittees/bhpradvisory/cogme/.

AACOM GR Staff Attends ACICBL Meeting

On 9/10/14, AACOM GR staff participated in a two-day meeting of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Interdisciplinary Community-Based Linkages (ACICBL).  Authorized by the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), as amended by the Affordable Care Act, ACICBL provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of HHS on a broad range of issues dealing with programs and activities authorized under Title VII, Part D of the PHSA.  Chaired by Carmen Morano, Ph.D., committee members discussed issues pertaining to complex care as well as approaches to prepare the health care workforce for patient-centered care. Other agenda items included a discussion of the draft Fourteenth Report and presentations, including those from Tara A. Cortes, Ph.D., R.N., Executive Director of The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing and Professor at NYU College of Nursing, as well as Michael J. Barry, M.D., President of the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation. The keynote speaker for this two-day meeting was Anand K. Parekh, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS. For more information about ACICBL, please visit:  http://www.hrsa.gov/advisorycommittees/bhpradvisory/acicbl/acicbl.html.

AACOM President and CEO Participates in VA NAAC Meeting

AACOM President and CEO Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH participated in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Academic Affiliations Council (NAAC) on November 14 – 15 in Washington, DC. AACOM government relations staff also attended the meeting.  Dr. Shannon was appointed by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in 2011 to serve on NAAC. Attendees were welcomed by Jordan J. Cohen, MD, NAAC Chair. Members then reviewed Council recommendations made during two earlier meetings this year, in which staff members from the VA Office of Academic Affiliations provided updates and status reports. Additionally, VA liaison committee reports were provided by Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, President of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and John E. Prescott, MD, Chief Academic Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges. Other items of discussion included a panel moderated by William J. Marks, MD, Chief of Health Professions Education in the Office of Academic Affiliations, regarding Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT). Panelists included Robert Jesse, MD, PhD, Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration (VHA); Richard Stark, MD, Director of Primary Care Clinic Operations, VHA; and Stephan Fihn, MD, Director of the Office of Analytics and Business Intelligence, VHA. For more information about NAAC, visit:http://www.va.gov/OAA/NAAC/index.asp

AACOM Leadership and GR Staff Attend COGME Meeting

AACOM President and CEO Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, and AACOM government relations staff attended the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) meeting on September 9-10 in Rockville, MD. Attendees were welcomed by COGME Chair David Goodman, MD. D. Keith Watson, DO, President, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, who was appointed to COGME in the fall of 2010, presented as well as participated in the two-day meeting. COGME members heard presentations on a variety of topics impacting the future of graduate medical education, including innovative health care delivery and financing systems; new health care models and physician workforce demands; interprofessional education and its role in health care delivery and quality patient care; building upon and expansion of health care workforce data and analysis; and Health Resources and Services Administration federal funding opportunities.  COGME recently released its Twenty-First Report: Improving Value in Graduate Medical Education.  For more information on COGME.

AACOM GR Staff Attends ACTPCMD Meeting

On 8/29/2013, AACOM GR staff participated in a webinar meeting of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry (ACTPCMD). Authorized by the Public Health Service Act, as amended and re-designated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, ACTPCMD advises and makes recommendations to the Secretary of HHS concerning policy, program development, and other matters concerning the HRSA Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr) family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, general dentistry, pediatric dentistry and physician assistant programs. At this meeting, ACTPCMD reviewed the latest draft of its 11th Report to Congress, which will be submitted to the Secretary of HHS; the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Additional agenda topics included an agency update from Kathleen Klink, MD, Director of BHPr Division of Medicine and Dentistry as well as presentations by and dialogue with medical experts, including Benard Dreyer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics at the NYU School of Medicine, and Maria-Rosa Watson, DDS, MS, DrPH, Epidemiologist/Research Director of the Primary Care Coalition of Montgomery, Inc. William T. Betz, DO, MBA,  Senior Associate Dean for Osteopathic Medical Education and Chair of Family Medicine, University of Pikeville - Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine,  who was nominated by AACOM and appointed by the Secretary of HHS to ACTPCMD in 2012, also participated in the meeting. For more information on ACTPCMD, visit http://www.hrsa.gov/advisorycommittees/bhpradvisory/actpcmd/About/index.html.

Council on Graduate Medical Education

(Posted 11/11/2010) D. Keith Watson, DO, FACOS, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, has been appointed to serve on the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME).  COGME advises and makes recommendations to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the House of Representatives Committee on Commerce. COGME provides an ongoing assessment of physician workforce trends, training issues and financing policies, and recommends appropriate federal and private sector efforts on these issues. COGME’s federal representation includes the Assistant Secretary for Health, HHS; the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS; and the Chief Medical Director of the Veterans Administration.  Previous members of COGME include Kendall Reed, DO, Dean of Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Douglas L. Wood, DO, PhD, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at A.T. Still University and former President of AACOM.  For more information, visit http://www.hrsa.gov/advisorycommittees/bhpradvisory/cogme/.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Holds 49th Council Meeting

On 6/7/2013, GR staff attended the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NACCAM) planning meeting to discuss issues affecting research overseen by NACCAM. Impacts of the sequestration (i.e. 5 percent across the board cuts to the NIH budget) were discussed at length, including the impact that this will have on staffing and new funding opportunities. In an effort to ensure that the trials done by NACCAM are relevant to the work of practicing physicians, Council members discussed a new evaluation tool, PRECIS, that illustrates the degree to which a trial is deemed pragmatic or explanatory. Members also discussed NACCAM-funded research on low back pain, focusing on efforts to standardize research methods including forming a universal definition for chronic low back pain and new pain measurement tools, PROMIS and STarT Back.

NIH Pain Consortium Hosts 8th Annual Symposium on Advances in Pain Research

On 5/29 – 5/30/13, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pain Consortium hosted its 8th Annual Symposium, focusing on new advances in pain research, specifically those related to self-management. The program showcased a number of studies funded by the NIH, highlighting the research opportunities available to both junior and senior investigators through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and those for medical students. A number of provider resources were discussed including PROMIS, a validated assessment system for self-reported health developed by the NIH, and Pain Management Tools created by the American Chronic Pain Association. Additionally, the work being done by the NIH-funded Centers of Excellence in Pain Education on educational models for health professional schools including medical schools were briefly discussed.