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HEALTH CARE NEWS

US Congress extends CHIP, funds opioid crisis response following temporary shutdown

Publish date: February 9, 2018

By 

Gregory Twachtman 

Oncology Practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congress, despite a second shutdown in less than a month, was able to pass a number of financial extenders to fund key health care programs.

The bipartisan spending bill (H.R. 1892), passed in the early morning hours on Feb. 9 by a 71-28 vote in the Senate (16 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted against it, and Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] was not present) and a 240-186 vote in the House (67 Republicans and 119 Democrats voted against and 5 representatives did not vote). President Trump signed the bill later that morning.

 

The spending bill and continuing resolution to fund the government through March 23 includes $6 billion to fund treatment for opioid addiction and other mental health issues, $2 billion in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, and 4 additional years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The additional CHIP funding extends the program for a total of 10 years.

The funding bill also made a technical correction to the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) track of the Medicare Quality Payment Program. It removes Part B drug reimbursement from the MIPS payment adjustment, so any positive or negative change to physician payments based on the MIPS score will only be applied to physician fee schedule payments.

The bill also repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel created by the Affordable Care Act that would have the power to slash Medicare spending under certain budget circumstances. That board was never convened.

The funding legislation also accelerates closure of the Medicare Part D “donut hole,” the coverage gap in which beneficiaries must pay 100% of medication costs prior to entering catastrophic coverage.

Just over $7 billion was provided for community health centers and Medicare’s therapy caps were repealed.

While the funding bill was written in the Senate with bipartisan input and received bipartisan support, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held up votes over objections to the more than $1 trillion it will add to the nation’s debt, as well as for the fact that there was no opportunity to introduce and vote on amendments, leading to an hours-long government shutdown.

There also were concerns about two issues that could have derailed the vote in the House. Democrats wanted to add language to address immigrants brought to this nation illegally as children, while some Republicans did not want to increase the federal debt. However, there were enough votes to pass the funding legislation.

gtwachtman@frontlinemedcom.com

New Radar Maps Track and Predict Bird Migrations

Drotumdi O

Article ID: 692302

Released: 5-Apr-2018 11:05 AM EDT

Source Newsroom: Cornell University

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Newswise — Ithaca, NY—With spring bird migration just getting underway, anyone captivated by these twice-yearly epic journeys will enjoy delving into new online maps that predict large movements of birds and show where they are occurring in near real-time. Scientists with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the University of Oxford have developed the new maps, available right now via the Lab's BirdCast program (birdcast.info). The visuals are created using data from the U.S. NEXRAD radar surveillance network. The processes used to make the maps are fully automated, following years of cooperative research by ornithologists and computer scientists.  

"This is the most significant update since we first began using radar to study bird movements," notes Cornell Lab postdoctoral associate, Kyle Horton. "If you know where and when migrants will be flying at night, you stand a better chance of seeing them, especially if the birds make a stopover in your area."

Most songbirds migrate in darkness, usually when weather conditions are favorable. Tailwinds can produce massive migratory movements. Rain can shut down flights entirely.

"Knowing when and where a large pulse of migrants will pass through is also useful for conservation purposes," says Benjamin Van Doren, a former Cornell undergraduate and now Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oxford. "Our forecasts could prompt temporary shutdowns of wind turbines or large sources of light pollution along the migration route. Both actions could significantly reduce bird mortality." 

Van Doren and Horton designed the system that generates colorful maps predicting when and where migrating birds will take to the air, up to three days in advance. They used machine learning models based on 23 years of radar and weather data to predict the numbers of birds aloft three hours after local sunset.  

The other new radar-based map is an animated visualization of near real-time migration (below). Cornell Lab postdoctoral associate Adriaan Dokter designed an algorithm to rapidly estimate the number and flight directions of migrating birds detected by the weather radar network. The system processes new incoming radar data continuously, and updates migration maps every 10 minutes.

"We're able to isolate bird data from atmospheric information because of new feature of modern weather radars—so-called dual-polarization measurements" Dokter explains. "This means the radar stations transmit and receive radio waves in the vertical and horizontal direction independently. It provides a much clearer picture of the size, shape, and direction of the targets it picks up. And with the power of cloud computing, we can analyze all radar data incredibly fast."

"These forecast and live migration maps, and the research that produced them, represent a breakthrough nearly 20 years in the making," adds Cornell Lab research associate Andrew Farnsworth. "We hope these maps will provide perspective to the expert and novice alike on the amazing spectacle—and the sheer magnitude—of migration. Beyond that, we believe these maps will become powerful tools for conservation action to help reduce the impacts of human-made hazards that birds face during their incredible journeys."  

This research was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, Leon Levy Foundation, and NASA. Additional funding was provided by the Edward W. Rose Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission in the United Kingdom, and Amazon Web Services Cloud Credits for Research.  

The BirdCast project is a collaboration among the Cornell Lab of OrnithologyUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst, and Oregon State University, and was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and Leon Levy Foundation.

 

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