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Volunteering can boost physical and mental health

At a time when financial hardships and unemployment are causing stress among many Americans, primary care physicians should discuss with patients the physical and mental health benefits of volunteering, says the author of a recent report. The report, which was published in the December 2011 issue of The International Journal of Person Centered Medicine, found that people who give back to others lead more happy and healthy lives than those who do not volunteer. "People in general are happier and healthier, and may even live a little longer, when they're contributing" to their community or an organization they are passionate about, said study author Stephen G. Post, PhD. He is director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York. "The research on the benefits of giving is extremely powerful, to the point that suggests health care professionals should consider recommending such activities to patients ...

Barred physicians prescribed millions in Medicare drugs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services allowed physicians barred from prescribing under Medicare Part D to order more than $15 million in drugs from 2006 to 2008, an investigation by the Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has found. In addition to allowing the prohibited physicians to prescribe, CMS approved nearly an additional $2 million for prescriptions that may have come from excluded doctors, said the Dec. 23, 2011, report. In response to the audit, CMS said it has taken significant actions in recent months to ensure that payments are not made to physicians who have been barred from prescribing, according to a response letter sent to the OIG. The agency also is keeping more up to date on its list of excluded physicians and paying closer attention to physician-identifier data. An identifier is the unique number assigned to each physician and required on all pharmacy claims submitted under the Part D program. As part of its audit, the OIG ...

Larger role sought for advanced practice nurses

Efforts to increase the primary care work force, such as expanding medical school classes and offering incentives to those who go into primary care, aren't enough to meet growing demands for care, said a report from the National Institute for Health Care Reform. Though such initiatives are important, it will be several years before the benefits are seen, said the nonprofit institute, which conducts research and analysis of health care organization, financing and delivery. The institute was established by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; Chrysler Group LLC; Ford Motor Co.; and General Motors Co. The December 2011 report proposes quicker action by expanding advanced practice nurses' scope of practice and implementing payment policies that encourage team-based care. "Examining scope-of-practice laws and payment reforms to increase productivity of primary care practices may have a greater near-term impact on prima ...