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170 million shots available for flu season

Washington -- Health professionals say now is the time to get vaccinated for the 2011-12 influenza season, and they are attempting to lead by example. Federal officials and physicians rolled up their sleeves for flu shots and waved immunization records proving they've been vaccinated during a Sept. 21 news conference to promote the vaccine at the start of the 2011-12 flu season. A majority of Americans are expected to receive the vaccine, with about 170 million doses set to be available this season, officials said. An estimated 123.3 million received the vaccine during the last flu cycle. The vaccine contains the same three strains as in the previous season's vaccine, but nearly everyone is being encouraged to be vaccinated again before flu activity starts increasing in October. Studies have shown that a vaccine's effectiveness wanes over time, said Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "This is a great time to get vaccinated -- t ...

States embracing Medicaid managed care

Washington -- A nationwide survey of Medicaid managed care programs found that access to care under the plans is a perceived problem but that many states use managed care as a vehicle to coordinate care. Managed care includes Medicaid primary care case management programs and comprehensive and single-benefit Medicaid health plans, both nonprofit and for-profit. Of Medicaid's 54 million beneficiaries in 2010, half were enrolled in a managed care plan. An additonal 16% were in a primary care case management program, and the remaining 34% were in Medicaid fee-for-service, according to the survey, released Sept. 13 by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Management Associates, a research and consulting firm. The report is based on information valid as of October 2010. Medicaid directors said managed care is an attractive option because it enables states to improve accountability and restructure the delivery system to ensure access and measure quality better, said Vernon Smith, PhD ...

Demand drives more hospitals to offer alternative therapies

The number of hospitals offering complementary and alternative medical services has tripled since 2000, driven principally by patient demand for low-risk therapies such as massage, guided imagery, meditation and the "healing touch" practice known as Reiki. Forty-two percent of the 714 hospitals surveyed said they provide unconventional therapies, and executives listed patient demand as the top criterion in choosing which therapies to offer, according to a report released in September by the American Hospital Assn.'s Health Forum and the Samueli Institute, a think tank that supports alternative medicine. In 2000, just 14% of hospitals told AHA researchers that they provided complementary therapies. "They are responding to the needs of their patients and the communities they are serving, while trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace," said Sita Ananth, a Samueli Institute researcher who wrote the report. "These hospitals are really trying to see how they can address t ...