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Appeals court rules individual mandate unconstitutional

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance as part of the health system reform law. In a 2-1 decision issued Aug. 12, the federal appeals court said the law's individual mandate cannot be sustained "as a valid exercise of Congress' power to regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce." The mandate requires individuals to obtain health coverage starting in 2014 or pay a penalty. "This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives," the appellate panel said. The case stems from a lawsuit filed by Florida and more than 24 other states challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A lower c ...

New COPD guidelines aim to manage patients better

New guidelines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease recommend that physicians use spirometry to diagnose airflow obstruction in patients with respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and chronic cough. The screen, however, should not be performed in asymptomatic people, because it could lead to unnecessary testing and increased health care costs, among other things. Doctors also are urged to be alert for respiratory symptoms in patients who smoke, because cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. They should talk to such patients about the harms of smoking and help them quit the habit, said lead guidelines author Amir Qaseem, MD, PhD. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes and dust, also might contribute to developing the disease, the institute said. The recommendations, published in the Aug. 2 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, were developed b ...

Illinois law prohibits sex offenders from practicing medicine

Physicians and other health care professionals convicted of a sex crime, forcible felony or patient battery will be prohibited from practicing in Illinois under a new state law. Gov. Pat Quinn signed House Bill 1271 into law July 21. It mandates that the licenses of physicians, dentists, nurses, optometrists, physical therapists and other health professionals convicted of such crimes be immediately and permanently revoked without a hearing by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. Those with convictions in other states who apply for Illinois medical licenses will be denied. "We must stand up strong against the violence and crime that destroys communities," Quinn said. "Whether they are at the doctor's office or in the streets of their own neighborhood, families and citizens should feel safe and protected." The Illinois State Medical Society applauded the law, which it supported in the Legislature, said society President Wayne V. Polek, MD, an anesthesiologist f ...