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Health plans face suits challenging collection of

Three class-action lawsuits fighting health plans' efforts to collect so-called overpayments on behalf of self-insured companies are pending in federal court, including one against UnitedHealth Group. The lawsuits could have implications for physicians who are the target of the same kind of collections, even though the plaintiffs are chiropractors. The most recent suit was filed Jan. 24 in U.S. District Court in New Jersey on behalf of two Ohio chiropractic clinics and the Ohio State Chiropractic Assn. The Council of State Chiropractic Assns. joined the lawsuit against UnitedHealth as plaintiffs Feb. 8. The lawsuit against UnitedHealth also names Health Net of the Northeast, which UnitedHealth acquired in December 2009, as a defendant. UnitedHealth has not filed a response to the lawsuit, but company spokeswoman Cheryl Randolph said in a statement, "We believe this claim is without merit and intend to defend ourselves vigorously." The plaintiffs' law firm, New York City- ...

Scrubs vs. white coats: equal opportunity bacteria spreaders

The idea seemed sensible. Clothing, like many other surfaces, can become contaminated by bacteria. So to minimize the risk of infecting hospital patients, British health authorities in 2007 issued guidelines opposing long-sleeved white coats. Scottish authorities adopted similar rules in 2008. But U.S. hospitals have not followed suit, and a new study calls into question the premise behind these rules. Researchers at the Denver Health Medical Center conducted a randomized controlled trial with 100 physicians, asking 50 to wear their usual white coats and the other 50 to wear newly laundered short-sleeved scrubs. After the physicians worked for eight hours, researchers tested the clothing for bacterial contamination, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcal aureus, and found no difference. Researchers were surprised by the results, thinking that perhaps the freshly washed scrubs were not so clean. "We decided to question our laundry facility to find out if we were really ...

Online self-injury videos prompt alarm

Thousands of videos posted online by troubled teens and young adults display images of bodies burned or slashed with razor blades, glass and other objects. Some flash poetic text and photos juxtaposed with images of blood-streaked hands, arms and legs. In one video, a young woman describes how to hide self-injury from loved ones. In another, a woman exposes arms mutilated by years of cutting. Many in the videos seek understanding by trying to explain self-injury and the reasons behind it. A new study in the March issue of Pediatrics explores the accessibility and scope of self-harm videos on the video-sharing website YouTube. Such online communication could reinforce or provoke similar behavior in others, said Stephen P. Lewis, PhD, lead study author and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Going online allows self-injurers a forum for anonymous communication about something for which they face much stigma, he said. The 14% to 24 ...