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Medicare pay cut stopped again; doctors decry lack of permanent fix

Congress may have stemmed most of the damage from the latest 21% Medicare payment reduction by reversing the cut before any physicians actually could feel it. Still, physician organizations say the harm caused by lawmakers once again bringing doctors to the brink before pulling them back is another major reason why the next solution must be a permanent one. Legislation to reverse the cut and postpone it until June 1 was signed into law by President Obama late on April 15. The cut technically had gone into effect April 1 as lawmakers fought over how to pay for the bill, which also extends various unemployment and health assistance programs. But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had instructed contractors to hold off on processing claims for 10 business days to give lawmakers more time to act -- a window that closed at the end of the day on April 14. That meant nearly 24 hours elapsed from the time the deadline expired until the president signed the retroactive bill, all ...

Depression symptoms increase during residency

Fewer than 4% of doctors in training have major depression when they enter residency. But about 25% do by the end of the first year. Stressful life events, work hours and genetic predisposition were among the factors associated with depressive symptoms among residents, according to a study published online April 5 in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Lead study author Srijan Sen, MD, PhD, and other researchers surveyed 740 doctors entering residency programs at 13 U.S. hospitals in 2007 and 2008. Before beginning their residencies, participants reported their symptoms of depression in an online survey. Follow-up surveys were conducted four times over 12 months to gauge depression, work hours, perceived medical errors and life stresses. Depressive symptoms were measured during each assessment using the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire. Researchers found that 3.9% of participants met PHQ-9 criteria for major depression before they entered their residencies. By the 12t ...

Salt limits recommended for processed foods

Table salt accounts for about 6% of Americans' daily sodium intake, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The remaining salt consumed each day comes largely from processed foods and restaurant meals. The Institute of Medicine is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to gradually decrease the amount of salt that food manufacturers and restaurants add to their products. An incremental reduction would prevent people from noticing a difference in taste, the IOM said. In a report released in April, the IOM said the goal is to reduce the public's sodium consumption to 2,300 mg -- approximately one teaspoon of salt -- or less a day. In doing so, the institute hopes to lower risks of hypertension, heart disease and stroke ( One in three adults has hypertension, and another 25% of adults have pre-hypertension, according to the CDC. There is no deadline for implementing the ...