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H1N1 vaccine problems prompt government to review emergency preparedness

West Virginia family physician Stephen Sebert, MD, is waiting for vaccine that may not arrive. In early October, his multispecialty practice received influenza A(H1N1) vaccine for about 100 employees who interact with patients. But that was it. His patients still need to be immunized, and Dr. Sebert wonders if he will get another shipment of vaccine. "We were telling patients, 'Get [the vaccine] any place you can.' But now I don't think anyone has it," he said. Similar scenarios of vaccine shortages and distribution woes have played out from New England to the West Coast as the H1N1 virus spread nationwide. Even as the epidemic begins to wane and states prepare to lift restrictions on H1N1 vaccinations, some physicians lack supplies of vaccine. The government has taken note. On Dec. 1, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called for a review of the federal government's system for handling public health emergencies. H1N1 vaccine distribution is managed by s ...

Senate health reform bill pushed by Obama budget chief

The Senate health reform bill as introduced would set a more sustainable course for the American health system, although its success ULTIMATEly would depend on the effectiveness of its implementation, said Peter Orszag, PhD, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Orszag said the bill's proposed Medicare commission, tax on high-cost insurance plans and delivery system reforms -- including an emphasis on comparative effectiveness research -- are important provisions that would help control health spending and improve quality. Senators began debating the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Nov. 30. "Too much of the health care services delivered in the United States are not backed by evidence that they work better than an alternative," he said at a Dec. 2 breakfast for Washington health care reporters sponsored by Health Affairs. "We need incentives for quality so that we can move toward a system that emphasizes making people better rather than have m ...

Racial gap in preventive care found to increase hospitalizations

Patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes can avoid hospitalization with good primary care, medical experts say. But black patients with diabetes are hospitalized about five years earlier than are white diabetics, showing yet another area of health care delivery in which racial disparities seem to prevail. Researchers at Yale University in Connecticut examined a nationally representative sample of 6,815 hospital discharges from 2005 and found that the disparities persisted even after adjusting for gender, marital status, hospital region and payment type. "Racial disparities across nearly all health outcomes are well-documented -- from premature birth to premature death," said Jeanette R. Ickovics, PhD, director of the social and behavioral sciences program at the Yale University School of Public Health. "Our study adds perspective to one important aspect of health: premature hospitalization. Health inequity is a result, in part, of social, educational, economic and health ...