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Senate approves sweeping health reform bill, 60-39

The Senate approved comprehensive health system reform legislation by a strict party-line vote of 60-39 during a rare Christmas Eve session. Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was assured the previous day when the Senate moved to end debate and proceed to a final vote, the last of a series of procedural motions that required 60 votes to proceed. The legislation now goes to a conference committee, where lawmakers will try to negotiate a consensus bill between the Senate measure and a much different House version that passed by a vote of 220-215 on Nov. 7. "Today, the Senate took an historic vote to improve our nation's health care system by expanding coverage to millions of Americans and strengthening the private insurance market to better serve the patients who rely on it," American Medical Association President J. James Rohack, MD, said in a statement. "The AMA supported passage of the bill because it contains a number of key improvements for our health ca ...

Mississippi program aims to keep diabetics out of the hospital

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced on Oct. 29 a new statewide effort in Mississippi to improve care for patients with diabetes. As part of the initiative, called the Mississippi Health First Collaborative, patients will receive diabetes self-management training in their home communities. The assistance will occur in locations such as community centers or senior centers, rather than in such traditional health care settings as hospitals, physicians' offices or outpatient clinics. The training will focus on how best to control blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. CMS is contacting community groups, health experts, housing providers, health care professionals and community leaders to reach out to patients across the state, including Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, those with private insurance, and the uninsured. The professionals also will help patients establish relationships with primary care physicians, address better nutrition, and develo ...

Patient safety surveillance: keeping watch in hospitals, from sinks to surgery

Doctors in Maryland hospitals soon may find themselves the targets of covert surveillance. That stranger in the corridor reading Newsweek or texting on his iPhone actually may be taking notes on whether physicians and other health care workers wash their hands after leaving patients' rooms. In early November, the state launched a safety initiative using $100,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- popularly known as the federal stimulus package -- funds to help hospitals train "secret shoppers" to monitor health workers' hand hygiene. Forty-five of the state's 47 acute care hospitals have joined the voluntary initiative. The Maryland effort is believed to be the first time that government funds are going to train secret observers to keep an eye on doctors. At the same time, Rhode Island health officials have ordered video monitoring of surgeries at one hospital after a rash of wrong-site surgical errors. Hospitals increasingly are turning to these surveillance meth ...