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U.S. uninsured total again tops 46 million

The number of uninsured Americans increased by about 600,000 in 2008, despite government health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid enrolling in excess of 4 million more people than they did the year before. (See correction) Although America's uninsured population reached 46.3 million in 2008, according to an annual U.S. Census Bureau report released Sept. 10, the percentage of Americans who are uninsured was virtually unchanged at 15.4%. Part-time workers and people approaching middle-age increased the uninsured numbers significantly, while there was a significant decrease in the number of children who are uninsured. American Medical Association President J. James Rohack, MD, said having so many people without coverage is unacceptable. "As Congress gets back to work, the plight of the growing number of uninsured should be front and center in the health reform debate." Still, Dr. Rohack said the exact number of uninsured people is not the most crucial issue at hand. "Wha ...

Mass. turns spotlight on insurance executives' pay

Compensation for nonprofit health system executives and directors will be under a higher-powered microscope from now on, the Massachusetts attorney general told the state's biggest hospitals and insurers. Attorney General Martha Coakley on Sept. 2 presented a letter to four health plans and the Massachusetts Hospital Assn. informing them that her office will require nonprofit hospitals and health plans to expand their public reporting of pay for board members and executives ( Coakley also asked the insurers -- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health Plan -- to justify their compensation to their board members, given that paying directors is "extraordinarily rare" among other charitable organizations. Marylou Buyse, MD, president of the Massachusetts Assn. of Health Plans, said the justification is that hospitals and health plans are substantially d ...

HHS releases $33 million for training health professionals

The Dept. of Health and Human Services announced Sept. 11 the release of $33 million in funding to help bolster training programs for health care professionals. Most of the money, part of the most recent economic stimulus package, will go toward establishing or expanding efforts to aid medical students, including providing scholarship, tuition and stipend programs. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius estimated that 65 million Americans don't have access to a primary care physician due to local shortages. "That's why the reform effort also needs to look at expanding our very critical health care work force to give more Americans access to the care they need," Sebelius said. "But we can't wait for Congress to act." The grants are being distributed through six programs operated by the Health Resources and Services Administration: * $19.3 million for scholarships to full-time health professions students, with priority given to those with financial need. * $4.9 million for ...