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Many hospitals cut back on infection-control efforts

Hospital-associated infections annually kill an estimated 100,000 people and add $20 billion to the nation's health care bill. The increasing prevalence of multidrug-resistant organisms, state infection reporting mandates and the looming threat of an influenza A(H1N1) pandemic have made the job of preventing infections and controlling their spread that much harder. But amid the worst recession in decades, hospitals are cutting back wherever they can, and infection-control professionals report that their departments are not being spared. Four in 10 infection control professionals, who now prefer to be called "infection preventionists," said they have seen staffing or resource cuts in the last 18 months, according to survey results released in June by the Assn. for Professionals in Infection Control & Epidemiology Inc. "We have made tremendous strides in infection prevention over the last few years," APIC CEO Kathy L. Warye said at a news conference. "Institutions are setting am ...

New York physicians want possible Health Net deal scrutinized

After a news report indicated that New York City-based EmblemHealth was set to buy Health Net's business in the Northeast, the Medical Society of the State of New York sent letters to state regulators raising objections to the takeover. Citing an already-concentrated market where EmblemHealth's Group Health Inc. and HIP Health Plan of New York are already large players, medical society executives asked New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and Eric R. Dinallo, superintendent of the state insurance department, to "closely scrutinize" the deal, first reported May 28 by the Hartford Courant. EmblemHealth spokeswoman Ilene Margolin declined to comment on the potential purchase. Health Net spokeswoman Amy Sheyer said the company doesn't comment on market speculation. But she did say the company was still in the midst of its "strategic review," the company's term for its efforts to sell off business outside of California. Health Net, a for-profit, publicly traded company based near ...

Drugmakers agree to reduce medication costs for seniors

Washington President Obama announced that a key Democratic lawmaker had made a deal with brand-name drug manufacturers to decrease seniors' drug spending by $80 billion over the decade, in part by reducing the amount that Medicare Part D enrollees are expected to pay during a gap in government coverage. Obama unveiled the agreement by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America at a June 22 White House event. It also featured Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D, Mont.), who brokered the deal with PhRMA. Few of the specific details of the agreement were made immediately available after the announcement, but one major element will be additional assistance for seniors who fall in the Medicare drug benefit's "doughnut hole." This coverage gap occurs after initial government Part D subsidies run out and before a catastrophic benefit kicks in, during which time enrollees must pay all of their drug costs in addition to any monthly premiums. PhRMA has pledged to pro ...