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UNOS to publicly report transplants involving foreigners
Transplants involving recipients who are not U.S. citizens or residents will get closer scrutiny under new rules adopted by the organizations that set American transplantation policy. The move comes after high-profile controversies over wealthy foreigners who received deceased-donor transplants in the U.S. A Los Angeles Times investigation in 2008 uncovered four Japanese gangsters who got liver transplants at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. Previously, centers where more than 5% of transplants involved foreigners could be audited by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. OPTN is administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing under contract with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Under the policy adopted by the OPTN/UNOS board of directors in late June, any transplant involving a recipient who is not a U.S. citizen or resident can be reviewed by the OPTN. Transplant centers will have to provide data to the OPTN. That info [Read more]
Plan to compensate bone marrow donors moves forward
After a three-year court battle, a plan to offer scholarships and other compensation to bone marrow donors is moving ahead. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has declined to challenge an appellate ruling permitting the practice. Holder’s office had until June 25 to seek a review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision means the end of a long judicial journey and the start of more patients receiving much-needed donations, said Robert McNamara, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. The civil liberties law firm represented plaintiffs in the case, including nonprofit organization MoreMarrowDonors .org. “This is a tremendously important case, and the fact that the 9th Circuit is the first court to ever interpret this law means the decision has created a new national rule that governs the entire country,” McNamara said. “Even though the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t hear this case, effectively we have a rule that prevents the attorney general from punishing anyone wh [Read more]
Congress wants Medicare auditors to face their own review
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is questioning the role auditing contractors should play in the Medicare program, saying the audits place burdensome requirements on physicians and hospitals. Five senators and six House lawmakers called on the Government Accountability Office to review contracted Medicare auditors, which include Medicare administrative contractors, recovery audit contractors and program safeguard contractors. The GAO should study the coordination of audits and contractor interactions with physicians and hospitals, the lawmakers wrote in a June 26 letter. “Health care providers are responsible for interacting with, and responding to, these contractors,” the letter stated. “In order for this contractor oversight to at once be effective at detecting improper payments and not unnecessarily burdensome to providers, it must be undertaken subject to a coherent strategic plan, consistent standards and active coordination.” The number of auditing initiatives in [Read more]
Physical punishment in childhood associated with later mental disorders, study says
The saying “spare the rod, spoil the child” may be well-ingrained in North American society, but new research shows that physically punishing children can affect their mental health. Corporal punishments such as spanking, hitting, pushing and grabbing are associated with the development of mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse and personality disorders, says a study published online July 2 in Pediatrics. Pediatricians and family physicians should talk with parents about healthy ways of disciplining their children and recommend they avoid physical punishment, said Tracie O. Afifi, PhD, lead study author and assistant professor in the Dept. of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “There are still a lot of people that believe that it is safe to hit your child,” she said. “We’re suggesting that physical punishment should not be used on children of any age. We need to focus more on positive reinforcement.” Researchers [Read more]
Unique medical device identifier proposed
The Food and Drug Administration on July 3 issued a proposed rule long anticipated by physician and hospital groups to establish a unique identification system for medical devices. While stakeholders said they were pleased with the development, some are hoping that the FDA will put the new system in place well before 2019. “A UDI system has the potential to improve the quality of information in medical device adverse events reports, which will help the FDA identify product problems more quickly, better target recalls and improve patient safety,” the agency said in a July 3 statement. With certain exceptions, such a system would include a device identifier consisting of a numeric or alphanumeric code specific to a device model, and a production identifier, which would include the current production information for a device. “Those who have been advocating for patient safety have reasons to cheer,” Blair Childs, senior vice president of public affairs with the Premier healt [Read more]
Heavy smokers should get annual CT screening, thoracic surgeons say
Physicians should send patients with long histories of heavy smoking to lung cancer screenings using low-dose computed tomography every year, say guidelines issued by the American Assn. for Thoracic Surgery. A multidisciplinary, 14-member task force established by the society recommends annual CT scans for patients 55 to 79 years old who have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes daily for 30 years — that is, the number of packs smoked every day multiplied by the number of years patients kept the habit. For example, smoking two packs a day for 15 years would be equivalent to smoking a pack a day for 30 years and make screening a good idea. Patients 50 to 79 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 20 years and have another comorbidity that raises their overall lung cancer risk by 5% over the following five years also should be screened annually, the guidelines say. They were published in the July issue of The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. [Read more]
Exercise may cut breast cancer risk up to 30%
Physicians should encourage all women to be physically active, regardless of how much they weigh. That’s because exercise, particularly during the reproductive and postmenopausal years, might help lower breast cancer risk, says the lead author of a study on the topic. Women who engaged in 10 to 19 hours of physical activity per week during their reproductive years or after menopause experienced a 30% reduced risk of developing breast cancer, according to a study published online June 25 in Cancer. Exercise also lowered cancer risk among overweight women who had a body mass index of 25 to 29.9. Physical activity did not reduce the likelihood of developing breast cancer in obese women who had a BMI of 30 or higher. But being active did make their risk similar to that of women of normal weight who do not exercise, said lead study author Lauren E. McCullough, MSPH. “The intensity of physical activity doesn’t need to be strenuous to receive health benefits,” said McCullough [Read more]
After ACA ruling, HHS moves ahead with insurance exchanges
The day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, the Dept. of Health and Human Services said it was forging ahead on one of the law’s key coverage provisions, the health insurance exchanges, by taking additional steps to get the marketplaces up and running in the states. On June 29, HHS announced that it will provide states with 10 additional chances to apply for federal funding to establish state-based exchanges or state partnership exchanges with the federal government, or to prepare state systems for a federally run exchange as authorized by the health system reform law. The grants “give states additional support to develop an exchange that works for their state,” Mike Hash, interim director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said during a June 29 teleconference. Hash said the funding amounts awarded “will be a function of what the states actually propo [Read more]
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