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Congress told more prescription drug monitoring programs are needed
More monitoring programs are needed to counter the abuse of prescription drugs in Medicaid and Medicare programs, physicians told lawmakers during a March 22 Senate hearing. An epidemic of prescription drug use for non-medical purposes has hurt families and communities across the country, said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, W.Va.), chair of the Senate Finance health subcommittee. He called for the hearing after concerns about abuse of medications in his home state. Problems such as misunderstanding the strength of addictive painkillers also can lead to unintentional misuse by elderly patients and tragic overdoses. “Patients need better education so they are sure how to use powerful prescription drugs correctly,” Rockefeller said. Taking multiple prescriptions is not uncommon for seniors, said internist and geriatrician Timothy C. Schwab, MD. He’s the chief medical officer of SCAN Health Plan, a private Medicare plan in Long Beach, Calif. Different medications, prescribed by di [Read more]
Women need more intensive chlamydia screening, CDC says
Annual chlamydia screening alone is not enough to stem the tide of new infections among the nation’s young, sexually active women each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency recommends that physicians also retest patients 25 and younger three months after treatment for chlamydia to ensure that the person has not been reinfected. On average, between 10% and 25% of women treated for the disease will be reinfected within three months, said Gail Bolan, MD, director of the CDC’s Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention. Young, sexually active women have an increased risk of developing chlamydia, in part, because their cervix is not fully matured and is more susceptible to infections, the CDC said. But physicians often overlook chlamydia screening among these women, according to data released March 13 at the CDC’s National STD Prevention Conference in Minneapolis. The conference focused on advances and challenges in efforts to hal [Read more]
IOM report identifies ways to measure improvements in HIV care
People continue to be diagnosed with advanced stages of HIV/AIDS despite tools that enable health professionals to detect the condition early and federal recommendations that encourage doctors to do so, infectious diseases experts say. Primary care physicians can help remedy the problem by testing all patients between age 13 and 64 for the virus and making sure those diagnosed with the condition start treatment, said Carlos del Rio, MD, a professor of medicine and global health at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta. Dr. Del Rio also is co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research. “To get them into care, you have to diagnose them,” he said. In July 2010, the Obama administration issued the first-ever national strategy on combating and preventing HIV and AIDS. The plan’s goals are clear, but the question has been how to determine whether the strategy is making strides in the right direction, Dr. Del Rio said. To address that uncertainty, t [Read more]
GOP Medicare reform bill would let seniors tap into government employee plan
Medicare seniors would be offered the choice of signing up for the same health care plans that cover lawmakers, their staffs and other federal employees under legislation introduced by Republican senators. Starting in 2014, Medicare-eligible beneficiaries would have the option to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan if lawmakers were to approve the Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act of 2012. The legislation was introduced by Sens. Rand Paul, MD (R, Ky.), Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.), Mike Lee (R, Utah) and Jim DeMint (R, S.C.) on March 15. The legislation would give seniors access to hundreds of health plans while phasing out the traditional Medicare program. It also would gradually increase the age for Medicare eligibility to 70 over the course of 20 years. The bill's sponsors said that if the federal workers' plan is good enough for lawmakers, it should be good enough for the seniors they represent. "To get our nation's fiscal house in order, we must ad [Read more]
Health reform heads for legal showdown
The Supreme Court, starting March 26, will hold three days of oral arguments on legal challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a defining moment for the 2-year-old statute and a major factor in determining whether it will survive. In November 2011, the high court agreed to take up health reform lawsuits brought by a coalition of states and a prominent small-business association, a widely expected move that likely sets up a June decision by the court in the middle of the presidential election campaign. Justices could decide that the law is constitutional, invalidate part or all of it on constitutional grounds, or effectively postpone a final determination by stating that the plaintiffs cannot challenge the law until it takes full effect in 2014. The justices will hear from the Obama administration and a multi-state coalition led by Florida on whether the Anti-Injunction Act renders moot the central challenge posed to the reform law by the states. The act in [Read more]
Enforcement of 5010 standards delayed until July 1
Federal officials have extended by an additional 90 days the enforcement deadline for physicians, health plans and claims processors to comply with the 5010 electronic transaction standards under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The decision to delay again the full implementation of the electronic transaction standards used to bill services throughout the health system comes as physician practices continue to report problems with claims processing, creating millions of dollars in unpaid claims. A number of outstanding issues led the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make the decision to hold off on enforcing the standards through June 30, the agency said in a March 15 statement. In late 2011, CMS had decided to move the enforcement date from Jan. 1 to April 1. The latest postponement means that electronic submissions using the old 4010 HIPAA transaction format, or using the new 5010 standard but with formatting errors, will continue to be process [Read more]
Men more likely to reapply to medical schools, study finds
Tough competition means that many prospective medical students aren’t accepted the first time they apply to medical school, but several factors affect whether an individual decides to apply a second time. Among them are age, gender, educational debts, scores on the Medical College Admissions Test, socioeconomic status and other career opportunities, says an Academic Medicine study published online Feb. 22. To help medical school admissions officials and pre health advisers better understand applicants’ motivations, Assn. of American Medical Colleges researchers analyzed data on 3,326 people who reapplied to medical school in 2010 after being rejected as first-time applicants in 2009. “The study was prompted by a broader goal of better understanding factors that might be associated with a medical school aspirant transitioning to an applicant,” said Douglas Grbic, PhD, lead study author and AAMC senior research analyst. Fifty-three percent of 38,402 U.S. citizens or perm [Read more]
Shared decision-making key in treating advanced heart failure
Patients with advanced heart failure often prefer to receive treatment from the doctors who know them best — their primary care physicians, said the lead author of a scientific statement on managing the chronic condition. But too often, doctors delay critical conversations about a patient’s preferences and expectations until emergency situations, when the individual’s decision-making might be impaired, said Larry A. Allen, MD, MHS, lead author of the American Heart Assn. statement, which was published online March 5 in Circulation. Part of the problem is that physicians often have insufficient time during office visits to thoroughly discuss with patients the unpredictable nature of the disease and the benefits and downfalls of the complex treatments available, Dr. Allen said. Doctors often have limited training in shared decision-making, which is required for appropriate care of patients with advanced heart failure, he added. The American Heart Assn. statement urges phys [Read more]
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