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Pediatric specialty shortages cause long waits for care

Shortages of pediatric specialists mean that many young patients must wait weeks and sometimes months to get an appointment, according to data released July 23 by the Children’s Hospital Assn. The organization surveyed 69 children’s hospitals nationwide and found that physician shortages are causing long waits for patients and lost referrals for doctors. For hospitals, the shortages mean widespread vacancies in needed specialties and rising recruitment costs. The effect on families can be devastating, said Mark Wietecha, president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital Assn., which represents 220 children’s hospitals nationwide. “Many children wait far too long to get needed services to diagnose, treat and manage all kinds of diseases,” he said. “When children don’t get timely care, they miss school, they can fall behind, their parents miss work, creating more family stress.” For primary care physicians, the shortages create difficulties in trying to refer you ...

Pertussis outbreak prompts questions about whether booster doses are needed

Waning pertussis immunity from the Tdap vaccine is helping drive the nationwide surge in cases of the bacterial disease this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. To help slow the spread of the illness, which has led to the deaths of nine infants since January, researchers are examining Tdap effectiveness and duration of protection among adolescents in California and Washington, said Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. One question researchers are trying to answer is “whether you will need more booster doses during the adult years,” Dr. Schuchat said. The CDC recommends that children receive five doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccine between 2 months and age 6 and a booster of pertussis-containing vaccine (Tdap) between ages 11 and 12. The booster also is recommended for pregnant women and other adults who never received Tdap or can’t remember getting it. ...

One-year Medicare pay freeze proposed in House

A House Republican is urging his colleagues to approve legislation that prevents deep cuts to Medicare payment rates in 2013. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R, Texas), is pushing House leadership to schedule a vote on his bill, the Assuring Medicare Stability and Access for Seniors Act of 2012, months before the lame-duck session of Congress that will occur after the November elections. The bill, introduced on July 20, would extend 2012 Medicare and Tricare payment rates through 2013. The legislation offers certainty to Medicare beneficiaries and physicians, Dr. Burgess said. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula will cut physician pay by 27% in 2013. Congress has several other large fiscal issues, such as expiring tax cut provisions and mandatory across-the-board spending reductions, to address during a tight legislative calendar before next year. Virtually all lawmakers agree that the SGR cut should not be allowed to r ...