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Thousands lose Medicare billing rights during revalidation

Medicare has revoked or deactivated the billing privileges of more than 23,000 health professionals and equipment suppliers during the initial stages of a nationwide enrollment re-validation effort. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has enrolled or re-validated more than 275,000 professionals since March 25, 2011, when the agency began using strengthened measures to re-screen 1.5 million participants. Medicare officials have targeted areas of the program, such as the durable medical equipment field, that are susceptible to fraud and removed invalid suppliers from the program, CMS Center for Program Integrity Director Peter Budetti, MD, said during a June 7 House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing. Dr. Budetti did not have a breakdown of the types of health professionals and suppliers whose privileges have been ended. But CMS has used an automatic screening process to remove several physicians because they did not have state licenses or were not in fed ...

Checklist approach to be tested in end-of-life care planning

Researchers from Harvard Medical School soon will begin testing a checklist-style approach to helping cancer patients get the kind of end-of-life care they want. The plans, detailed in June at a meeting of the International Society of Advance Care Planning and End of Life Care, are aimed at helping oncologists discuss end-of-life care issues with patients at an earlier stage in the disease process. The trial of the serious illness communication checklist will involve 60 practicing oncologists and begin enrolling 450 patients in June. Data on patient and family satisfaction and treatment choices will be collected over three years, researchers said. A wide body of research has found that patients who plan ahead are likelier to get the treatments they want as they near death. These patients tend to get less-aggressive care, earlier referral to hospice, are more satisfied with their care and see lower burdens placed on family members, experts say. Yet fewer than one in three American ...

Study links lower education levels to higher obesity rates

Possessing a high school diploma and a college degree may be a major factor in having a family with smaller waistlines and longer lives, according to a new federal report on the nation’s health. Researchers found that lower education levels in a household generally translated into higher obesity rates. Less education also impacted other health markers. Life expectancy was lower for 25-year-olds without high school diplomas, and smokers were more prevalent among adults younger than 65 who didn’t have some form of higher education. The report is issued annually by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2007 to 2010, lower obesity rates for children 2 to 19 could be correlated with higher levels of education for the heads of their households. In instances where the head of the household had less than a high school education, 24% of boys and 22% of girls were obese. Obesity levels were significantly lower — ...