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Medicare overhauls patient claims statements

Medicare has redesigned the claims and benefits statements that are sent to enrollees on a quarterly basis, with the goal of clarifying a document that has been criticized as impenetrable to many patients. Some of the changes to the Medicare summary notices include descriptions of medical services that are deemed more consumer-friendly, larger fonts and definitions of all the terms that Medicare uses on the forms. The notice also is reformatted around a snapshot of the beneficiary's current deductible status, a list of health professionals they saw during the quarter, and information about whether their claims were approved or denied. Critics of the Medicare claims system have complained that beneficiaries often don't realize that claims for their services have been rejected, making the process of appealing those decisions more difficult. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the clearer forms will make it easier for patients to launch appeals if they think the denial ...

Medical students show gains in empathy are short-lived after training

The actor wore goggles smeared with petroleum jelly to simulate poor vision and earplugs to replicate hearing loss. He portrayed an elderly patient being admitted to a long-term, assisted-care facility and fired questions at another actor playing the facility's assistant manager. The two had trouble communicating. While the patient wanted to know about the center's schedule, food service and what to do in an emergency, the assistant manager wanted to focus on rules. It was a brief, 10-minute performance, but it had a strong impact on the 370 first-year medical and pharmacy students who saw it. The students showed increased signs of empathy after watching and discussing the skit, but the results were not sustained, said a study in the Feb. 10 American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. Still, the results are encouraging, said Mohammadreza Hojat, PhD, study co-author and research professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Thomas Jefferson University Jefferson Medical Col ...

Asthma risk increases for overweight and obese youths

When treating overweight and obese youths, physicians should keep in mind that an elevated body-mass index increases one's likelihood of having asthma, said the lead author of a recent study. But the extent to which weight impacts a patient's risk of developing the disease depends, in part, on the individual's ethnicity or race, said Mary Helen Black, PhD. She is a research scientist bio-statisticianin the Dept. of Research and Evaluation at Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, Calif. Among youths, the odds of having current asthma are greatest for blacks, according to a study published online Jan. 17 in the journal Obesity. The study, co-written by Black, defines people with current asthma as those diagnosed with the condition in the past year and who have at least one asthma-specific medication on their medical records. Black youths were nearly twice as likely to have current asthma compared with whites of the same age. But when researchers grouped participants ...