First Edition: December 7, 2010

In today's headlines, Senate leaders appear to be nearing a one-year deal on Medicare's physician pay problem.

Texas Town – Famous For High Medicare Costs – Has A Cheaper Side
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Did McAllen get a bum rap? McAllen, Texas, spends more on Medicare patients than almost any other part of the country. A June 2009 New Yorker article by Atul Gawande attributed the high spending to a culture of doctors that 'came to treat patients the way sub-prime mortgage lenders treated home buyers: as profit centers.' The article became required reading in the White House and Congress during the health care debate and turned McAllen into shorthand for America's decadent medical spending problem" (Kaiser Health News).

Unnecessary Hospital Admissions Targeted By New Payment Plan
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "One of six patients hospitalized in Maryland in the past year ended up back in the same facility within a month, a risky situation for them and a costly one for bill payers" (Kaiser Health News).

Insuring Your Health --  Health Law's Aim: Multiple Vaccines For More People
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "For many adults and their doctors, if they discuss immunizations at all, the conversation ends there. It shouldn't. There are several vaccines that adults need, depending on their age and risk factors, to protect against serious diseases, including shingles, pneumonia, hepatitis and cervical cancer" (Kaiser Health News).

Deal Reached To Fix Medicare Doc Pay
Senate leaders have reached a tentative, one-year deal on the Medicare "doc-fix," sources close to the negotiations say (Politico).

HHS Woos GOP Governors-Elect
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is reaching out to the newly elected governors who will have to implement health care reform — including the many Republican governors who won by campaigning against the new law (Politico).

Medicare Board Fears Public Backlash To ACOs
The Medicare payment advisory panel is warning that accountable care organizations (ACOs), boosted by the new healthcare reform law, might face public backlash similar to what managed care organizations experienced in the 1990s (The Hill's Healthwatch Blog).

Germ Cops Help Hospitals Prevent Infection, Death
This is no ordinary intensive care unit: Every doctor, nurse, friend or loved one must cover their clothes with a bright yellow gown and don purple gloves before entering a patient's room so some scary germs don't hitch a ride in or out (The Associated Press).

Diabetes Screenings Stir Concern
Federal health officials are investigating the use of finger-prick blood tests to screen Americans for diabetes, one of the nation's fastest-growing and most serious public health problems (The Washington Post).

NY Bust: Medicaid Patients' RX Drugs Go To Dealers
Ethel Johnson couldn't get her prescription for pain medication filled fast enough. The 60-year-old Buffalo woman was hurting — but investigators say that wasn't the reason for the rush (The Associated Press).

Lawmakers Consider Another Spending Bill To Offset Health Costs
House and Senate leaders are eyeing passage of a second midyear spending bill before the start of the next legislative session to address more caseload-driven accounts that are running short on funds five months after Governor Deval Patrick signed the fiscal 2011 budget. The deficiencies, which follow inaccurate enrollment estimates for MassHealth and other social service programs, threaten to eat into some the revenue surpluses the state has amassed over the first half of fiscal 2011, when tax receipts have exceeded projections (State House News Service/The Boston Globe).

Appeals Court Tackles Stem-Cell Dispute
A federal appellate panel grappled Monday with the legality of federally funded research on stem cells from human embryos, with the three judges offering few clues to their leaning in a case with large implications for medical research (The Wall Street Journal).

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