Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary, you’ll learn about the risks and benefits to Medicare managed care plans, clinical trials research of a new drug that could treat multiple cancers, a study that shows cancer screening rates have declined, and more!


The Kaiser Family Foundation published a primer on a new health reform provision that increases Medicaid payments to primary doctors in 2013 and 2014. The goal is to attract new physicians to Medicaid and to support those that already participate, as Medicaid demand is expected to increase under new health reforms. Medicaid fees paid to physicians will increase by 73% in 2013 (Kaiser, 12/17).


A Forbes article weighs the benefits and risks to Medicare managed care plans compared to Medicare fee-for-service plans. In managed care plans, Medicare pays plans a fixed monthly fee per patient that allows the plan to provide care coordination. Managed care is thought to provide better care to seniors with chronic conditions because the plans are more organized than traditional service. But others point out that managed care plans can be rewarded for discriminating against the sickest patients. Studies comparing the two care delivery methods have shown mixed results in 2012 (Gleckman, 12/26).

Health Studies

A new study published in the January issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that taking fertility drugs did not cause uterine cancer recurrence in women who previously received fertility-sparing treatment for uterine cancer (HealthDay News, 12/26).

A study conducted by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine revealed that rates of people seeking preventative cancer screenings in the U.S. have fallen in the last ten years. The rates have even declined for cancer survivors. The researchers suggest that reasons for this pattern could be failure to agree on screening guidelines and reduction in workers with insurance (Medical News Today, 12/28/12).


Pharmaceutical companies are embarking on a new type of cancer research – testing one drug on patients with different types of cancer. The NY Times explains that this hasn’t been done before and safety tests are still being conducted by Merck, Roche and Sanofi before clinical trials can begin.  But the hope is that this one drug will kill cancer cells across a range of rare and common cancers (Kolata, 12/24/12).

Medical schools are starting to offer students a 3-year program option instead of the traditional 4-year stint, according to the NY Times. N.Y.U. is one of those schools, who say their decision will help address the doctor shortage and save future doctors thousands in tuition costs. While most in the medical and academic field think the 3-year plan is worth pursuing, some also criticize the shorter programs as compromising basic science, reducing flexibility in the curriculum and pushing students to make career choices too early (Hartocolis, 12/23).

Speaking of doctor shortages, a nonprofit group – Medical Group Management Association – says the U.S. will see a shortage of 100,000 primary doctors by 2020 because they earn about half of what their specialty counterparts earn. Along with higher pay, specialties also offer more prestige and shorter working hours (UPI, 12/25).

A group of physicians and nurses at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse made a rap video to emphasize to staff the importance of preventing “hospital acquired conditions,” such as infections, bed sores and blood clots. Syracuse Post-Standard explains that the video is meant to avoid these preventable conditions, which are bad for both patients and hospitals’ bottom line (Mulder, 12/24).

-Jaime Venditti, 12/28/12