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Health Highlights: May 8, 2014

HHS Secretary Nominee Praises Health Care Law at Senate Hearing Wide Variation in Hospital C-Section Rates: Study

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

HHS Secretary Nominee Praises Health Care Law at Senate Hearing

The Affordable Care Act has slowed the growth of health costs, reduced insurance premiums, provided more Americans with coverage and helped the economy, President Barack Obama's nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary told a Senate committee Thursday.

In the first of her two Senate confirmation hearings, Sylvia Mathews Burwell told the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the new health care law "is making a positive difference," according to a CBS News/Associated Press report.

Republican members of the committee disagreed with Burwell's positive opinion about the health care law, but they praised her "reputation for competence" and called her a "tremendous asset," CBS/AP reported.

"Many of us in this room...disagree about the merits of Obamacare and what the path forward should be to reform our health care system," noted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who introduced Burwell to the committee before her testimony. "I continue to believe the Affordable Care Act should be replaced and modified. But notwithstanding that disagreement, I am pleased to introduce Sylvia Burwell."

McCain added that everyone he knows has the "highest praise" for Burwell's work in her previous public service positions. She currently serves as Obama's budget director.

No senator has announced opposition to Burwell's nomination as HHS secretary and it's expected that she will have a smooth confirmation. She will replace Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned last month.

If confirmed as HHS secretary, Burwell faces major challenges in the continuing implementation of the health care law, according to CBS/AP.


Wide Variation in Hospital C-Section Rates: Study

There are large differences in the numbers of unnecessary cesarean section births done by hospitals in the United States, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at C-section rates for low-risk deliveries at more than 1,500 hospitals in 22 states and found wide variations, even between hospitals in the same communities or areas, Consumer Reports said.

For example, the rate of C-sections for low-risk deliveries was more than 50 percent at Los Angeles Community Hospital, compared with 15 percent at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles and 11 percent at Western Medical Center Anaheim.

In El Paso, Texas, rates of C-sections for low risk deliveries were 37 percent at Sierra Medical Center and 15 percent at University Medical Center of El Paso. In Denver, Colo., the rates were 20 percent at Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center and 8 percent at Denver Health Medical Center, according to Consumer Reports.

The researchers also found that it can be hard to find information about hospitals' C-section rates.

"We think it's time those hidden numbers are brought to light," Dr. John Santa, medical director of Consumer Reports Health, said in news release from the group. "How you deliver your baby should be determined by the safest delivery method, not which hospital you choose."

Consumer News