Health Highlights: Oct. 1 2012
Hospitals Face Fines for Readmitted Medicare Patients California Bans Gay 'Cure' Therapies Proper Prescribing of Opioid Painkillers Focus of Online Program
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Hospitals Face Fines for Readmitted Medicare Patients
Starting Monday, Medicare can fine hospitals that have too many patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge due to complications.
The new power is part of the 2010 health care reform law's push to improve quality and also save taxpayers money, the Associated Press reported.
The government estimates that about two-thirds of hospitals serving Medicare patients -- or about 2,200 facilities -- will have to pay penalties averaging about $125,000 per hospital this coming year.
Later in October, Medicare will begin posting details online and people will be able to see their community hospitals' performance by using the agency's "Hospital Compare" website, the AP reported.
Hospitals have spent well over a year preparing, including finding ways to improve communication with rehabilitation centers and doctors who care for patients after they've been discharged, as well as connecting individually with patients.
California Bans Gay 'Cure' Therapies
Controversial therapies to "cure" homosexuality in teens will be banned in California, making it the first state to take such action.
The law, which was signed into law Saturday and takes effect Jan. 1, was welcomed by gay rights groups across the country. They say the therapies can cause serious emotional harm to gay and lesbian youth, The New York Times reported.
"This bill bans nonscientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide," Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement. "These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."
The law states that no mental health provider shall give minors therapy meant to change their sexual orientation, including efforts to "change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex," the Times reported.
The law was supported by many medical and psychological societies, as well by gay rights advocates.
However, some therapists and conservative religious leaders who say they say can affect homosexual feelings denounced the new law as a violation of free choice, the Times reported.
Proper Prescribing of Opioid Painkillers Focus of Online Program
A new online tool to help train health-care providers on the proper prescribing of opioid painkillers is meant to reduce addiction and overdose deaths, the U.S. government said Monday.
The new training materials include videos of simulated doctor-patient conversations on the safe and effective use of opioid painkillers, the White House Drug Policy Office and the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse said in a news release.
The initiative is part of the effort to combat the nation's epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
"Physicians can be the first line of defense against prescription drug abuse by knowing how to prescribe opioid pain medications safely and effectively," National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said in the news release. "These CME (continuing medical education) courses provide practical guidance for clinicians in screening their pain patients for risk factors before prescribing. They also help medical professionals identify when patients are abusing their medications, using videos that model effective communication about sensitive issues, without losing sight of addressing pain."