Reflex: October 7, 2011

Many Americans must travel further to a trauma center, writes Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. Many trauma centers have closed over the past two decades, and around one-fourth of Americans have a travel time of longer than one hour to reach such a unit. Most are in rural areas. Don’s comment: The issue of travel time and its differential impact on rural communities has been a key issue that the HRSA Negotiated Rulemaking Committee that is revising the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and Medically Underserved Area (MUA) criteria has been addressing. These designations make areas eligible for extra federal resources. The final recommendations of this committee must be submitted to the Sec. of HHS by October 31, 2011, after which a period of comment will ensue.

The US Preventative Services Task Force will recommend against routine prostate cancer screening, reports Gardiner Harris (NYT). “Healthy men should no longer receive a P.S.A. blood test to screen for prostate cancer because the test does not save lives over all and often leads to more tests and treatments that needlessly cause pain, impotence and incontinence in many, a key government health panel has decided.” Austin’s comment: This is a long time coming given the risk-benefit balance of prostate cancer screening, but expect some backlash from interested providers and consumers of prostate cancer-related care.

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