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Health Highlights: April 9, 2014

Health Highlights: April 9, 2014

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

Some Doctors Paid at Least $3 Million Each by Medicare

A small number of doctors received at least $3 million each in Medicare payments in 2012, for a total of nearly $1.5 billion, according to an analysis of Medicare claims data released Wednesday by the White House.

In total, Medicare paid individual physicians nearly $64 billion in 2012. The median payment was just over $30,000, the Associated Pres reported.

Of the more than 825,000 doctors in the database, 344 earned at least $3 million each. At the top of the list was Florida ophthalmologist (eye specialist) Dr. Salomon Melgen, who earned nearly $21 million, the AP reported.

Last year, it was revealed that Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., used Melgen's personal jet for trips to the Dominican Republic.

The AP analysis showed that 87 (1 in 4) of the top-paid doctors practice in Florida, followed by California (38), New Jersey (27), Texas (23) and New York (18). The data also showed that 151 ophthalmologists were among the 344 doctors in the $3 million-plus club and that they took in a total of nearly $658 million in Medicare payments.

Cancer specialists were fourth in line, with a combined total of nearly $477 million.

Medicare is taxpayer-financed, but doctor payment data has not been available to the public until now. Doctor groups tried to prevent release of the data, claiming it would be an invasion of doctors' privacy, the AP reported.

Consumer groups, insurers, employers and news organizations wanted the data made public, arguing that it could help patients find doctors who provide quality, cost-effective care, the AP reported.

A federal judge's ruling last year paved the way for the release of the data, which could also be used to learn more about health care costs in an attempt to control them.

The American Medical Association was against the release of the Medicare database, claiming it would do more harm than good. For example, the data may contain inaccurate information and does not provide useful facts about the quality of care, the AP reported.

The AMA wants doctors to be able to review their information before it is released.

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Dozens of California Cruise Passengers Sick

More than three dozen passengers on a Princess Cruises ship sailing along the California coast may be sick with a highly contagious virus, officials say.

About 37 passengers on the Crown Princess reported being sick while the ship was in San Francisco on Monday, company spokeswoman Karen Candy told the Associated Press.

Princess Cruises believes the illnesses may be due to the Norovirus, which causes symptoms such as nausea, stomach cramping, vomiting and diarrhea.

All of the sick passengers are being asked to remain in their rooms, and the ship's staff is disinfecting surfaces throughout the vessel, Candy told the AP.

The ship's seven-day cruise began in Los Angeles on Saturday and concludes in Santa Barbara.

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Ebola Outbreak Could Take Months to Contain: WHO

The number of deaths from the Ebola virus has reached 101 in Guinea and 10 in Liberia, the World Health Organization says.

The agency also said the situation in West Africa is "one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks we have ever dealt with" and it could take another four months to contain it, BBC News reported.

So far, 157 suspected cases have been recorded in Guinea and 67 of those cases have been confirmed as Ebola, according to the WHO. Ebola kills between 25 and 90 percent of its victims.

"We fully expect to be engaged in this outbreak for the next two to three to four months before we are comfortable that we are through it," Keija Fukuda, WHO's assistant director-general, said at a news briefing in Geneva, BBC News reported.

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Honey with Added Sweeteners Not Honey: FDA

Food companies cannot add sugar or other sweeteners to pure honey and still call it honey, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

The agency said it would consider enforcement action against U.S. businesses or importers if they do not properly label honey with added sweeteners, the Associated Press reported.

If sweeteners are added, labels should inform consumers that the product is a "blend of sugar and honey" or "blend of honey and corn syrup," the FDA said.

It's common for the agency to detain honey imports after discovering they contain drug residues and unlabeled added sweeteners, the AP reported.

 
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