Health Highlights: July 8, 2009

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

U.S. Hospitals Agree to Help Defray Health Reform Costs

To help pay for the health-care reform plan put forth by the Obama administration, hospitals across the country have agreed to a cut in Medicare and Medicaid payments, Vice President Joseph Biden announced Wednesday.

Terms of the agreement, which should save an estimated $155 billion in federal spending, include reducing payments for treating uninsured and low-income patients and slowing scheduled increases in Medicare payments, the Associated Press reported.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • U.S. Hospitals Agree to Help Defray Health Reform Costs
    • Report Contends Lack of Oversight for Bottled Water
    • Wednesday Darkest Day for Suicides: Study
    • U.S. Doctors Complete Largest Kidney Transplant Chain
    • Sperm From Stem Cells Claim Challenged

In return, hospitals would be reimbursed at rates higher than now allowed by Medicare and Medicaid if a public health insurance plan becomes part of the reform legislation, according to the AP.

Although Biden repeated the administration's vow to have health-care reform bills passed by Congress by the end of August and signed into law by October, the legislation remains mired on Capitol Hill. Partisan discussion and debate this week has centered on a proposed tax on certain health insurance benefits provided by employers.

Appearing with the vice president for announcement of the hospital deal were representatives of the American Hospital Association, Hospital Corporation of America, Community Health Systems and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the AP said.

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Report Contends Lack of Oversight for Bottled Water

The water in your tap is more rigorously regulated than the bottled water you buy in a store, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report delivered Wednesday to Congress.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee heard that Environmental Protection Agency rules governing tap water are more thorough and require more disclosure than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules that govern bottled water, CBS News reported.

The GAO's John Stephenson said Americans spend more than $11 billion a year on bottled water -- equaling an estimated 200 bottles annually for every "man, woman and child." But the oversight of bottled water is "less stringent" than for tap water. For instance, there are no rules for a potentially dangerous chemical used in plastics, DEHP, that could seep from the bottles, Stephenson said.

Joseph Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, said bottled water is a "safe, healthy convenient food product that is comprehensively regulated." He suggested that consumers who want to know where the water comes from just call the manufacturer.

But Jane Houlihan, of the Environmental Working Group, said that information should be printed on the label. According to CBS News, she said that consumers have a "right to know where their bottled water comes from, how or if it's treated and the pollutants it contains."

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Wednesday Darkest Day for Suicides: Study

Forget what you've heard about the Monday morning blues. A new study shows that Americans are most likely to commit suicide on Wednesdays.

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