News & Information
Historic Texas Maps Help Save Themselves
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, December 31, 2014 03:46 PM

The Save Texas History program hit a milestone this week, earning more than $250,000 to preserve historic Texas maps with the on-line sale of the digital reprints of historic Texas maps.

“Save Texas History is preserving and protecting our history — at no cost to Texas taxpayers,” Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said. “This is a great effort any proud Texan can help by buying a map online at”  Most maps are just $20.

Among the top-selling maps this year are some of the oldest maps of Texas, thanks to a unique digitization project with Houston map collectors, Frank and Carol Holcomb.  The Holcombs are allowing the General Land Office to digitize their map collection, providing access for the first time to more than 70 important historic maps of Texas, the United States and the Western Hemisphere. The Frank and Carol Holcomb Map Collection includes many maps that show Texas and the Southwest dating to 1513, making them the oldest maps in the collection at the General Land Office Archives and Records.

Senate Passes Budget Deal; No SGR Fix Included
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, December 31, 2014 03:41 PM

The Senate has passed the $1.1. trillion budget deal by a vote of 56-40.  Clearing the way for President Obama to sign a measure that has disappointed many physician groups.  The bill lacks any fix to the widely hated sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for physician reimbursement under Medicare. Also missing in action: an extension of the current pay bump for primary care physicians who see Medicaid patients.

The medical community has been pushing hard to have the SGR addressed in a lame duck session.  Now we've totally hit the 'Reset' button on this issue.

2014-15 Flu Vaccine Less Effective Than Usual
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 01:54 PM

The 2014 to 2015 influenza season could be more severe than most — with more hospitalizations and deaths — because the current vaccine looks to be less effective than expected against the dominant influenza strain in circulation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Influenza A(H3N2) viruses account for about 90% of infections, said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a news conference. The trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine contains this strain, which matches well to half of the A(H3N2) viruses identified so far.

The other half, however, are antigenically different from the version of the A(H3N2) virus chosen for the vaccine.  "They're different enough that protection may be lower than what we usually see," said Dr Frieden. "It is possible we could have a flu season that is more severe than most."

Health Spending Growth Drops in 2013
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 01:49 PM

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that in 2013 overall health spending increased by 3.6% in 2013, the lowest annual rate of increase since 1960.

Last year total health expenditures in the U.S. were $2.9 trillion, or about $9,200 per person.

Spending growth for physician and clinical services was also down, dropping from an increase of 4.5% in 2012 to 3.8% growth in 2013. "Slower price growth in 2013 was the main cause of the slowdown [in this sector], as prices grew less than 0.1%,” CMS said. 

CDC: Severe Flu Season Possible
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 01:30 PM

This winter's flu season could be more severe than usual, the CDC is warning. Most of the circulating virus is the H3N2 strain of influenza A, according to CDC Director.  When H3N2 virus predominates, "we tend to have seasons that are worse flu years, with more hospitalizations from flu and more deaths from influenza," Frieden told reporters in a telephone briefing.

In the week ending Nov. 22, he said, 91% of 1,200 samples tested were influenza A -- almost all of them H3N2 -- and 9% were influenza B. Only a small fraction were H1N1 influenza, which has predominated in recent years.  But a second factor might foretell a bad flu season, Frieden said: Of the H3N2 samples, only 48% were matched to this year's vaccine and the majority of samples were "drifted" variants with slightly different immunogenic molecules.  The seasonal vaccine now distributed across the country might be less effective than usual. "There's no way to predict with certainty what's going to happen," he said.  Frieden said some 150 million doses of vaccine have been distributed and urged people to get their shot.

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