News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

News Headlines Article

Medicare unfairly penalizes hospitals treating sickest, poorest patients, study finds
Washington Post

For the last four years, Medicare has wielded a big stick: It has fined hospitals if too many of their patients returned to any hospital within weeks of being released.

But many safety-net hospitals, including academic teaching hospitals, say this is unfair because they take care of sicker, poorer patients.

Now data released Monday shows they may be right.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that hospitals are being penalized to a large extent based on the patients they serve.

News Headlines Article

Readmission tracking software generates confusing results in BMJ study
Modern Healthcare

A software widely used by U.S. hospitals to help flag patient cases that could result in preventable readmissions may only generate confusing results.

Instead of reflecting poorer quality, care was surprisingly better among those cases flagged by 3M software as being “potentially preventable,” concluded Boston University researchers in findings published Monday in the BMJ Quality and Safety, a journal of the British Medical Association.

News Headlines Article

Study: ObamaCare could penalize hospitals with poor patients
The Hill

An ObamaCare program could be penalizing certain hospitals for serving more poor patients, according to a study released Monday.

The study focuses on an ObamaCare program that docks a hospital’s Medicare payments if its readmission rate is above a certain level. The program is meant to provide a financial incentive for hospitals to improve the quality of care and cut down on costly readmissions, in which a patient must return to the hospital after a procedure.

News Headlines Article

Sanders renews call for universal healthcare
The Hill

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is doubling down on his support for universal healthcare after weeks of mostly shying away from the topic on the campaign trail.

In a speech Monday at Liberty University in Virginia, Sanders blasted the nation’s healthcare system for killing “thousands of Americans” every year who can’t afford insurance.

“That is not justice, that is not morality. People should not be dying in the United States of America when they are sick,” Sanders, who is running for president, said to roaring applause at the Christian college.

News Headlines Article

Small Changes Can Have Notable Effects In Workers’ Coverage Or Costs
Kaiser Health News

During this fall’s open enrollment period, workers who get health insurance through their employers may not see huge premium increases or significant hikes to deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs. But there may be less obvious changes that could make a notable difference in coverage or costs, benefits consultants say.

Employers again are sharply focused on employee wellness. The difference: Some are raising the bar to qualify for program incentives, says Tracy Watts, senior partner at human resources consultant Mercer.

News Headlines Article

Legislative fix would help protect small businesses from risk of increased healthcare costs
The Hill

Our country’s small and mid-sized businesses owners and their employees make our economy run. We are both former small business owners, and we understand both the long hours and financial pressures facing entrepreneurs looking to get their business off the ground, as well as their commitment to providing a positive working environment for their employees. The Americans powering our small businesses are our family, our friends and our neighbors, and they deserve common-sense solutions to the challenges they face.

News Headlines Article

Medicare doesn’t cover concierge fees
Washington Post

This week, I answered three questions related to coverage in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and some who are disabled.

I was recently advised by my primary-care physician that he is transitioning to a “membership-based personalized health-care program,” also known as concierge medicine. This program will cost me $1,760 a year.

News Headlines Article

Private Medicaid plans say interstate coverage for kids costs more, not less
Modern Healthcare

A trade group representing Medicaid health plans claims that a bill allowing severely ill kids to receive Medicaid coverage across state lines would cost more, not less as previously touted by supporters of the measure.

The legislation, Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act of 2015 is backed by the Children’s Hospital Association and has bipartisan support on the Hill.

A study released earlier by healthcare policy consulting firm Dobson DaVanzo & Associates estimated that if enacted, the bill could result in total state and federal Medicaid savings of $13 billion over 10 years.

News Headlines Article

Senate committee to evaluate patient access to medical information
Modern Healthcare

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee on Wednesday will continue its probe into federal health information technology efforts by exploring how patients can improve their care by accessing their own medical records.

The committee has met regularly to burrow into the 5-year-old $31.3 billion electronic health-record federal incentive payment program.

Previous hearings have focused on the issue of health information technology systems’ interoperability, or lack thereof.

News Headlines Article

Readmissions may say more about patients than care
Modern Healthcare

Hospital readmissions that Medicare penalizes under the Affordable Care Act are largely driven by patient characteristics such as income and education rather than the quality of care they receive, according to a new study.

The report, published online by JAMA Internal Medicine, identified 22 characteristics that are associated with higher probabilities of readmission but aren’t taken into account by the CMS.

“This finding suggests that Medicare is penalizing hospitals to a large extent based on the patients they serve,” the authors conclude.

News Headlines Article

Expert panel: An aspirin a day can help keep heart attacks — and cancer — away
Washington Post

A government-backed health panel on Monday said taking a daily dose of aspirin can help prevent both cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer, but the recommendation stoked a long-running disagreement about whether the practice carries more risks than benefits in some patients.

The announcement marked the first time the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent advisory panel of medical experts, has endorsed the combined benefits of aspirin in preventing cardiovascular problems and colorectal cancer in certain patients. Those conditions collectively kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.

News Headlines Article

Ouch! Vaccination Rates for Older Adults Falling Short
Kaiser Health News

Three out of four Americans older than 60 don’t get a shingles vaccine to protect themselves from the virus’ miseries: rashes over the face and body, stinging pain that can last for weeks or months and the threat of blindness.

Sometimes people must feel a pound of pain – someone else’s – to take a shot of prevention. Dr. Robert Wergin tells of one elderly patient with shingles who came to his Milford, Neb., office this summer.

News Headlines Article

Cognitive Decline May Move Faster In People With Low Vitamin D
National Public Radio

There have been suggestions that low levels of vitamin D might be a factor in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s no proof that the lack of D is actually causing the problems.

A study published Monday doesn’t prove that link, but it does find that people with low levels of vitamin D lost key thinking skills more quickly that people with enough.

The study is notable because of the diversity of the participants: 62 percent were women, 30 percent were African American 25 percent Hispanic and 41 percent white.

News Headlines Article

More precise medical codes aim to track quality of care
San Francisco Chronicle

If things are a bit tense in your doctor’s office come Oct. 1, some behind-the-scenes red tape could be to blame.

That’s the day when the nation’s physicians and hospitals must start using a massive new coding system to describe your visit on insurance claims so they get paid.

Today, U.S. health providers use a system of roughly 14,000 codes to designate a diagnosis, for reimbursement purposes and in medical databases. To get more precise, the updated system has about 68,000 codes, essentially an expanded dictionary to capture more of the details from a patient’s chart.

News Headlines Article

Diabetes points Stanford scientists toward old gallstone drug
San Francisco Business Times

A gallstone-related drug, already approved in Asia and Europe, could enter human clinical trials soon as an experimental way to block Type 1 diabetes before patients even develop symptoms.

In a paper published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers at Stanford University and Seattle’s Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason Hospital said a study of the drug — called hymecromone — blocked production of a substance that is essential for the development of Type 1 diabetes. Although the study was in mice, they believe the drug ultimately could be used to stop a disease that afflicts one in 300 people in the United States.

News Headlines Article

Dignity Health plans $220 million ‘facelift,’ including better signage, ‘refreshed surroundings,’ and a ‘way-finding’ app
San Francisco Business Times

Dignity Health, one of the nation’s biggest health care systems with 39 hospitals in three states, plans to spend $220 million over the next 16 months to recognize “the role that the physical environment” has on health and how patients, families and visitors experience their hospital stays.

Details are sketchy, but officials said Monday that the San Francisco-based system expects to complete the systemwide “facelift” by December of 2016.

News Headlines Article

Monterey County’s uninsured focus of health project
The Californian - Salinas

A pilot project proposes to give a shot in the arm to boost health services for as many as 50,000 uninsured residents of Monterey County.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will consider approval of the $500,000 effort to cover pharmacy, laboratory and radiology services for the “remaining uninsured.” These are residents ineligible for health coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Although the Federally Qualified Health Centers and others provide primary and specialty care services for these residents, there frequently is no funding for the cost

Commands