Category Archives: Aging

Change to Medicare will shift physicians into value-based payment

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 into law on Thursday afternoon, in what experts say could be the most significant change in Medicare’s 50-year history.

The law, part of a bipartisan deal to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that Congress had used to set physician payment rates under Medicare, shifts the 50-year-old program away from a fee-for-service model and moves physicians into value-based payment.

Earlier this week the U.S. Senate passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 by a vote of 92 to 8. Last month, the House passed its version of the bill by 392-37. Continue reading

Why reporters should check the data in a ‘brief’

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

A recent data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported a 23 percent increase in the age-adjusted hypertension-related death rate from 2000 to 2013. In that same period, the rate for all other causes of death combined decreased 21 percent. The report, “Hypertension-related Mortality in the United States, 2000–2013” is part of a series from the Centers for Disease Control on myriad health issues, morbidity and mortality.

Photo: Morgan via Flickr

Photo: Morgan via Flickr

Such reports, while an interesting starting point for a story, can easily be taken out of context and mislead your audience. That’s why building a stable of reliable health care experts to whom you can show the data and quote in your story is important.

The authors of the NCHS brief defined hypertension-related mortality as “any mention of hypertension on the death certificate or as the underlying cause of death.” Continue reading

IOM: Take action to improve cognitive health in non-AD older adults

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

A new report from the Institute of Medicine identifies the three key actions people can take to help maintain optimal cognitive function as they age. Physical activity, reducing and managing cardiovascular disease risk, and regularly reviewing medications and their side effects with their clinicians top the list of recommendations to maintain cognitive health.

Photo: Maury Landsman via Flickr

Photo: Maury Landsman via Flickr

“Changes in mental functions and capabilities are a part of aging and occur with everyone,” committee chair Dan G. Blazer, M.D. Ph.D., the J.P. Gibbons professor of psychiatry emeritus at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said in a statement. “The extent and nature of these changes vary widely and are gradual, and aging can have both positive and negative effects on cognition. Wisdom and knowledge can increase with age, while memory and attention can decline.”

The study focused on the public health dimensions of cognitive aging as separate from neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It described decline in cognition is a public health issue that goes beyond memory lapses and one that can have significant impacts on independent living and healthy aging. Continue reading

Experts: Care coordination, medical homes key to tackling global aging issues

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: shaindlin via Flickr

Photo: shaindlin via Flickr

An aging population isn’t just a challenge for providers and policymakers in the U.S. – it’s an issue most nations contend with. Experts participating in last week’s webinar from The Commonwealth Fund, Health and Health Care Among Older Adults in 11 Countries, confirm that finding the right balance between clinical and social services, cost-effectiveness and promoting aging in place is tricky, no matter what health system is in place.

The webinar featured key findings from The Commonwealth Fund’s latest International Health Policy Survey, which examined consumer opinions of health systems and care delivery. Experts from France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. provided perspective on the issues. This previous blog post summarizes survey results. Continue reading

As it considers SGR fix, Senate weighs fundamental shifts to Medicare

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

After voting to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula last week, the U.S. House of Representatives sent the measure to the U.S. Senate where the bill’s fate is uncertain. When the Senate recessed on Friday without considering the bill, H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, it pushed off a vote until mid-April.

The bill’s supporters were hoping for a Senate vote last week because, as Jennifer Haberkorn, of Politico Pro, and Mary Agnes Carey explained for Kaiser Health News, the Senate’s return date of April 13 leaves two weeks for those who like the bill and those who don’t to gather support and consider their options.

“Traditionally in Washington, the more time you have, the more opportunity there is for opposition to fester. That should be a concern in this case because it is two weeks before the Senate returns,” Haberkorn said. Continue reading

Medicare ‘doc fix,’ passed by House, shifts some costs to seniors

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2 on Thursday, a bill that would prevent an automatic cut of 21 percent in Medicare payments to physicians and would require seniors to pay more in the form of higher copayments and premiums. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 also would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years through 2017.

The vote was hailed as a step forward for physicians because it eliminates the formula Congress has used for many years to increase payments to physicians. That formula, called the sustainable growth rate (SGR), was renegotiated annually and usually at the last minute. It’s been replaced with an annual payment increase of 0.5 percent. The vote was 392 to 37, including 212 Republicans and 180 Democrats voting in favor, according to Govtrack.us.

The strong support from both Republicans and Democrats puts pressure on the U.S. Senate to approve the bill, before Congress adjourns on Friday, Paul Demko wrote in Modern Healthcare. Continue reading

Today’s aging boomers may be less healthy elders than expected, study says

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo by Mike Licht via Flickr

Image: Mike Licht via Flickr

New research refutes the common assumption that baby boomers are healthier than previous generations and will remain so into old age. Better education, higher income and lower smoking rates are offset by the negative impact of increasing body mass index and obesity-related health problems, according to a study in the current issue of the health policy journal Milbank Quarterly.

A longitudinal cohort study with 8,570 participants looked at the trajectory of self-rated health among four generations of Canadians: World War II-era (born between 1935 and 1944), older baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1954), younger baby boomers (born between 1955 and 1964), and Generation X (born between 1965 and 1974). In Canada, almost one-third of the population is between the ages of 46 and 65, according to the 2011 Canadian census. Continue reading

Health Journalism 2015 agenda covers gamut of health care

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

<span class="credit">Pia Christensen/AHCJ</span>AHCJ President Karl Stark, the assistant managing editor, business, health and science at <em>The Philadelphia Inquirer</em>, gives tips on covering hospital finance at Health Journalism 2014.

Pia Christensen/AHCJAHCJ President Karl Stark, the assistant managing editor, business, health and science at The Philadelphia Inquirer, gives tips on covering hospital finance at Health Journalism 2014.

We have posted descriptions of nearly all of the panels planned for Health Journalism 2015 and it’s an agenda packed with timely and useful sessions for anyone covering health.

Field trips on Thursday will feature trips to Stanford University, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford Health Care, Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory, the Division of Clinical Anatomy at Stanford University and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System to learn about simulation training, pediatric heart care, hospital disaster preparation, veterans’ rehabilitation, early detection of cancer and much more. Continue reading

Link between air quality, residents’ lung health seen in European nursing homes

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Isabella Annesi-Maesano

Isabella Annesi-Maesano

Like the United States, most European nations face an increasingly aging population, with more elderly living in some type of long-term care facility or nursing home. A new study in the March 12 online issue of the European Respiratory Journal indicates that indoor air quality in these nursing homes has a serious effect on the lung health of elderly residents.

The research describes the negative effects of poor air quality in nursing homes across several countries. U.S. journalists may want to use this study as background to investigate similar issues at nursing homes in their communities.

Investigators from the EU-funded Geriatric study in Europe on health effects of air quality in nursing homes (GERIE) collected data on five indoor air pollutants: particulate matter known as PM10 (large particles) and PM0.1 (ultra-fine particles), formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. These pollutants come from a range of sources including heaters, building materials, furniture, cleaning products, disinfectants and cooling systems. They studied levels of the pollutants at 50 nursing homes in seven countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Poland and Sweden. Continue reading

The aging Latino population faces unique challenges

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo"  Daniel C via Flickr

Photo: Daniel C via Flickr

All family caregivers face struggle to provide appropriate care to their loved ones, while balancing work, other family obligations and managing stress. Latino caregivers must also overcome other barriers, including language, cultural expectations within the Hispanic community, to jobs that may not provide necessary flexibility.

According to the National Hispanic Council on Aging, one-third of Hispanic households report having at least one family caregiver (36 percent). They estimate there are at least 8.1 million Hispanic family caregivers in the U.S. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of these caregivers are female, with an average age of 42. They provide more intensive, higher-burden caregiving, help with more activities of daily living, and more frequently live with their loved one than do their non-Hispanic, White counterparts. Yet, half (50 percent) of the caregivers rate their experiences as less stressful than do white caregivers.

Chronic diseases like diabetes affect twice as many Hispanics as non-Hispanics, especially Hispanic elders. However studies show minority caregivers tend to use substantially fewer formal support services than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Focus groups conducted with racially and ethnically diverse caregivers found that “familism, a primary value of Latino cultures, is often cited as a motivating factor for providing care, including the expectation that extended family will assist with the care of older relatives.” Continue reading