AHCJ joins more than 40 other journalism groups representing tens of thousands of journalists in saying #JeSuisCharlie.
Back when states were deciding whether to run their own exchanges or let the feds do it, they also had to make a lot of decisions about how their exchanges would operate.
One question was whether to have a “clearinghouse” and let any health plan that met the legal requirements participate in the marketplace. The other option was to be an “active purchaser,” and to have the state exchange directly negotiate with the health plans over premiums, provider networks etc.
The rationale, for each model: Continue reading
It’s the first week of January and winter seems to have finally arrived with a vengeance. In addition to the cold and snow, many older adults are also fighting this year’s flu.
The CDC reports the virus is widespread in 43 states — from New England to the Pacific Northwest. The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications with older adults and those with respiratory problems at especially high risk.
Some 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. More than 200,000 are hospitalized from its complications.
By the first day of 2015, CDC’s influenza surveillance systems were showing “elevated” activity, including increasing hospitalizations rates in people 65 years and older. CBS Atlanta reported that “flu-related hospitalizations for the elderly have doubled from this time last year” across the country. Media outlets report increased flu-related deaths among local elderly in recent days. Continue reading
Maine legislators approved legislation clearing the way for the technically trained auxiliaries to go to work in that state last spring.
A similar push has been underway in New Mexico in recent years. Now a state legislator has filed a bill for consideration in the session that begins this month that would establish a licensing and practicing framework for the midlevel oral health providers in that state writes Rosalie Rayburn in a Nov. 19 story for the Albuquerque Journal.
As proposed in the bill, therapists would function like “physicians’ assistants for dentists” working under a supervision agreement with dentists that would allow them to provide services from satellite offices, Rayburn reports. They would be trained to perform procedures including dental fillings, basic extractions and denture adjustments, according to Health Action New Mexico, which supports the effort. Continue reading
There are plenty of aging-related stories on the horizon for 2015. Here are just some issues and ideas to get you started:
The once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging is scheduled for sometime in mid-2015 – a date is yet to be finalized. It’s the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference will focus on four key areas:
Look for plenty of updates on the conference by spring.
Issues include financial security, affordable housing, aging-in-place and community-based support services. According to Leading Age Magazine, boomers are poorly prepared when it comes to savings. How are the 50- and 60-somethings in your community preparing for retirement? Or are they? Continue reading
As we close out 2014, take a look back at the most popular Covering Health posts of the year:
Thanks for reading and contributing ideas and comments this year!
A secretive committee of the American Medical Association exaggerates how much physician time and effort is involved in performing many medical procedures, according to an analysis of the committee’s work by journalists at The Washington Post.
That exaggeration skews payment in favor or physician specialists and at the expense of primary care physicians, according to the article by the Post’s Dan Keating (@dtkeating) and Peter Whoriskey (@PeterWhoriskey).
The claim that the committee overstates the time involved to do many procedures has been reported previously. What is unusual about Keating and Whoriskey’s analysis of the AMA’s 31-member Relative Value Update Committee is that they calculated the committee’s estimates of the time involved for physicians to do many procedures and found the numbers to be off by as much as 100 percent in favor of specialist physicians. Continue reading
One of the high-profile programs within the Affordable Care Act is the drive to reduce preventable hospital readmissions among the Medicare population. The program focuses on fee-for-service patients who came back to the hospital within 30 days. Hospitals in the third year of the program face a fine of up to 3 percent of their Medicare payments. Kaiser Health News analyzed the most recent CMS hospital data, and found more than 2,600 hospitals faced penalties in the last round and could lose $400 million.
Reducing unnecessary hospitalizations is a good idea, pretty much a slam-dunk quality move.
But is the readmissions program using the right metrics? Are hospitals that are doing all the right things cutting both readmissions and admissions – and therefore facing penalties because the proportion isn’t dropping, the readmission rate is the same share of the total admissions? Some new research suggests that may be the case. As Joanne Lynn, M.D., a geriatrician and prominent health policy researcher put it (and I’m paraphrasing), it’s the denominator, stupid. Continue reading
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Patient safety is a critically important topic for health care journalists. Yet collecting the data needed to report on it thoroughly can be frustratingly difficult.
For a new report, former journalist Michael L. Millenson (@MLMillenson), explains the challenges he and his colleagues encountered collecting the data they needed to produce a nonpartisan report, “The Politics of Patient Harm: Medical Error and the Safest Congressional Districts.” The first analysis of patient safety by congressional district, the report ranks each district as good, fair or poor on patient safety.
Early in his career, Millenson covered health care for The Chicago Tribune. He is the author of “Demanding Medical Excellence: Doctors and Accountability in the Information Age,” and president of Health Quality Advisors LLC.
For this patient safety report, he found that – even in the best districts – at least one person dies needlessly every day and eight patients are harmed. The report also shows that 14 more individuals die and 105 are injured every month in hospitals in districts rated “poor” on safety than in those rated “good.”
In poor districts, preventable medical errors cause an average of 553 deaths and 4,148 injuries annually. In fair districts the average annual rate was 469 deaths and 3,518 injuries and in good districts, the rate was 385 deaths and 2,888 injuries.
In a new “How I did it” article, Millenson explains the challenges of collecting and reporting the data needed to compare one congressional district against others.
“In health care, cooking up answers to what look like simple questions can quickly get complicated,” he writes. Surprisingly, it was difficult just to determine how to define the term “hospital” because there are so many different types of hospitals. Just distinguishing a local hospital’s performance from that of another hospital miles away was challenging because multiple hospitals owned by one system may share a provider billing number, he explains.
For journalists, this report and Millenson’s explanation of how it was compiled is useful for comparing patient safety scores in one district versus others, and it’s useful as a way to keep the issue of patient safety in the public eye 15 years after the publication of the Institute of Medicine’s landmark report on the subject, “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System.”