We are working to gather raw data for your own analysis and to pinpoint trustworthy outside sources of data, analysis and summaries that you can use in your reporting. Below are data sources that can assist you in covering health reform.
based on MLR reports filed through Oct. 21, 2021. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a report showing how many Americans would receive payments from health insurers under the Affordable Care Act’s medical loss ratio calculations. The report also shows how many and how much these consumers would get in each state. Almost 10 million consumers would get an average of $205 each for a total of about $10 billion from insurers.
On Dec 22, 2021, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that a record 13.6 million were enrolled in health insurance coverage for 2022 through HealthCare.gov and the ACA’s state-based marketplaces. Under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, 92% of enrollees who signed up outside of the state-based marketplaces will get premium tax credits in 2022, making coverage more affordable, the report noted.
A report in November 2021 published on AffordableHealthInsurance.com, a site that helps consumers enroll in health care coverage, showed that men were more likely to remain uninsured after a layoff than women. The report also showed that 56% of Americans who were laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic lost their employer-provided health insurance and 81% of those who lost their health insurance remained uninsured into the fall of 2021, many because they could not afford health insurance, the report said. And some 59% of those who were uninsured said a medical emergency would “very likely” be devastating financially.
Journalists reporting on open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should warn consumers that during the ACA’s special enrollment period (from Feb. 15 through Sept. 15, 2021) that online shoppers were more likely to be referred to alternative health insurance plans that do not comply with the ACA’s requirements than to ACA-compliant plans, according to research from the Georgetown University Center for Health Insurance Reforms. The non-compliant offerings included fixed-indemnity, short-term, health care sharing ministry and other plans that were impossible to categorize based on the information the insurers provided, the report noted. Typically, the alternative plans were more expensive than coverage through the ACA marketplaces and required consumers to pay more for deductibles and coinsurance. Sales representatives for the non-compliant plans gave misleading information about alternative plans and made false statements about the cost and features of ACA-compliant plans, the report said.
In October 2021, KFF published a revised ACA Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator to help consumers understand how much they would pay when buying coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces for coverage in 2022. The calculator reflects increased tax credits under the American Rescue Plan Act. Open enrollment for health plans effective Jan. 1, began Nov. 1 and ends on Jan. 15 in most states. Some state-run marketplaces have different end dates. The calculator allows consumers and journalists to enter age, income, Zip code and family size to estimate eligibility for subsidies and payment and to know if they may be eligible for Medicaid.
In 2021, members of Congress considered a proposal to let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical makers. One way to do so is to use prices from other federal agencies as a reference, according to a report from the Commonwealth Fund. The federal Medicare Part D (prescription drug program for seniors) pays nearly three times what Medicaid pays and nearly double what the federal departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs pay for the same medications, the report noted. Using domestic reference pricing, Medicare would pay what defense and the VA pay for drugs, STAT reported in September.
In 2019, about 12% of the U.S. population under age 65 (about 30 million Americans) were not enrolled in a health insurance plan or a government health program that provides comprehensive major medical coverage, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office. The nation’s federal programs, subsidies and other sources of coverage did not reach those people even during a strong economy and historically low unemployment, the report noted. People with low incomes were likely to be uninsured in 2019, and about two-thirds of uninsured people were eligible for some form of subsidized coverage, although the available subsidies varied on the basis of family income, access to employment-based coverage and other factors. A smaller number of uninsured people had no option for coverage except a private plan purchased at full cost. Many uninsured people do not enroll in coverage because of the cost; others may not know they are eligible for subsidized coverage or may be deterred by the complexity of enrolling. Although the majority of uninsured people could obtain coverage for 10% or less of their income, they may not view the coverage to be worth the cost, the CBO said.
The American Economic Liberties Project wrote to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to outline four ways HHS could lower drug costs: 1) use compulsory patent licensing provisions in federal law to bring new insulin manufacturers to market and increase competition; 2) restore fair markets for independent pharmacies and purchasers by eliminating predatory fees, unfair patient steering, and anti-kickback exemptions for group purchasers; 3) enforce laws against pharmaceutical companies that have repeatedly engaged in illegal conduct to harm competition; and 4) use participation in Medicare Part D and in Medicaid to encourage competition.
In this report, researchers noted a flaw in a federal report on health insurance in 2020 from the U.S. Census Bureau. Researchers from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families showed that data in this report, “Uninsured Rates for Children in Poverty Increased 2018–2020,” showed no statistically significant increase in the number of uninsured children over those years. But, the researchers added that the data from CPS count people as being uninsured only if they had no health insurance during the entire previous year. In 2020, about 8 million children (or 10.4% of all children) were uninsured for all or part of 2020, the Center for Children and Families explained. IN addition, the children in the poorest families were likely to be without insurance for some part of the year, the researchers noted. “The uninsured rate for children under the poverty line rose significantly from 7.8 percent in 2018 to 9.3 percent in 2020,” the researchers added.
More than two-thirds of accountable care organizations in the Medicare Shared Savings Program earned shared savings in 2020, according to a report in Modern Healthcare. Among ACOs in models with downside risk, 88% earned performance payments versus 55% of ACOs in one-sided risk models that got performance payments, the news magazine noted. In its announcement, CMS said ACOs in the shared-savings program earned almost $2.3 billion in bonuses and saved taxpayers about $1.9 billion last year, the fourth consecutive year of net savings for Medicare.
The ACA largely eliminated out of pocket costs (OOPCs) for screening mammography, but researchers found that among commercially insured women aged 40 to 64, OOPCs for additional breast imaging evaluations and procedures after initial screening were common, nontrivial and rising. This trend coincided with the rapid rise in high-deductible health plans during the time period (2010 to 2017), the researchers noted.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in August 2021 that sales representatives listed on the federal healthcare.gov website can sell other types of health coverage that may cost less but may not cover all pre-existing conditions as comprehensive plans are required to do under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After doing 31 covert tests on selected sales representatives, the GAO found none engaged in potentially deceptive marketing practices. This result contrasts with a GAO report from August 2020, Private Health Coverage: Results of Covert Testing for Selected Offerings, in which undercover agents tested the sales practices of representatives selling health plans exempt from the ACA’s rules. In these tests, sales representatives engaged in potentially deceptive practices, the GAO said. Those practices were reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
Researchers for The Commonwealth Fund found that a small and declining share (7%) of Medicare Supplement plans (also known as Medigap plans) cover only 12% of all Medigap enrollees and provided additional benefits (such as dental, vision, and hearing) not covered by traditional Medicare in 2020. Enrollment in Medigap plans is growing at more than 4% annually since 2016 and Congress is considering increasing access to these additional benefits. The researchers found the additional benefits were concentrated in only a few Medigap plans and that some 65%of Medigap enrollees who could get these benefits were enrolled in Medigap Plan G.
Medicare spending was $321 per-person higher in 2019 and growing faster per person for beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage (MA) than in traditional Medicare, according to a KFF report published in August 2021. The higher spending contributed to an estimated $7 billion in additional spending in 2019. Between 2021 and 2029, higher spending will come from growth in MA enrollment and in Medicare payments per MA enrollee, the report added. The Biden Administration supports reforming MA payments to private plans to extend the solvency of the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund and improve affordability for beneficiaries, the report said.
Contrary to some predictions, small businesses’ health coverage offerings remained relatively stable during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the Urban Institute in August 2021. Over the past 20 years, the share of small employers offering comprehensive health benefits dropped from almost half to less than one-third. When costs rise, many small businesses shift to coverage exempt from Affordable Care Act rules, unsettling the market. If left unaddressed, these trends could create a more costly pool of enrollees for insurers to cover in the small-group market.
Expanding eligibility for Medicaid in the states was associated with reductions in the share (6.2%) and the population rate (7.85 per 10,000) of surgical discharges among the uninsured in expansion versus nonexpansion states, according to researchers from the Duke University Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Published in Health Affairs, the research suggested that in 2019 alone, adoption of Medicaid expansion in nonexpansion states could have prevented more than 50,000 incidences of catastrophic financial burden for uninsured patients needing surgery, the authors wrote.
Consumer spending for out-of-pocket (OOP) health care costs will rise to an estimated $491.6 billion in 2021, a 10% increase this year over what consumers paid in 2020, according to the fifth annual report on OOP from Kalorama Information, a medical market research publisher. Annual increases in deductibles, copayments and coinsurance have pushed up OOP costs from about $250 per person in 1980 to $1,650 in 2021, the report noted. In the report, Kalorama also said that such costs are expected to rise by 9.9% through 2026 and that health plan premiums have increased at a faster rate than that of overall prices and workers’ earnings.
In August 2021, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published its 17th annual report on trends related to access to care, affordable care, care coordination, effective treatment, healthy living, patient safety and person-centered care. The report presents data on the quality of and access to health care and on disparities related to race and ethnicity, income and other social determinants of health.
This report in JAMA describes what the authors said is an optimal payment model for primary care. In May 2021, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reported that “primary care in the United States is fragile and weakening,” and recommended paying primary care practices through a combination of fee-for-service and capitation. The report in JAMA recommends an integrated team-based system of care in which primary care groups would get monthly payments for wellness care and chronic disease management and fees for the diagnosis and treatment of new acute illnesses.
For a study published in JAMA Network Open in August 2021, researchers collected information on 253,606 pregnant people, of whom 131,224 (51.7%) used price-transparency tools in 2011 to 2012, and 122,382 (48.3%) used such tools in 2015 to 2016. The proportion of pregnant people I am still really struggling with Susan. Not sure what to do about it, but I often feel that she is asking me to do stuff she should be able to do herself. who sought price information before childbirth more than doubled within the first six years of availability of a price transparency tool, suggesting that price information may help people anticipate their out-of-pocket childbirth costs, the report said.
Comparing U.S. health care system with other countries
The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) maintains a database that enables comparisons between the U.S. and other developed countries on a range of health statistics, including the pharmaceutical market and health care quality.
Tax provisions of the ACA (January 2018)
This IRS page has links to data related to the tax provisions of the ACA for individuals, businesses, government and insurers.
Rural hospital closures
The Sheps Center at the University of North Carolina has data and tracking tools for rural hospital closures by state.
HIX Compare datasets examine every marketplace plan from 2015 to 2016
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has created free, machine-readable data files on all ACA plans for 2015 and 2016 – on and off exchange in the individual market, and the small group market. It’s a comprehensive look at the health plans – premiums, deductibles, co-pays, benefits, etc. – though not at the people who get covered.
This is a new free and pretty user friendly source of price information based on an extensive (billions) set of insurance claims from commercial health insurers compiled by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). You can search for a medical procedure, and get the national cost average as well as costs for your region. It also has quality and consumer information.This is a new free and pretty user friendly source of price information based on an extensive (billions) set of insurance claims from commercial health insurers compiled by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). You can search for a medical procedure, and get the national cost average as well as costs for your region. It also has quality and consumer information.
The Shorenstein Center’s guide to health and science databases
The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School has assembled a guide to databases, with a focus on health and public health. Their list includes both free (open source) and paid access databases. Some, like PubMed or Public Library of Science (PLoS), are well known to health journalists but others, like the Social Science Research Network or HighWire, may not be. This is a comprehensive list, with descriptions, and it’s helpful.
Utilization of products, services by Medicare beneficiaries
CMS has released a data set on Provider Utilization and Payment Data: Referring Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS) Public Use File. It contains information on products and services provided to Medicare beneficiaries ordered by physicians and other health care professionals.
CMS Releases County-Level Marketplace Data
CMS has released new information on Qualified Health Plan selections by county for the 37 states that use the HealthCare.gov platform (including the Federally-facilitated Marketplace, State Partnership Marketplaces and supported State-based Marketplaces) for the Marketplace open enrollment period from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015, including additional special enrollment period (SEP) activity reported through February 22, 2015.
The data represent the number of unique individuals who have been determined eligible to enroll in a Qualified Health Plan and had selected a Marketplace plan by February 15, 2015 (including SEP activity through February 22). CMS released the following tables:
CMS has published updated data about hospital readmission rates. Under the ACA, hospitals with high rates of 30-day readmissions for Medicare patients with specified conditions are penalized. Scroll down to the end of this document for the data.
POS (Provider of Service)
This POS (Provider of Service) file contains data on health care providers that take part in Medicare, and what services they provide. It’s updated quarterly.
Nationwide data on Hospital-Associated Infections (HAIs)
Most US hospitals will never see a case of Ebola, but they face other more common – and potentially lethal – infections every day. Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs) are "major causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States," according to the CDC. From 2009 through 2011, the CDC tracked nosocomial infections in the HAI and Antibiotic Prevalence Use Survey, a three-phase, point-prevalence nationwide survey. Also, visit the CDC's Safe Healthcare blog for relevant medical studies and updates on infection-prevention quality in hospitals around the country.
Health of minority populations
The ACA requires federal health data collection and analysis, including demographic data aimed at better understanding disparities. The HHS Office of Minority Health has detailed reports on five racial and ethnic groups.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's DataHub tracks state-level data and allows users to customize and visualize facts and figures on key health and health care topics. It has a broad range of data sets pertaining to health coverage, status and reform.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has six databases on its "Reform by the Numbers" website that can be useful for reporters covering health care. In an exclusive briefing at an AHCJ New York chapter meeting in June 2014, the Foundation's Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., discussed the highlights of the databases.
The databases can answer many questions, such as whether consumers are having trouble paying their sky-high deductibles or whether waiting lines are growing at doctors’ offices. Want to know how your state exchange differs from others? This data can help. Hempstead also offers ideas for stories that can be mined from the data no matter your technical abilities.
State Exchange Markets
The State Exchange Markets tool, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has a preliminary summary of policies and data collected from other research data sets and Marketplace materials as well as from information provided by state advocates and Marketplace staff.
Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) Compare
This dataset, available from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,provides information on benefit design and cost sharing for health plans offered in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Specifically, the dataset includes data on premiums, network composition, deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, and copayment and coinsurance amounts.
Tracking Americans’ experiences in the health insurance marketplaces
Trends in Insurance Coverage, Source of Private Coverage Among Young Adults
This report shows that, since September 2010 – when adults aged 19–25 were able to obtain dependent private health insurance coverage through a provision of the ACA – the percentage of young adults with private insurance increased and the percentage without insurance decreased. The increase in the percentage with private insurance occurred at about the same time (January–June 2011) as a temporary increase in the percentage of privately insured young adults who had been uninsured at some time in the past 12 months. This suggests that those newly insured were previously uninsured or had a period of no insurance in the past year. After this spike, the percentage of young adults with a period of no insurance did not return to pre-2011 levels but rather declined to levels consistent with slightly older adults. The data comes from the National Health Interview Survey, 2008–2012.
Localhealthdata.org (via Washington University’s Health Communication Research Laboratory). This includes U.S. government health data, data from numerous health organizations (i.e. American Heart Association), that can be searched by locality (state, city, county) analyzed, and easily turned into charts. (Not all the underlying raw data can be downloaded, but it includes sources of the information that may be able to provide it.)
A collaboration between the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this is a rich source of data about health at the local level – and who is doing what to improve it. You can get local story ideas by tracking the grantees – who is doing what. And you can dive into a whole lot of data through several links on the site, and particularly on this page.
The site looks at national and local trends regarding mortality and premature death, health related quality of life, as well as factors such as air pollution, smoking rates, obesity and teen births.
Leapfrog Group for Patient Safety
This is a group backed by large employers that gathers safety and quality data (from voluntary surveys) and uses it to promote higher quality, safer, more efficient health care
Leapfrog has its own version of hospital safety data – searchable by hospital and by procedure. The caveat is that hospitals submit information voluntarily and hospitals must pay the group to use its designation in marketing materials, but it can still be a useful tool. See this blog post about the limitations of so-called "hospital report cards."
Nonprofit hospitals' IRS 990s
One little-known element of the health care reform law sets new rules for nonprofits. They are required to assess community needs, and inform patients of charity policies. Some legislators want tougher rules and oversight to make sure they are providing enough service to the community to justify the tax break.
A number of reporters have delved into the issue of charity care and community benefit at nonprofit hospitals by using data from their IRS 990 forms. For example:
Reporter Tony Leys, of the Des Moines Register, describes how he examined how much charity care is provided by hospitals in Iowa in return for the substantial tax breaks they get for operating as nonprofit organizations. Leys, a 2011-12 Regional Health Journalism Fellow, was able to compare local hospitals, using new IRS reporting requirements for nonprofit hospitals, and estimated how local property tax revenue was affected by the tax-exempt hospital properties in those areas.
Financial data from IRS 990 forms about nonprofit hospitals: AHCJ has obtained information on the finances of nonprofit hospitals across the country from GuideStar, which compiles and disseminates financial documents from most U.S. nonprofits. This information is from tax year 2009. AHCJ hopes to update this information annually.
The Affordable Care Act expands review of proposed insurance premium increases – but does not allow Washington to reject increases. Some states have rate-setting powers. Others merely review the rates but cannot reject them. If states don’t review the rates in the individual or small group market, the federal government can. Up to $250 million will be available to states to help beef up review. Here is a list of the states that are conducting reviews, and the states where the federal government is stepping in. (Source: CCIIO/HHS, updated Feb. 16, 2012)
Effects of Selected Major Tax Expenditures from 2013 to 2022
Sometimes during debates over health policy you hear the term "tax exclusion." That's referring to the tax breaks for health insurance that people get through their (or a family member's) employment. The exclusion – or non-taxation of that benefit – is the single largest tax expenditure in the individual income tax code. It is more than the tax breaks for mortgages on personal residences, more than the breaks for state and local taxes, or for charities. In other words, it's a big pot of money that deficit-cutters may look at, but it's also politically hard to change. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the exclusion will equal 1.8 percent of GDP between 2013 and 2022.
EBRI (the Employer Benefit Research Institute) puts out data briefs ad summaries, but they often contain links to government databases that you can break down yourself.
For instance, here from the EBRI Databook provides an on overview/introducti on to employee benefits (including but not limited to health care). For those of you who are not comfortable with the data, it’s all summarized in this 10 page introductory chapter,w ith links that take you to other briefs. For those of you who want to dive more deeply into some of the federal data bases, there are links and date is a available in both PDF and Excel tables. For instance here are the “age pyramids” showing how the population is aging, and the relative sizes of older and younger cohorts. It’s also broken down by region, so, for instance you can look at the sunbelt versus the rust belt.
The chapter also provides links to lots of tables on employment trends – including women of childbearing age, veterans and the disabled.
Here are some highlights from the agency’s News and Numbers (July 2011) about state differences in the cost of job-related health insurance:
Nationwide, private-sector employees with single coverage contributed 21 percent of the cost of their health insurance. Employees who had family coverage paid 27 percent,
Health insurance premiums nationwide averaged $4,940 for single coverage and $13,871 for family coverage in 2010.
Among the 10 largest states, the annual cost of single coverage ranged from $4,669 in Ohio to $5,220 in New York and family coverage ranged from $13,083 in Ohio to $15,032 in Florida.
Some 18 percent of employees with single coverage and 10 percent of employees with family coverage were not required to pay for any part of their employer-sponsored health insurance.
Among the 10 largest states in 2010, employees who didn’t have to pay premiums for single coverage ranged from 12 percent in Illinois to 24.5 percent in California, while the range for employees with family coverage was 3 percent in Florida to 17.5 percent in Pennsylvania.
Hospital and provider utilization from the Kaiser Family Foundation: This tool includes data about hospitals, nursing homes, federally qualified health and rural health centers, physicians, non-physician providers and health care employment. See how the indicators compare across the states. Results will be shown as a table, map, or trend graph as available.
Inpatient and outpatient services, utilization and cost
CMS has released a lot of data on inpatient and outpatient services, utilization and cost. Here are some links to the data and some links to tools to help you use and visualize it.
We often try to provide databases that you can download. While this doesn’t quite fall into that category, The Wall Street Journal did create an interactive map with charts and tables that give you state-by-state information on health care costs.
Essential health benefits
In 2014, all health plans, in and out of the exchanges, will have to offer "essential benefits," or a minimal, reliable comprehensive level of coverage. This chart illustrates the basic categories of coverage, although plans can offer more, and consumers will have choices and tradeoffs. The ACA law itself does not define the essential benefits; HHS will, with advice from the Institute of Medicine and other sources.
Improving hospital quality
Health reform includes lots of initiatives to improve hospital quality and bring down Medicare costs. Here’s one area that some experts want to address. This chart from the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) shows that the number of hospital stays principally for septicemia (sometimes colloquially called “blood poisoning) more than doubled between 2000 and 2009 (337,100 to 836,000 admissions) – making it the sixth most common reason for hospitalization in 2009. The most common reason (one out of five hospitalizations) was because of a complication from a device, implant, or graft. The in-hospital death rate was 16 percent in 2009 – more than eight times as high as for all other hospital stays.
AHCJ offers hospital mortality and readmission data, which will allow you to tell your audience whether a hospital's rates are in line with national averages, significantly better or significantly worse. A special AHCJ webinar provided an introduction to this data, including ideas on how to use the data in your own area.
The federal survey that reflects patients' perspectives of hospital care has been updated on the AHCJ website. The spreadsheets that AHCJ offers allow you to analyze the top-rated hospitals — or lowest-rated hospitals — in your area.
The Commonwealth Fund’s Health System Data Center breaks down lots of state and local data, and includes searchable data on child health and long-term care.
These files are PDFs of charts, not downloadable Excel files (although their communications shop can probably help if you are looking for something specific). But there are queries you can fill in, and the site will generate specific charts and comparisons for you.
The Affordable Care Act provides a temporary tax credit for small employers – defined as having 25 full-time workers or the equivalent – with average wages less than $50,000. But not many know about it, or that they may be eligible, according to the survey. The White House has estimated that up to 4 million small businesses may be eligible for credits, which are meant to defray part of the insurance costs
Americans made nearly 956 million visits to office-based physicians in 2008. Just over half – 51.3 percent – were to primary care physicians.
The number of nurse practitioners and physicians assistants has risen, but it may come as a surprise to learn that the AHRQ-commissioned research found that just over half (52 percent ) of the 106,073 nurse practitioners and just 43 percent of the 70,383 physician assistants were practicing primary care. The rest were in specialty settings.
The National Center for Health Statistics offers downloadable public-use data files through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's FTP file server. Data sets, documentation and questionnaires from NCHS surveys and data collection systems are available.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Medicine launched this initiative to help consumers and communities get more value out of the nation's wealth of health data. It includes a number of web tools, reports and downloadable data.
A statistical supplement offers a wealth of Medicare and Medicaid spending data. HHS says it includes “charts and tables showing health expenditures for the entire U.S. population, characteristics of the covered populations, use of services, and expenditures under these programs.”
While the AHCJ website has data available on Medicare and Medicare, here’s a menu-driven search tool that can help you search and navigate more government health data. It will retrieve data sets or statistical reports.
Excel pivot tables are a powerful way to organize, interpret and manipulate numerical data. In this tip sheet, reporters will learn the skills necessary to apply these tables in real-world situations, including analyzing the Nursing Home Compare data.
This tutorial will give you a jumpstart on using spreadsheets to investigate health data. While it's important to remember that a spreadsheet can give you a lead but can't replace your news judgment, this will help you navigate around spreadsheets, understand some basic references and learn some good practices in dealing with data.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been reporting patient survival rates for hospitals across the United States for four years now and hospital readmission rates for three. While some journalists may have a been-there-done-that reaction to yet another round of data, the latest release has important information for your readers, viewers and listeners. After several years, a surprising number of hospitals can't seem to improve – and an elite group has been able to maintain their excellence.