News

Longer life for a higher price

A New York Times article observes that while healthcare costs have grown exponentially over the last 50 years, life expectancy has also increased dramatically. In the good old days, a typical American could expect to spend about $500 a year (adjusted for inflation) on healthcare; that figure has ballooned to $6,000 today. But look at the medical advances we've enjoyed: Physicians have discovered how to prevent heart attacks, oncologists have more success curing cancer, and more …

SPOTLIGHT: CMS awards grant for rural care


CMS has granted a $7.5 million award to organizations developing Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) in rural areas. The PACE program currently provides care to elderly individuals living in urban areas, and the award will extend care to rural beneficiaries. Release

ALSO NOTED: Cost of nursing homes on the rise; Readmission rates rise in PA; and much more...

> The cost of even the most basic nursing home care is rising. Report

> After almost a year-long break, Pennsylvania-based Allegheny General Hospital is restarting its lung transplant program. Report

> A New York law mandates that insurers must cover autism …

Report: Primary care MD pay rose 3.9% in 2005

A study released by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) finds that primary care physicians' pay has increased 3.89 percent in 2005, while specialists saw a 6.61 percent increase in the last year. And in case you're wondering which specialties saw the most growth, anesthesiologists' compensation rose 10.3 percent to $359,699 and emergency medicine doctors' salaries were up 9.8 percent to $243,449.

The MGMA observes that primary care physicians' compensation is not in …

Intel chairman blasts U.S. healthcare

Intel chairman Craig Barrett has made some dire predictions about the future of the U.S. job market in the face of rising healthcare costs. In 2004, it cost employers an average of $6,000 dollars to insure each employee. Sooner or later, Barrett notes, this cost will have companies sending their jobs overseas, where healthcare is far less expensive. "The [healthcare] system is out of control, it's unstable, it's basically bankrupt, it gets worse each year and all we do is tinker around …

Congress takes on ER overcrowding

All this talk about ER overcrowding has caught Congress's attention. The Senate Health subcommittee on bioterrorism and public health preparedness heard testimony about the growing problem in ERs and the impact that a disaster could have on the nation's emergency departments. In the ten years from 1994 to 2004, the number of ER visits rose 18 percent, to 110 million. But over that same time …

Wal-Mart switches to CDHPs

Wal-Mart is jumping on the CDHP bandwagon. The nation's largest employer announced that it will offer only the high-deductible policies to new employees, but that current employees who chose to renew their existing plans won't have to switch. While the plans have monthly premiums as low as $11, some deductibles will run as high as $6,000 a year. Wal-Mart says that in the long run, the new health plans will save employees money. Critics, on the other hand, blast the company for shifting …

HealthSouth settles for $445M

HealthSouth's huge accounting scandal has finally come to a close, as the company has agreed to pay $445 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit. HealthSouth will be responsible for $215 million in cash, stocks and warrants and insurance companies will pay the remaining part of the settlement. The $2.7 billion scandal eventually led to the conviction of 15 HealthSouth executives. Though HealthSouth will pay the hefty settlement, the company has admitted no wrongdoing.

For details on the settlement:
- see this Modern Healthcare report

SPOTLIGHT: King/Drew urges staff to carry on

King/Drew Medical Center administrators are urging hospital staff to carry on as if nothing were amiss, despite the fact that staff will be greatly affected by the hospital's impending loss of federal funding. The hospital board may turn King/Drew over to a private hospital operator or hand management over to another county hospital. Article

ALSO NOTED: MA doc wrote fake prescriptions; J&J sues Guidant for $5.5B; and much more...

> A Massachusetts doctor is facing charges for writing fake prescriptions for painkillers. Report

> Brentwood, TN-based Community Health Systems has abandoned a deal to purchase Ohio-based system Forum Health. Report

> Johnson & Johnson is suing device maker Guidant for $5.5 billion. …

Norwalk named acting director of CMS

Leslie Norwalk has been named acting director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She will be replacing CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, who announced that he was stepping down from his post to join a think tank focused on improving the U.S. healthcare system. "She is a nationally recognized expert on Medicare issues and played a central role in the successful implementation of the prescription drug benefit and other reforms to Medicare and Medicaid," Mike Leavitt, …

Report: Severe family MD shortage by 2020

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, patients in Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Texas and Idaho will face a serious family physician shortage by the year 2020. The problem is predicted to be the worst in these states because they have a higher proportion of elderly residents, but almost every state will be effected by the shortage. Patients in rural and inner city settings will likely …

Biotech sues Phila. hospital over research

Five Children's Hospital of Philadelphia employees are facing a lawsuit from Iceland-based DeCode Genetics. The employees, who previously worked for the biotech company, are accused of stealing trade secrets and breach of contract. The point of contention is the hospital's plan to collect DNA from 100,000 children. "The hospital…intends to use the database of DNA profiles to find links between genes and common conditions like obesity. Publicly traded DeCode operates a similar …

MA city hospitals moving into suburbs

Community hospitals in Massachusetts are alarmed by the current trend of well-known Boston hospitals extending their services into the suburbs. Tufts-New England Medical Center, New England Baptist Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have all planned to open suburban offices or have done so already. This could spell big trouble for lesser-known community hospitals. "With their strong brand names and reputations for excellence, many expect they …

Improving the doctor/trainer relationship

Good physical fitness--achieved safely with the guidance of an instructor--can go a long way in improving a patient's medical problems. According to The New York Times, a closer relationship between fitness professionals and doctors can also help physicians catch health problems that they might otherwise miss. Yet, despite the fact that healthcare providers could use fitness trainers as a tool for improving patient health, many providers either don't take advantage of trainers or …

SPOTLIGHT: Premiums rising twice as fast as wages


According to a new report, healthcare premiums are rising twice as fast as wage inflation. The cost of healthcare coverage rose 7.7 percent last year, which is less of an increase than seen in previous years, but still cause for concern. Article

ALSO NOTED: States play important role in health IT; NJ physician cheats Medicare; and much more...

> In Los Angeles, many residents are concerned about the potential loss of King/Drew Medical Center. But an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times explains why everyone should be more than happy to see the hospital go. Op-Ed

> State governments are playing an …

Overcrowding in the ER

Wonderful topic, and forgive me for tossing in my two cents: Isn't the basis for the plight of the ER primarily linked to the catastrophic and wholesale abandonment of primary care in this country? While some of the lengths undertaken to fix the symptoms of overcrowding, some nearly heroic, I think the fundamental issue is associated with access, coverage, and availability and utilization of primary care. As you mention in the case of the HCA hospitals in Florida, redirecting patients to clinics can save costs. But this kind of shift also comes much too late. Providing a global (national) accessibility to primary care could keep the 85 percent of the patients out of the ER who do not have genuine need of emergency services. It would also allow the most costly care in the system to be used appropriately and would shore up the primary care docs, who are soon to be found only in museums.

Officials meet to determine King/Drews fate

Last week, Los Angeles-based King/Drew Medical Center failed a CMS inspection and was informed that it will lose $200 million--half of the public hospital's budget--as of November 30th. Regulators found that the troubled hospitals didn't meet nine of the 23 standards necessary to qualify for federal funding and that the hospital placed patient safety at risk. Now, Los Angeles County officials are scrambling to find a way to save the hospital. "Los Angeles County has suffered the loss of …

Study: Heart attack patients often not compliant

In the healthcare community, a lot of attention is focused on what physicians can do to improve patient outcomes. The growing pay-for-performance trend reflects the theory that if physicians follow a set of guidelines for treating certain diseases, it will better manage those diseases and cut down on costs. But what if a doctor does everything he or she is supposed to and the patient isn't cooperative? A study published in American Health Journal found that more than half of people …