Top five stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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Health news headlines – September 21st

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surgeons performing surgery in operating room

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Global health news – September 21st

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Globe floating in air

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When a hospital closes . . .

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Belhaven 1 300

Dr. Charles Boyette is a primary care doctor who has been practicing in Belhaven, N.C., for more than 50 years (Photo by Lisa Gillespie/KHN).

The July 1 closure of Vidant Pungo Hospital, which gained national attention through Mayor Adam O’Neal’s 273-mile protest walk to Washington, D.C., is a constant refrain here.

People gossip about it over dinner at the Fish Hooks Cafe, or during the Tuesday night bluegrass and gospel music open mic night, held just down the street from the vacant hospital.

In a scenario playing out in rural areas across the country, the closing has left local doctors wondering how they will make sure patients get timely care, given the long distances to other hospitals, and residents worrying about what to do in an emergency and where to get lab tests and physical therapy. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – September 20th

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Kidney

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Global health news – September 20

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Globe floating in air

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How much will your x-ray cost? You can find out in New Hampshire

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This KHN story also ran in the .

When Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield became embroiled in a contract dispute with Exeter Hospital in N.H. in 2010, its negotiators came to the table armed with a new weapon: public data showing the hospital was one of the most expensive in the state for some services.

Local media covering the dispute also spotlighted the hospital’s higher costs, using public data from a state website.

When the dust settled, the insurer had extracted $10 million in concessions from Exeter. The hospital “had to step back and change their behavior,” said health policy researcher Ha Tu, who studied the state’s efforts to make health care prices transparent.

New Hampshire is among 14 states that require insurers to report the rates they pay different health care providers —and one of just a handful that makes those prices available to consumers.

The theory is that if consumers know what different providers charge for medical services, they will become better shoppers and collectively save billions.

In most places, though, it’s difficult, if not impossible to find out how much you will be charged for medical care. And with more people enrolled in high-deductible insurance plans, there is a growing demand for accurate price information. Continue reading

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Enterovirus D-68 confirmed in two patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital

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From Seattle Children’s Hospital

Parents strongly encouraged to take precautions, seek medical attention for troubled breathing, wheezing in babies, children, teens

EV68-infographicSEATTLE – Sept. 19, 2014 – Seattle Children’s Hospital announced today that two children have tested positive for Enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68).

The children, whose names were not released, have preexisting health conditions that exacerbated their condition but were stable enough to be discharged from the hospital earlier this week.

The presence of EV-D68 in the two children was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Thursday.

Results for three other children who were tested for EV-D68 were negative. Two of those children have been discharged; one is deceased.

No children in Washington or the United States have died of EV-D68 related illness. Continue reading

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For autistic adults, coverage options are scarce

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Graphic showing an umbrella sheltering medicinesBy Michelle Andrews
KHN / September 19th

It’s getting easier for parents of young children with autism to get insurers to cover a pricey treatment called applied behavioral analysis.

Once kids turn 21, however, it’s a different ballgame entirely. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – September 19th

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Global health news – September 19th

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Globe floating in air

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County receives $6m grant to improve hepatitis C care

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Hepatitis C by the numbersKing County has received a four-year, $6 million grant to improve testing, treatment and cure rates of people with chronic HCV infection.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects large numbers of people in King County, but it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

“Thousands of people in King County have chronic HCV, but many don’t know they have it,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease & Epidemiology at Public Health – Seattle & King County. “This grant will allow us to make sure that patients with chronic HCV are not just identified, but also seen by a provider, receive follow-up testing, and get the care they need.”

The grant will fund the Hepatitis C Test & Cure Project, which will provide training for clinicians on the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of HCV and connect them to specialists. Continue reading

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One-quarter of ACOs save enough to earn bonuses

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Jordan Rau
KHN

About a quarter of the 243 groups of hospitals and doctors that banded together as accountable care organizations under the Affordable Care Act saved Medicare enough money to earn bonuses, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Tuesday.

Those 64 ACOs earned a combined $445 million in bonuses, the agency said. Medicare saved $372 million after accounting for the ACOs that did not show success, including four that overspent significantly and now owe the government money.

The bonuses, losses and Medicare savings are teensy sums in the context of a program that spends half a trillion dollars a year on care for the elderly and disabled.

But the Obama administration views the results so far as evidence that reorganizing the financial incentives for doctors and hospitals — a key element of the health law – can translate to substantial savings if the program expands nationwide. Continue reading

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Dying in America is harder than it has to be, expert panel says

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It is time for conversations about death to become a part of life.

That is one of the themes of a 500-page report, titled “Dying In America,” releasedWednesday by the Institute of Medicine.

The report suggests that the first end-of-life conversation could coincide with a cherished American milestone: getting a driver’s license at 16, the first time a person weighs what it means to be an organ donor.

Follow-up conversations with a counselor, nurse or social worker should come at other points early in life, such as turning 18 or getting married.

The idea, according to the IOM, is to “help normalize the advance care planning process by starting it early, to identify a health care agent, and to obtain guidance in the event of a rare catastrophic event.”

The IOM plans to spend the next year holding meetings around the country to spark conversations about the report’s findings and recommendations. “The time is now for our nation to develop a modernized end-of-life care system,” said Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the IOM. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – September 18th

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Flu virus - courtesy of NAIAD

Flu virus – courtesy of NAIAD

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