Archive for August, 2012

Tax Breaks For Organ Donors Aren’t Boosting Transplant Supply

This story comes from our partner ‘s Shots blog.

Seventeen states offer tax incentives to people who donate a kidney, a portion of their liver or bone marrow for transplantation. But a study finds these sweeteners aren’t working.

Researchers looked at what happened in the years before and after these tax incentives were passed and found no increase in organ donation rates.

It’s the latest contribution to a debate about how to increase the supply of organs for transplantation at a time when more than 100,000 people are on waiting lists and donations have been flat for several years.

A recent NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll found that 60 percent of Americans support some kind of financial incentive to organ donors that could be applied to health care needs.

But the new report raises a caution about how much to expect from financial incentives.


Friday, August 31st, 2012

Today’s Headlines – August 31, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations examine Mitt Romney’s speech last night and the messages on health care at the Republican convention.

Politico: In RNC speech, Mitt Romney Gives Passing Mentions To Health Care, Medicare
Mitt Romney’s most significant political speech of the 2012 campaign made only a passing reference to two of the biggest issues in the entire election: Medicare and the future of President Barack Obama’s health care law. In the whole speech, which lasted about 45 minutes, there were exactly two lines about health care. One was the same attack on Obama’s Medicare cuts that Paul Ryan made last night. The other was the standard pledge to repeal “Obamacare” (Haberkorn, 8/30).

The Washington Post: Romney Draws Battle Lines In GOP Acceptance Speech
Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 was highlighted, but although video clips included his record on fiscal issues, there was no mention of his signature accomplishment, the passage of a health-care law that became a model for Obama’s plan (Balz, 8/30).

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Friday, August 31st, 2012

Today’s Headlines – August 30, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports on Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech to the GOP convention.

The New York Times: Rousing G.O.P., Ryan Faults ‘Missing’ Leadership
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, whose budget plans have come to define conservative opposition to President Obama’s governing philosophy, accepted the Republican vice-presidential nomination on Wednesday as his party embraced the gamble that the small-government principles he represents have more political payoff than peril. Before an audience of party faithful that he brought to life with his address, Mr. Ryan, 42, sought to turn his relative youth to his advantage, saying he would stand with Mitt Romney in embarking on a generational struggle to protect the very social program — Medicare — that Democrats accuse him of trying to dismantle (Rutenberg, 8/29).

The New York Times: Ryan Speech Equal Parts Biography, Policy And Contrast
In the face of attacks by Mr. Obama and Democrats to paint Republicans as foes of Medicare, Mr. Ryan said, essentially: Bring it on. “Our opponents can consider themselves on notice,” he said. “In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the Left isn’t going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program, and raiding it. Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate” (Shear, 8/29).

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Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – August 29, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including news from the Republican convention in Tampa and previews of Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech coming tonight.

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Anoint Romney
Where Mrs. Romney sought to round out her husband’s public image, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey suggested the policy direction Mr. Romney would take. Mr. Romney, he said, would tell the nation the “hard truths” needed to shore up the federal balance sheet. His speech appeared to lay the foundation for calls by Mr. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) to enact spending and tax cuts and changes to Medicare, which Mr. Ryan has championed in Congress. “We believe in telling hard-working families the truth about our country’s fiscal realities, telling them what they already know, the math of federal spending doesn’t add up,” Mr. Christie said (Nelson and McKinnon, 8/28).

The New York Times: Platform’s Sharp Turn To Right Has Conservatives Cheering
The new platform — with its call to reshape Medicare to give fixed amounts of money to future beneficiaries so they can buy their own coverage, its tough stance on illegal immigration and its many calls to shrink the size and scope of government — shows just how far rightward the party has shifted in both tone and substance in the decades since it adopted the 1980 platform, which was considered a triumph for conservatives at the time (Cooper, 8/28).

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Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

New Hospital Safety Effort To Link ICU Machines

Peter Pronovost’s reputation as a health care safety maven was built on his success in getting doctors and nurses to think more systematically about avoiding hospital infections from catheters by using checklists. Now Pronovost is trying to see if the machines in hospital intensive care units can be taught to communicate with each other to avoid errors that hurt or kill patients.


The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation on Tuesday announced it has awarded $8.9 million to the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, which Pronovost heads. Pronovost aims to develop ways that ICUs can avoid the most common harms that befall patients, things like pneumonia, delirium and medication errors.

Pronovost says his team will develop standardized protocols that will help not just clinicians but also family members keep a lookout for problems with the patient or the care. A big part of the project, he says, will be to develop computer software that will allow the key pieces of technology in the intensive care unit—infusion pumps, ventilators, blood pressure and pulse monitors—to “talk to each other” and to the electronic health record containing details of the patient and the treatments. “Right now, these devices don’t even know the others exist,” he said in an interview.

For example, he cited the case of a 12-year-old who died from respiratory arrest when pain medication she was being given slowed her breathing to a standstill.  If infusion pumps that drip narcotics were connected to the monitors that count the breaths, an alarm could sound or the machines could even automatically stop the drugs.

In the program Pronovost is developing at Johns Hopkins, families and patients will be given digital e-tablets that show all the interventions patients are supposed to get every day — about 250 — as well as identifying the risks they are vulnerable to. That will create a “ruthless transparency” where families can understand and participate in the patient’s care.

The grant is part of the Moore Foundation’s new foray into patient safety, which has become the foundation’s third program area, said Steven McCormick, president of the foundation. Moore, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has $5.5 billion in assets, making it the ninth largest foundation in the country. (Gordon Moore is a co-founder of Intel Corp.) The foundation has committed to spending $500 million over 10 years for its Patient Care Program with the goal to “eliminate all patient deaths and harms in acute care settings,” said Dr. George Bo-Linn, the program’s chief program officer.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – August 28, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about new polling insights regarding the presidential campaign and Medicare, as well as what might become of the House of Representatives.

Los Angeles Times: Poll Watch: Tight Presidential Race In Both Convention States
As Republicans prepare to get their storm-delayed convention underway in Florida, a new poll shows President Obama clinging to a narrow lead in the state. … Despite speculation that the debate over Medicare might scare seniors away from the Republican ticket, those over 65 continue to be Romney’s greatest source of support in both states. The polls showed him leading among seniors by six points in Florida and five points in North Carolina. In both states, Obama led among voters younger than 50 (Lauter, 8/27).

The New York Times’ The Caucus: Boehner Sees GOP Victory , But Not Necessarily A Mandate On Medicare
At a lunch with reporters, Mr. Boehner said that the nation’s dire fiscal position, driven by health care spending, would confront Washington next year “regardless of who wins the election.” But he was cautious about predicting a mandate for the House Republican plan to end the government guarantee for Medicare, replacing the program with fixed contributions that older Americans would use to buy private health insurance or pay into the government plan (Weisman, 8/27).

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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Vermont Goes For Gold (Silver, Bronze And Platinum, Too)

Vermont is the only state in the nation on a path to a single payer health system. That could take a while, though. And in the meantime, the state has to set up an insurance exchange to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

While some states are still struggling with the basic question of whether to do their own exchanges, Vermont is moving ahead at a rapid clip, digging into the details of how much various health plans will cost on its exchange.

The Green Mountain Care Board this week released the basic outline of benefit packages that will be available to all individuals and small businesses in January 2014.

Consumers will have a range of options with different deductible levels, co-payment requirements and caps on out of pocket expenses.


Monday, August 27th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – August 27, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about this week’s GOP convention, the politics of Medicare and abortion, and the latest health policy news from the states.

The Washington Post: Poll: Obama, Romney Neck-And-Neck Ahead Of Party Conventions
The Republican National Convention opens this week with President Obama and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney running evenly, with voters more focused on Obama’s handling of the nation’s flagging economy than on some issues dominating the political debate in recent weeks. … Fewer voters place great significance on other issues that have roiled the campaign, including newly minted GOP vice presidential candidate’s plan to restructure Medicare, differences between the parties on women’s issues and Romney’s handling of his tax returns. The proposed Medicare changes included in Ryan’s budget proposal in the House have been a focus of sharp debate since he was picked by Romney two weeks ago, and the specific changes to the health-care program are viewed negatively by about two to one (Balz and Cohen, 8/27).

The Wall Street Journal: New Policy Details Unlikely To Come At The Convention
And while policy debates have flared briefly, including over Medicare, the Romney campaign has decided, at least for the moment, not to divulge fresh details of its economic platform, campaign officials said. They believe there isn’t public demand for specifics and worry new information could be used as a weapon by the Obama campaign, people close to the process said (Paletta and McKinnon, 8/26).

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Monday, August 27th, 2012

Hospitals Tally Likely Costs From New Readmissions Penalties

Across the country, hospitals are estimating how much money they are going to forfeit when Medicare’s new penalties for excess readmissions kick in. Hospitals are also issuing divergent verdicts on whether they think the program is a good idea or not.

Starting in October, 2,211 hospitals will lose a portion of their regular Medicare reimbursements because too many of their heart failure, heart attack or pneumonia patients in past years were readmitted within a month of discharge. Medicare expects to recoup $280 million during the first year of the program, which was created by the health care law.

In Columbus, Ohio, where Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center will lose 0.64 percent of its reimbursements, chief financial officer Michael Rutherford told the Columbus Dispatch that the penalty will cost the hospital about $700,000, or less than a tenth of 1 percent of the hospital’s total revenue. He welcomed the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program as a “real important initiative.”

“I think overall it’s going to allow us to give a higher quality of care more efficiently and more effectively, and I think actually we’re all excited to do that,” Rutherford told the paper.


Friday, August 24th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – August 24, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports comparing presidential candidates’ Medicare plans and health reform views.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Romney-Ryan Medicare Overhaul Plan Could Give Rise to A New Family Dynamic: Health Care Envy
As the issue rises in importance in the presidential campaign, it’s leading to inevitable comparisons for couples and siblings who are just a few years apart — and sometimes perhaps a touch of envy. The proposal came from Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. But Romney has largely embraced it, throwing a brighter spotlight on the question of whether and how to revamp the retiree health care program (8/23).

The Washington Post: Ryan Vs. Obama: Who Protects Medicare More?
Which protects Medicare better, the Ryan budget or the Affordable Care Act? That’s shaping up to be the big policy question of the presidential election. Medicare’s trustees say that the cuts to the program included in the ACA will maintain the solvency of the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund for another eight years. Critics, such as Romney campaign adviser Avik Roy, argue that the ACA cuts don’t help the program’s solvency because they go to fund insurance coverage for low- and middle-income people. In the Ryan budget, Roy argues, the same cuts are preserved but used to shore up the trust fund (Matthews, 8/23).

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Friday, August 24th, 2012

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