Joint Commission Recognizes 1,224 Top Performing Hospitals 

1,224 hospitals that reported data in 2013 have earned recognition by The Joint Commission’s Top Performer on Key Quality Measures® program, according to a Joint Commission announcement last week. This is an 11 percent increase from last year. That means, 36.9 percent of all Joint Commission-accredited hospitals reporting accountability measure performance data for 2013 are “Top Performer” hospitals, and 718 hospitals missed achieving Top Performer recognition by only a slight margin. Click here to see if your hospital is listed. (A state-by-state list begins on page 41.)

Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals Announced: Truven

Truven Health Analytics has released its 2015 list of top 50 cardiovascular hospitals. Click here for the list.

NQF Endorses 8 Patient Safety Measures

The National Quality Forum Board of Directors has endorsed 8 measures related to Patient Safety conditions. The measures focus on healthcare associated infections, including an ad hoc measure on sepsis, medication safety, and general patient safety. In all, 17 measures were evaluated against NQF’s endorsement criteria; 8 received endorsement status. Four new measures, 12 maintenance measures, and one ad hoc measure were reviewed by the Committee. A complete list of measures can be viewed by clicking here.

Healthcare.gov Year 2 Is Underway: Summary 

  • HHS has published the dataset outlining premiums for all insurers offering plans on the federal exchanges in 2015. HHS says 34 states are federal exchanges, and three others that had been certified as state-based exchanges are using HealthCare.gov for the upcoming open enrollment period: New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon. State-by-state rates for individual market medical plans can be found here.
  • Cost of coverage increases by as much as 20 percent in some states and decreases by double digits in other states. Click here for an excellent interactive state map to see costs in your area.
  • Two different studies conclude that the downward trending of insurance costs on the exchanges is good news for consumers. Click here for the story.
  • USA Today has a state-by-state interactive map of where federal exchange coverage is. Click here.
  • The Washington Post said exchanges opened Saturday without major glitches. Click here.
  • The New York Times said exchanges opened with some new frustrations. Click here.
  • Now the goal is increasing enrollment. Click here to read about efforts underway to do that.
  • So you would rather pay the penalty than buy the insurance? Click here for a penalty calculator.
  • With the second round of Obamacare enrollment underway, 71 percent said their coverage through the exchanges was good or excellent, according to a Gallup poll released Friday. Another 19 percent said the coverage was fair, while nine percent rated it poorly. Click here to see the poll.
  • Finally, what’s all the uproar over Jonathan Gruber, one of Obamacare’s architects? Why is the GOP so upset over his remarks? Click here for a summary of the controversy.

Bishops Ease Hospital Merger Process

A new ruling last week among Catholic bishops eases the process for mergers between the church and healthcare providers without compromising the former’s positions on abortion, birth control, assisted suicide and direct sterilization. The directive worries healthcare advocates as the number of Catholic-related hospitals continues to rise throughout the nation, according to the Washington Times. Click here for the story.

Physicians Testing More Seniors for Illegal Drugs

Doctors are testing seniors for drugs such as heroin, cocaine and “angel dust” at soaring rates, and Medicare is paying the bill, according to a new report. Medical guidelines encourage doctors who treat pain to test their patients, to make sure they are neither abusing pills nor failing to take them, possibly to sell them. Now, some pain doctors are making more from testing than from treating. Click here for the Wall Street Journal report.

Medicaid Expansion Straining Some Health Systems and Physicians

Millions of Americans with low incomes now have health coverage they couldn’t have gotten before this year under Affordable Care Act. But their sheer numbers are straining some health-care systems that already don’t have enough doctors and staff. And the new Medicaid enrollees can challenge medical practices’ bottom lines in ways that lead them to turn some away. Click here for the report.

Florida Will Lose Billions Without Medicaid Expansion: Report

The intransigence of the Sunshine State’s lawmakers over expanding Medicaid eligibility will cost the state’s hospitals billions of dollars over the next several years, according to the Tampa Bay Times. A report by Florida Legal Services, a non-profit legal advocate for the poor, determined that safety-net hospitals would be hardest hit by the decision. Jackson Health System, which serves low-income residents of the Miami area, stands to lose $570 million a year alone. Click here for the report.

State Senate Leader Becomes Hospital CEO and Struggles with Medicaid Expansion

In Missouri, a new hospital CEO of a two-hospital safety net system is grappling with the politics of a Medicaid expansion – the irony is that he used to be the leader of the state senate. Click here for the story.

New Analysis Shows Discrepancies in Nursing Home Staffing

In a new analysis, the Center for Public Integrity finds widespread discrepancies between staffing levels reported on the Nursing Home Compare website and those revealed by data in harder-to-find Medicare records. Click here for the report.

Surgeon with Ebola Now in Nebraska for Treatment

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone arrived in Nebraska on Saturday for treatment at a biocontainment unit where two other people with the disease have been successfully treated. Dr. Martin Salia, who was diagnosed with Ebola on Monday, landed at Eppley Airfield in Omaha and was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center. Click here for details.

Health System’s Nurses To Get Ebola Pay

Nurses who work for the University of Michigan Health System will receive pay for time off if they are put in quarantine as a result of treating Ebola patients, the Detroit Free Press reports. Click here for the story.

How They Track All Those Potential Ebola Victims

How do they track all the potential Ebola victims? A New York Times story reveals how public health workers in the state worked to follow nearly 300 people. Click here.

CMS OKs CT Lung Cancer Screenings for Seniors

CMS last week approved CT lung cancer screening for Medicare recipients, saying the evidence is sufficient to justify screening high-risk individuals until the age of 74 years. As a preventive services benefit under Medicare, the decision allows a patient to enter a CT screening program only after undergoing a mandatory lung cancer screening, counseling, and shared decision-making visit with his or her physician. Click here for details.

New Report Casts Doubt on Impact of Medical Device Tax

The medical-device industry, which has spent nearly $150 million to lobby the federal government in the last five years, could be on the brink of a long-sought victory: killing a 2.3% excise tax on the products it sells in the United States. Critics are now casting doubts on the industry’s claims of financial pain. An analysis released this month by the Congressional Research Service projected fairly minor effects from the tax, and estimated it would reduce jobs and industry output by less than two-tenths of 1%. The tax is more likely to increase prices for consumers than to reduce corporate profits, the analysis concluded. Click here for the CRS report.

New Device on the Scalp Slows Brain Tumor Growth

An electrical device glued to the scalp can slow cancer growth and prolong survival in people with the deadliest type of brain tumor, researchers reported over the weekend. The device is not a cure and, on average, adds only a few months of life when used along with the standard regimen of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Click here for the story.

CDC: Eye Infections Result in 58,000 ED Visits Each Year

Each year, Americans make nearly a million doctor visits for eye infections, resulting in $175 million in direct health care costs, the CDC has estimated in the first study of its kind. CDC experts found that Americans made an estimated 930,000 visits to doctor’s offices and outpatient clinics and 58,000 emergency room visits annually due to eye infections. Click here for more from the CDC.

Health Care Sector Sees Job and Slower Cost Growth

The health care sector gained 24,500 jobs in October, similar to the 26,000 average from the previous two quarters and well above the 17,500 average for the 12 months ending in March, according to recent reports. Health spending and prices are continuing to growth more slowly than expected, too. Click here for the data from Altarum Institute.