Weekly Dose of Health News

In this summary, you’ll find information on long term care concerns for seniors, NYS Offices of Mental Health and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse joint public hearing, and reports on CPR, Tuberculosis, technology in health care, and retiree health benefit costs in NY.

Please let us know us what you think and if there is a particular topic you would like to see covered.

The New York Times examines the complexities of providing long term care to New York’s seniors. Many seniors rely on Medicaid to fund the care they need and the State Department of Health is grappling with how to ensure seniors receive high quality care without bankrupting the Medicaid system in New York (Berstein, 9/7).

A federal judge in Manhattan has put the brakes on an effort by New York State and New York City to cut back on the number of hours of Medicaid-funded personal care services for thousands of New Yorkers.  Earlier this year a number of Medicaid recipients filed a class action lawsuit to challenges the new policy. While not ruling on the underlying merits of the case, the judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering the city to stop reducing or terminating care except in very limited circumstances. The city and the state can appeal this ruling or work with the plaintiffs to reach a settlement (New York Times, Hartocollis, 9/6).

The Washington Post reports that the Federal Trade Commission will be mailing refund checks to 13,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries who were overcharged for drugs like those needed to treat epilepsy and symptoms of breast cancer. The FTC charges that RxAmerica, a division of CVS, submitted incorrect drug prices that many Medicare Part D beneficiaries relied on when choosing their Medicare Plans (AP, 9/5).

Kaiser Health News examines whether new Medicare initiatives to improve hospital behavior and patient outcomes will make a real difference. Starting on October 1st, CMS will begin withholding 1 percent of hospitals’ Medicare reimbursements under a program created by the Affordable Care Act. The money that is withheld will be disbursed to those hospitals that score well on patient experience surveys. Hospitals will also be graded on how well they adhere to basic clinical guidelines (Rau, 9/4).

The September issue of Health Affairs  contains a study that examines the variation in treatment costs for individuals covered by private insurance. While there have been a number of studies on cost differentials for treatments of individuals covered by Medicare, this study focused on quality and medical costs for care provided by 250,000 physicians serving commercially insured patients from 2006-2009.

A new study published online in The Lancet proves that prolonged CPR efforts can actually benefit patients. The findings challenge conventional medical thinking, which holds that prolonged resuscitation for hospitalized patients is not worth the risk of brain damage. Instead, researchers found that patients who survived prolonged CPR and left the hospital fared as well as those who were quickly resuscitated.

A new report published in The Lancet paints a grim picture of the fight against drug resistant tuberculosis.  The study  measured which antibiotics worked or did not work against tuberculosis strains in 1,278 patients from Estonia, Latvia, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa and Thailand. Almost 44 percent showed resistance to drugs. While there has not been a new tuberculosis vaccine developed since 1921, there are a number of potential drugs in the clinical trial stage of development (New York Times, McNeil, 9/3).

The Institute of Medicine released a new report this week that touts the use of technology in healthcare to improve quality and reduce costs. The report, Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America, outlines the findings of an 18-member panel of experts. The panel argues for policy changes that will make information more accessible to patients, engage patients and their families in treatment decisions, and make healthcare more equitable.

The Wall Street Journal highlights the findings of a recent report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy which analyzes the impact retiree health benefits will have on New York’s state and local governments. The study finds that retiree benefits will cost these government entities roughly $250 billion dollars with New York City having a long term obligation of $84 billion dollars (Gershman, 9/6).

More young doctors are using technology to improve the quality of care their patients receive and to maintain a better work life balance for themselves. Many doctors who are joining the practice of medicine want to work in teams with other health care professionals and use innovative technology to care for patients.  The Associated Press highlights this evolution in the practice of medicine (9/3).

A new tick-borne disease has appeared in Missouri.  Research at the Centers for Disease Control and local scientists have been scrambling to determine how the disease was contracted by two farmers in Missouri.

The New York State Office of Mental Health and the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services held a joint public hearing on Thursday September 6th to hear input on the development of a statewide comprehensive plan for both agencies. Members of the public were able to provide testimony from spots around the state through the use of video conferencing. Advocates, providers, consumers and parents of children impacted by substance abuse and mental health issues offered suggestions to Commissioner of OMH, Michael Hogan and Commissioner of OASAS Arlene Gonzalez Sanchez during the almost three hour hearing. Common themes in the testimony included: the need for comprehensive assessments of individuals before they enter the behavioral health system; parental involvement and familial involvement in recovery efforts; meeting the needs of veterans in communities; the need for state investment in community based services and supportive services like housing; concerns regarding the role of managed care in the delivery of behavioral healthcare and the need for better integration of physical and behavioral healthcare services. Individuals who were unable to attend the hearing may submit testimony and comments through this dedicated email address transformation@omh.ny.gov

-Jaime Venditti, 9/7/12