Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary, you’ll find a new penalty from Medicare for hospitals with readmissions within one month of discharge, a decrease in childhood obesity, the evolving role of nursing homes, and more!


The New York State Department of Health released its Medicaid Global Cap Monthly Report for May 2013.  Spending was at 0.2% under projections.  Interestingly, the report acknowledges lower than expected rebates due to the shift of drugs from brand to generic.  Also, Medicaid Managed Care enrollment increased by 1.5% between March and May as a result of this year’s budget actions and fee for service enrollment dropped by 1.2%.


Kaiser Health News’ Jordan Rau reports that Medicare is dinging hospitals for hospital readmissions within one-month of discharge.  This penalty program began in October 2012.  Described as the ‘second round,’ Medicare will levy $227 million worth of fines to hospitals in all states across the country, save one.  It is felt that admissions within one month of discharge are preventable and directly related to inpatient hospital care and discharge protocols.


Here’s more on New York City hospital closures.  The Washington Post reports on hospital closures in Brooklyn and says that more may be on the way, including Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and Brookdale Heights Medical Center, both of which are losing tens of millions of dollars annually.  Industry experts note that the closures are occurring in facilities that primarily care for the noninsured, Medicaid and Medicare populations.  Closures may be as a result of health care systems that are developing to be non-hospital dependent and more reliant on outpatient care.  Unfortunately, New York is not alone in this trend.


Any report by the United Hospital Fund’s Medicaid Institute is worth the read, including this one on the changes in New York’s nursing homes.  The report finds that nursing homes have evolved from providing primarily residential care to post-acute care and long term care.  Medicaid remains the primary payer of nursing home services.  The majority of nursing home users are in facilities located outside of New York City.

The New York Times writes on a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a significant decline in obesity among children. Between 2008 and 2011, the obesity rate dropped among preschool children in 19 states.  The reasons are unclear but researchers point to the increase in breast feeding of infants, decreased ingestion of sugary drinks and changes in food availability on federal food programs.

The New York Times Well Blog quotes an article from the Tobacco Journal that describes the employer cost of smoking.  This is fascinating.  Apparently, smoker cost private employers $5,816 more per year than nonsmokers.  The number one cost driver are breaks that smokers take.  Next are health care expenses and third are absentee rates.

The Washington Post writer Robert J. Samuelson argues that health care spending is slowing but experts are not sure why.  Obamacare proponents point to the new health care law as the cause, yet full implantation has not occurred yet.  As of May 2013, health care prices had risen only 1.1% – including hospitals admissions, doctor visits and drug – which is the slowest increase in almost 50 years.  One theory blames the recession on the slowdown.  Questions remain on whether to slowdown will continue will full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

-Jaime Venditti, 8/9/13