Bill Would Cover More Medicare Patients for Skilled Nursing Care

A congressman is expressing confidence that a bill he sponsored – to fix a problem faced by many Medicare patients who are left without coverage for skilled nursing care – will pass this year. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., who introduced the bill with Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, told reporters in a conference call that the legislation has picked up 137 cosponsors. “This is not happening in a vacuum,” Courtney said, according to the Connecticut Mirror. “It’s happening because there is …

Are You in the Hospital or Not?

If you think you are having a stroke, you’ll probably go to the nearest ER. But will the hospital admit you? After you have been checked into the ER, the doctor may instead put you under “observation,” especially if it is unclear whether you have had a stroke, a fainting spell or something else. What is observation status? It’s an outpatient designation used to monitor patients during periods of medical uncertainty. Rather than being formally admitted as inpatients, patients in …

Medicare Could Save Big by Steering Ambulances Away From Hospitals

Medicare could save $560 million or more a year simply by allowing some patients who call 911 for an ambulance to be taken somewhere other than a hospital emergency room. What’s more, the study found, private insurers could save twice that amount by following suit. That’s the conclusion of a new study in Health Affairs, which found that more than a third of Medicare patients who called 911 had a “low-acuity diagnosis” that could have been managed outside the hospital emergency …

Is There Comedy in Geriatric Care? Yes, on HBO

Getting On, HBO’s off-kilter new comedy series, is about nurses and doctors working in a female geriatric care unit at a California hospital – not exactly the sort of setting that would seem to inspire humor. Still, the show has genuinely funny moments, even while it remains realistic about its environment. It’s a delicate balancing act, though. Take the first moments of the show’s premiere, which airs Sunday night at 10 on the pay cable network: brand-new nurse Didi (Niecy …

COPD Trouble Along the Way

So we’re rolling back from Oregon over a Siskiyou Mountain pass into California on a day as bright as heaven, with only small wisps of fog and a few stringy clouds to intrude on a scene that is otherwise right out of a Magritte painting. The pass rises to over 4,000 feet and as we come down toward Yreka, heading home to L.A. after a two-week road trip. I notice a funny feeling in my chest. My breathing has become …

What Put the Brakes on Medicare Spending?

The Holy Grail in battles over the federal budget has been how to slow down the runaway train of health care spending. So it surely comes as good news that spending on traditional Medicare has slowed substantially, as a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study shows, and not just because of the broader economic slowdown. For 25 years, spending on traditional Medicare rose, on average, 8 percent a year. Then, from 2007 to 2012, the increase slowed to an average annual …