AARP Applauds Fix for Medicare Payments to Doctors

After 17 years of kicking the proverbial can down the road, Congress has come together in bipartisan fashion to repeal and replace Medicare’s flawed formula for reimbursing doctors with an improved payment plan. With President Obama’s April 21 signature of the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), Medicare beneficiaries can finally feel more secure in knowing that they can keep seeing their physicians each year. AARP has advocated for a permanent fix of the old doctor payment formula, called the …

How to Talk About Death … and Life

Many Americans, it seems, have a hard time talking about death. Even doctors struggle to deal with the mortality of patients who they know aren’t going to make it. That’s the focus of Being Mortal: Conversations of Death and Dying, Atul Gawande’s adaptation of his bestselling book to a Frontline segment that begins airing Feb. 10 on PBS platforms. A surgeon and writer, Gawande chalks up doctors’ fears to their sense of professional competence. In gaining experience, “Among the most …

Weak Flu Shot Adds to Woes for Those 65-Plus

It’s already a bad flu season for those age 65-plus and now there’s more bad news: This season’s flu shot will only cut your chances of getting sick by 23 percent, compared to the more typical 60 percent in previous years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Federal health officials said this year’s figure is nearly the lowest the agency has seen during the decade or so since it began tracking annual vaccine effectiveness, the Washington …

So Why Are Waiting Room Magazines So Old?

Ever wonder why the magazines in your doctor’s waiting room are so out of date? One office I was in had a Golf Digest from 2012. Are our docs just trying to bore us to death? Do they put out only old magazines and keep the new ones for themselves? Or is something else going on? New Zealand doctor Bruce Arroll kept getting complaints about the magazines in his general practice office, so he and a colleague decided to find …

Beyond Ebola—How Safe Is Your Hospital?

The media frenzy over Ebola has focused a glaring spotlight on hospitals across the country this fall. One man has died from the virus in the United States, and a handful of nurses have been infected. And even though the chance of a large-scale U.S. outbreak is tiny, nearly 36 percent of Americans said they are worried that a family member will contract Ebola, according to today’s Washington Post-ABC News poll. Maybe instead of Ebola, though, what we should be concerned about are …

States’ Role in Limiting Inappropriate Use of Antipsychotic Meds in Nursing Homes

As nursing homes have moved away from using physical restraints, there is evidence that some institutions are substituting antipsychotic medications to sedate residents with behavior problems. Why is this a dangerous and inappropriate practice? Inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs by nursing homes exposes elderly vulnerable people to increased risk of falls, delirium, stroke and death. In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general testified before the Senate Aging Committee that antipsychotic drugs were being prescribed in “violation of …