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 …

Now You Have Direct Access to Your Lab Reports

By Ankita Rao, Kaiser Health News Calling your doctor to get lab results might be a thing of the past: a new federal rule will allow patients to have direct access to their completed laboratory reports. The regulation was announced Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services. It amends privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) that required patients to get their lab results from …

These Web-Based Medical Apps Make House Calls

Think you might have bronchitis, a sinus infection,  or other non-life threatening illness and can’t wait for an appointment with your regular doctor?  Not sure if you should go to the ER?  Have travel plans and worried if you should fly?  Then these online medical-care sites and mobile apps might be your answer. The sites help patients and doctors converse through smartphones, tablets and computers.  In fact, the U.S. telehealth patient population is expected to grow six-fold to 1.3 million …

Medicare Lists Best, Worst Hospitals for Hip and Knee Replacements

By Jordan Rau, Senior Correspondent, Kaiser Health News Medicare has begun tracking the outcomes of hip and knee replacement surgeries, identifying 95 hospitals where elderly patients were more likely to suffer significant setbacks. The government also named 97 hospitals where patients tended to have the smoothest recoveries. The analysis, which was released last week, is the latest part of the government’s push to improve quality at the nation’s hospitals instead of simply paying Medicare patients’ bills. Medicare already assesses hospital …

Johnson & Johnson to Take $4 Billion Hit

Recently I wrote about how Johnson & Johnson inappropriately marketed Risperdal to treat agitation, confusion and other symptoms in older patients with dementia. As if that’s not enough, the company’s now tentatively agreeing to a $4 billion – yes, that’s billion - settlement with thousands of patients for whom a company-made hip implant failed. As the New York Times described it this week, J & J’s Depuy Orthapaedics unit made and marketed its Articular Surface Replacement, an all-metal hip implant, to doctors …

Is Your Hospital in Medicare’s Penalty Box?

Is your hospital being penalized for providing care that falls short of what Medicare thinks it should be? Measures range from nighttime noise to following basic clinical standards of care. If so, your hospital isn’t alone. Some 1,451 hospitals nationwide are being paid a little bit less for each patient they treat in the second year of Medicare’s “quality incentive” program, compared with 1,231 hospitals that will be paid more, according to Kaiser Health News. Here are the hospitals at …