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Hospital acquisitions leading to increased patient costs

Medical News Today,  25 October 2014

The trend of hospitals consolidating medical groups and physician practices in an effort to improve the coordination of patient care is backfiring and increasing the cost of patient care, according to a new study led by the University of California, Berkeley.

The counterintuitive findings, published on Tuesday, Oct. 21 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, come as a growing number of local hospitals and large, multi-hospital systems in this country are acquiring physician groups and medical practices.

"This consolidation is meant to better coordinate care and to have a stronger bargaining position with insurance plans," said study lead author James Robinson, professor and head of health policy and management at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. "The movement also aligns with the goals of the Affordable Care Act, since physicians and hospitals working together in 'accountable care organizations' can provide care better than the traditional fee-for-service and solo practice models. The intent of consolidation is to reduce costs and improve quality, but the problem with all this is that hospitals are very expensive and complex organizations, and they are not known for their efficiency and low prices."


Health insurers press for high-deductible, low-benefit policies

by Wendell Potter for the Center for Public Integrity

As we head into the final stretch before next week’s midterm elections, Americans continue to have wide-ranging views of Obamacare, but even many who have an unfavorable view of it say they would rather see Congress improve it than get rid of it.

In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent tracking poll of public opinion about the law, released last Tuesday, almost two-thirds of the public would rather see their member of Congress work to make the law better than to repeal and replace it.

The big, unanswered question, though, is what to fix and how to do it.


Studies look into financial burdens faced by cancer patients.

AMA Morning Rounds, Oct. 23, 2014

MedPage Today (10/23, Bankhead) reports that research presented at a press briefing prior to the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s inaugural Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium indicates that one-third “of cancer survivors reported financial or work-related hardships that persisted well beyond treatment of their disease.” Investigators surveyed nearly 1,600 cancer survivors. The researchers found that “one in four (27%) survey participants reported high debt, bankruptcy, and other financial difficulties, and 37% of the patients said they had to modify work plans, which included extended periods of leave and delayed retirement.”


Approve health care study funding

Letter to the Register Guard  Oct. 22, 2014
by Jerry Silbert, Eugene

More than $25 billion will be spent on health care in Oregon this year. Of that, more than $8 billion will be spent by the state and local governments.

The cost of health care is taking up an increasingly greater part of spending. About 17 percent or our economy is devoted to health care, and the percentage has been growing each year.

We must reduce the cost of health care, but we must not do it in a way that makes the reductions fall on the backs of middle- and lower-income citizens.

A number of proposals have been made to decrease the cost of health care. In 2013, the Legislature passed House Bill 3260, which proposed to study four major options for funding a comprehensive, universal and affordable health care system in Oregon. The information from such a study would be critical if legislators are to deal with the issue.


Public Health Can Reframe Debate about Minority Healthcare

Minorities get less adequate care, participants learn at Oregon Public Health Association conference.

Jan Johnson, for the Lund Report, 10-23-14

Minorities in the U.S. get less and less adequate care than non-minorities Margarita Alegria, director of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research and a professor at Harvard Medical School, told the Oregon Public Health Association’s annual conference.  To address the problem, public health needs to re-frame the debate.

“We’ve concentrated on race and ethnicity too long,” said Alegria.  “I think it has to do more with being a minority and how people react to you as ‘the other’.”

She cited research on patient and clinician interaction that shows “who saw you mattered on what diagnosis you got,” adding that bias happened both ways.  Patients thought providers earned more than they do.