Healthcare Economics & Policy

An ophthalmologist and cardiologist who emerged as the top receivers of Medicare payments made substantial donations to political efforts, the New York Times reported. “[T]hey have turned to the political system in recent years to defend themselves against suspicions that they may have submitted fraudulent or excessive charges to the federal government.”

What is the first thing one newly enrolled customer did after her insurance coverage took effect? She set up an appointment with a cardiologist. The New York Times offers a glimpse of how hospitals have prepared for an influx of new patients under the Affordable Care Act.

The Washington Post reviewed contingency plans filed by federal agencies that detailed employee furloughs and what aspects of their programs would remain functioning during the government shutdown. The list is organized by agency and will be updated as information becomes available.

Charges for intravenous saline given to patients in one food poisoning outbreak varied from single to triple digits, and were even higher when hospitals added in administration costs. The New York Times attempted to track how an item that Medicare prices at $1.07 a liter could become so inflated.

The trend to consolidate hospitals is likely to accelerate due to the Affordable Care Act and other forces, the New York Times reported. By merging, hospitals and chains hope to reduce costs.

ProPublica and NPR teamed up in an analysis of Medicare data to investigate prescribing habits for nebivolol (Bystolic), a treatment for hypertension. They reported that 17 of the top prescribers in 2010 accepted $283,450 in fees for promotional talks and more than $20,000 for meals from the drugmaker, Forest Laboratories. Most of the same names appeared again in results for 2011, the most recent year that data were available.

Most people agree reimbursement that rewards volume has fueled overuse and high costs for U.S. healthcare. But few agree on the best replacement. François de Brantes, executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, made a case for pay-for-performance incentives recently in the Wall Street Journal. Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH, of the City University of New York School of Public Health, shared why she thinks it is a bad idea.

Eugene Sherman, MD, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Advocacy Steering Committee and Political Action Committee, shares his experience meeting with other cardiovascular societies to make a case to members of Congress to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate formula and boost healthcare quality in a blog post.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) places a heavy financial burden on the U.S. healthcare system, but cardiologists may help to chip away at these costs.