Category Archives: Hospital News

VA distance requirement will no longer be “as the crow flies”

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A black crowWashington – In order to expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it will change the calculation used to determine the distance between a Veteran’s residence and the nearest VA medical facility from a straight line distance to driving distance.

The policy change will be made through regulatory action in the coming weeks.

The method of determining driving distance will be through distance as calculated by using a commercial product. The change is expected to roughly double the number of eligible Veterans.

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VA makes it easier for you to get your benefits

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See the changes to VA benefits
Its now faster, easier and more efficient to file claims
See the changes to VA benefits

Today, claims become faster, easier and more accurate

Starting today, March 25th, VA is streamlining claims processes; to deliver benefits faster and more accurately.

See the changes to VA benefits

Three important changes are now in affect.

Informal claims have migrated to a new intent to fileprocess.

Use of standardized forms is now required when filing for benefits.

Initiating an appeal requires a standardized notice of disagreement form.

To learn how the new standardized forms and intent to fileprocess affects you:

See the changes to VA benefits
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New, easier, online way to apply for VA benefits

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Online Tools, Standardized Forms, and More

veteran-affairs-seal-vaEffective March 24th, 2015, VA is implementing improvements to make it easier for you to apply for benefits.

Online application tools, standardized forms, and a new intent to file process will create faster and more accurate decisions on your claims and appeals.

As part of the VA’s full-scale transformation in 2015, these new changes will:

  • Streamline the benefits process, making it faster and easier
  • Use standardized forms to file disability claims and compensation appeals
  • Establish a new intent to file a claim process

See how the changes affect you:

See the changes to VA benefits
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VA eliminates net worth as health-care eligibility factor

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Instead of combining the sum of Veterans’ income with their assets to determine eligibility for medical care and copayment obligations, VA will now only consider a Veteran’s gross household income and deductible expenses from the previous year.

From the Department of Veterans Affairs

veteran-affairs-seal-vaWashington – The Department of Veterans Affairs is updating the way it determines eligibility for VA health care, a change that will result in more Veterans having access to the health care benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

Effective 2015, VA has eliminated the use of net worth as a determining factor for both health care programs and copayment responsibilities.

This change makes VA health care benefits more accessible to lower-income Veterans and brings VA policies in line with Secretary Robert A. McDonald’s MyVA initiative which reorients VA around Veterans’ needs.

“Everything that we do and every decision we make has to be focused on the Veterans we serve,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “We are working every day to earn their trust. Changing the way we determine eligibility to make the process easier for Veterans is part of our promise to our Veterans.”

Instead of combining the sum of Veterans’ income with their assets to determine eligibility for medical care and copayment obligations, VA will now only consider a Veteran’s gross household income and deductible expenses from the previous year. Continue reading

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Rural hospitals, one of the cornerstones of small town life, face increasing pressure

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Farm with red barnBy Guy Gugliotta
KHN

MOUNT VERNON, Texas — Despite residents’ concerns and a continuing need for services, the 25-bed hospital that served this small East Texas town for more than 25 years closed its doors at the end of 2014, joining the ranks of dozens of other small rural hospitals that have been unable to weather the punishment of a changing national health care environment.

For the high percentages of elderly and uninsured patients who live in rural areas, closures mean longer trips for treatment and uncertainty during times of crisis. “I came to the emergency room when I had panic attacks,” said George Taylor, 60, a retired federal government employee. “It was very soothing and the staff was great. I can’t imagine Mount Vernon without a hospital.”

Since 2010, 48 rural hospitals have closed, the majority in Southern states, and 283 are in trouble.

The Kansas-based National Rural Health Association, which represents around 2,000 small hospitals throughout the country and other rural care providers, says that 48 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, the majority in Southern states, and 283 others are in trouble. In Texas along, 10 have changed. 

“If there was one particular policy causing the trouble, it would be easy to understand,” said health economist Mark Holmes, from the University of North Carolina, whose rural health research program studies national trends in rural health care. “But there are a lot of things going on.” Continue reading

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Hospitals struggle to improve patient satisfaction

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hospital magnify 300By Jordan Rau
KHN

SALISBURY, N.C. — Lillie Robinson came to Rowan Medical Center for surgery on her left foot. She expected to be in and out in a day, returning weeks later for her surgeon to operate on the other foot.

But that’s not how things turned out. “When I got here I found out he was doing both,” she said. “We didn’t realize that until they started medicating me for the procedure.” Robinson signed a consent form and the operation went fine, but she was told she would be in the hospital far longer than she had expected.

“I wasn’t prepared for that,” she said.

Disappointing patients such as Robinson is a persistent problem for Rowan, a hospital with some the lowest levels of patient satisfaction in the country. In surveys sent to patients after they leave, Rowan’s patients are less likely than those at most hospitals to say that they always received help promptly and that their pain was controlled well. Rowan’s patients say they would recommend the hospital far less often than patients do elsewhere.

In April, the government will begin boiling down the patient feedback into a five-star rating for hospitals. Hospitals say judging them on a one-to-five scale is too simplistic.

Feedback from patients such as Robinson matters to Rowan and to hospitals across the country. Since Medicare began requiring hospitals to collect information about patient satisfaction and report it to the government in 2007, these patient surveys have grown in influence.  For the past three years, the federal government has considered survey results when setting pay levels for hospitals. Some private insurers do as well.

In April, the government will begin boiling down the patient feedback into a five-star rating for hospitals. Federal officials say they hope that will make it easier for consumers to digest the information now available on Medicare’s Hospital Compare website. Hospitals say judging them on a one-to-five scale is too simplistic.

Some Hospitals Improve As Others Stagnate 

Nationally, the hospital industry has improved in all the areas the surveys track, including clean and quiet their rooms are and how well doctors and nurses communicate.But hundreds of hospitals have not made headway in boosting their ratings, federal records show. Continue reading

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UW medical school to be ranked in the top 10 for research and primary care by US News & World Report

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UW US News & World Report is offering a “sneak peek” at its 2016 Best Graduate School Rankings due out next week. University of Washington will be ranked in the top 10 in the nation for research and for primary care.

via 2016 Best Graduate Schools Preview: Top 10 Medical Schools – US News.

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Widow sues Virginia Mason; hospital begins notifying ‘superbug’ victims | The Seattle Times

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creTheresa Bigler, of Woodway, is suing Virginia Mason Medical Center and a medical-device manufacturer after the death of her husband following a “superbug” infection. Hospital officials have reversed course to reach out to affected patients and families.

via Widow sues Virginia Mason; hospital begins notifying ‘superbug’ victims | The Seattle Times.

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Patient safety advocate to pay $1 million to settle kickback allegations

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20150302-patient-safety-300x200By Marshall Allen
ProPublica

Dr. Chuck Denham, once a leading voice for patient safety, will pay $1 million to settle civil allegations that he took kickbacks to promote a drug company’s product in national health quality guidelines, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Denham, a patient safety consultant from Laguna Beach, Calif., had allegedly solicited and accepted monthly payments from CareFusion Corp., maker of the antiseptic ChloraPrep, while serving as co-chairman of a National Quality Forum committee in 2009 and 2010.

The nonprofit quality forum in Washington, D.C., reviews evidence and makes recommendations on best practices that are considered the gold-standard by health care providers nationwide.

ProPublica previously reported that Denham hadn’t disclosed the payments to the panel of experts he was leading for the forum, and that other members of the Safe Practices Committee had not intended to endorse ChloraPrep. But Denham had advocated for the drug during the group’s meetings.

The committee’s final report recommended the product’s formulation to prevent infections, ProPublica found.

“Kickback schemes undermine the integrity of medical decisions, subvert the health marketplace and waste taxpayer dollars,” said Benjamin C. Mizer, acting assistant attorney for the Justice Department’s civil division, in a news release announcing the settlement.

PHOTO: SafetyLeaders/Flickr

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Rush University Adds Patient Scores to Doctor Profiles — Doctors Lounge

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Patient feedback goes on doctors’ profile pages

C plus gradeRush University Medical Center’s website has started adding the results of patient surveys to individual physician profiles, according to a report published by the medical center.

Feedback is gathered each year using data from approximately 17,000 patients who receive mail or e-mail surveys after appointments. Patients are asked for feedback about care and service in more than 30 questions, including 10 that focus on their care providers.

Patient feedback will be made available for any provider for whom the medical center has received 30 or more surveys in a one-year period.

via Rush University Adds Patient Scores to Doctor Profiles –Doctors Lounge.

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Attention, shoppers: Prices for 70 health care procedures now online!

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By Jay Hancock
KNH

Buying health care in America is like shopping blindfolded at Macy’s and getting the bill months after you leave the store, economist Uwe Reinhardt likes to say.

A tool that went online Wednesday is supposed to give patients a small peek at the products and prices before they open their wallets.

Got a sore knee? Having a baby? Need a primary-care doctor? Shopping for an MRI scan?

Guroo.com shows the average local cost for 70 common diagnoses and medical tests in most states. That’s the real cost — not “charges” that often get marked down — based on a giant database of what insurance companies actually pay.

OK, this isn’t like Priceline.com for knee replacements. What Guroo hopes to do for consumers is limited so far.

Guroo.com Demo from Health Care Cost Institute on Vimeo.

It won’t reflect costs for particular hospitals or doctors, although officials say that’s coming for some. And it doesn’t have much to say initially about the quality of care.

Still, Guroo should shed new light on the country’s opaque, complex and maddening medical bazaar, say consumer advocates.

“This has the potential to be a game-changer,” said Katherine Hempstead, who analyzes health insurance for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It’s good for uninsured people. It’s good for people with high deductibles. It’s good for any person that’s kind of wondering: If I go to see the doctor for such-and-such, what might happen next?” Continue reading

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How much does it cost?

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A new website, www.guroo.com, allows you to find out how much care for common conditions will cost. The site provides local, state and national average charges for these conditions. The site was created by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization that promotes research and analysis on the causes of rising US health spending.

Guroo.com Demo from Health Care Cost Institute on Vimeo.

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Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s hospital and Mayo Medical Laboratories are creating a partnership to develop ways for children’s hospitals around the country to decrease costs and errors that come from unnecessary lab testing.

via Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Senator to hospitals: Stop suing poor patients

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Prompted by an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, Sen. Charles Grassley asks a Missouri nonprofit hospital to explain why it seizes the wages of thousands of its patients.

Senatore Chuck GrassleyBy Paul Kiel, ProPublica, and Chris Arnold
This story was co-published with NPR.

Sen. Charles Grassley said nonprofit hospitals could be breaking the law when they sue poor patients over unpaid bills and issued a stern warning to one Missouri hospital that he hopes reverberates nationwide.

Citing a ProPublica and NPR report, Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter Friday to Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri, that has seized the wages of thousands of lower income workers who were unable to pay their medical bills.

Under federal law, tax-exempt hospitals are supposed to provide care to those who can’t afford it, but the requirements are fairly vague. Even so, Grassley said the hospital, which recently rebranded as Mosaic Life Care, had, at a minimum, stretched the law to the breaking point.

In his letter to Mosaic’s CEO, Grassley wrote that the hospital “may not be meeting the requirements to be a nonprofit, tax exempt hospital.” He also asked a battery of questions about the hospital’s treatment of lower-income patients, its debt collection practices, and how it administers financial assistance.

“The practices appear to be extremely punitive and unfair to both low income patients and taxpayers who subsidize charitable hospitals’ tax breaks.”

“Reports detail a number of instances where Mosaic failed to identify patients who would qualify for financial assistance and who have since been subject to abusive billing and collection practices,” Grassley wrote. “The practices appear to be extremely punitive and unfair to both low income patients and taxpayers who subsidize charitable hospitals’ tax breaks.”

As ProPublica and NPR reported, the hospital has its own for-profit debt collection subsidiary, Northwest Financial Services, which files thousands of lawsuits each year. From 2009 through 2013, the company garnished the pay of about 6,000 people and seized at least $12 million.

In response to the story, the hospital announced a review of its debt collection practices. Tama Wagner, chief brand officer for Mosaic, said the hospital expected that new recommendations would be presented to the hospital’s board next month. “Our goal is to do the right thing,” she said. Continue reading

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Seven reasons why getting healthcare in the US is deadly – Vox

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Medical errors kill more people than car crashes or new disease outbreaks. They kill more people annually than breast cancer, AIDS, plane crashes, or drug overdoses. Depending which estimate you use, medical errors are either the 3rd or 9th leading cause of death in the United States. Those left dead as a result of their medical care could fill an average-sized Major League Baseball stadium — sometimes twice over.

To learn more go to Vox.com

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