Healthcare Roundup: More Uninsured, Less Medicare Savings, Hospital Cost Cutting, Retail Clinics Do Chronic Care, and More

Number of Uninsured Rises - According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people without insurance coverage rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008. Despite that increase, the percentage of uninsured in the population remained unchanged at 15.4 percent. But with growing unemployment, it's likely that it jumped again this year. [Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Good Try, Medicare, But No Cigar - A new study in Health Affairs concludes that CMS' decision to stop paying for hospital-acquired conditions, such as infections and bedsores, will reduce program costs very little. Based on California data, the researchers estimated that Medicare would save less than $3 million per year. This is pretty amazing, considering that each year, about 1.7 million people catch infections in the hospital and that 99,000 of them die as a result. [Source: Wall Street Journal]

Hospitals Look at Cost Cutting - As you'll recall, hospital associations promised President Obama that their members would lower Medicare costs by $155 billion over 10 years to help fund healthcare reform. Now the 5,700 hospitals across the country are looking at how they will do that. Each of them will have to cut $2.6 million annually, on average. While this is going to be difficult for some-especially with half of the hospitals said to be losing money-hospital executives admit that their organizations are rife with inefficiency and waste. [Source: USA Today] Retail Clinics Expand Horizons - Convenient care clinics, which started out treating only minor acute problems, are starting to expand into chronic disease care. Walgreens' Take Care chain has begun offering asthma and osteoporosis treatment on a pilot basis in Tampa and Orlando. And at some of CVS' Minute Clinics, nurse practitioners are offering teenagers advice on acne. While this is just the proverbial camel's nose under the tent, and retail clinics have not expanded to the extent that was predicted, primary-care physicians will watch this development warily. [Source: Wall Street Journal]

Another Healthcare Growth Segment - The market for medical automation technology will grow from $13.1 billion this year to $23.2 billion in 2014, predicts a research report. Medical automation technology includes therapeutic processes, diagnostics and monitoring, and logistics and training. Examples include patient monitoring kiosks, surgical robots, and automated lab testing and analysis. The therapy segment is currently the largest, with $9.5 billion in sales. The diagnostic and monitoring segment is currently worth $3.3 billion, and the logistic and training market, $272 million. Hospitals are the most important customers for medical automation technology. [Source: Healthcare Finance News]