Healthcare Roundup: Pharma Hit Up For More Reform Bucks, Hospital Quality Improves, MedPAC Gives and Takes Away, and More

Last Updated Jan 17, 2010 5:35 PM EST

Drug Companies Are Asked For More $$ Relief - Congressional Democrats have asked pharmaceutical companies to contribute $10 billion more to help close the "doughnut hole" into which many seniors tumble each year after exhausting their Medicare Part D drug benefits. The drug firms pledged $80 billion over 10 years to the White House to help close that gap as their contribution to reform. But they have resisted any further concessions, despite the windfall that 30 million-plus-new insured customers would represent. [Source: Wall Street Journal]

Hospital Quality Is Improving- Accredited hospitals have raised the quality of their care since 2002, according to the Joint Commission. Between 2002 and 2008, performance on 12 Joint Commission measures improved by from 5 percent to 59 percent, with the greatest advances seen on pneumococcal vaccination and smoking cessation advice. Evidence-based treatments were given to heart failure patients 60 percent of the time in 2002, compared to 92 percent six years later. In pneumonia cases, the provision of evidence-based care jumped from 72 percent to 93 percent. [Source: Fierce Healthcare]

MedPAC Wants To Give Hospitals Raises - The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has recommended that CMS give hospitals a full "market basket update" this year for combined inpatient and outpatient services, both of which are budgeted on a prospective basis. But MedPAC also advised the government to reduce inpatient payments to hospitals by 2 percent a year from 2011 to 2013. The commission explains that these reductions would compensate for overpayments caused by coding changes in 2008. [Source: Fierce Healthcare]

Walgreen Expands Into Chronic Care - Walgreen, which has been very aggressive in the retail clinic field with its Take Care Clinics, is moving further into primary-care physicians' turf by launching a pilot program for diabetes care. People with type 2 diabetes will be able to consult nurse practitioners and pharmacists at Walgreens about their condition at Walgreen's pharmacies in Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Phoenix and Albuquerque. The Take Care Clinics confine themselves to acute-care treatments and vaccinations, but this latest Walgreen initative will undoubtedly concern primary care doctors in those markets. [Source: Wall Street Journal]

United Medical Center Faces Crisis - United Medical Center, a 184-bed safety-net hospital in Washington, DC, is in trouble again. Despite an infusion of $79 million of public funds into the facility, which is owned by Specialty Hospitals of America, United Medical Center is as much as $20 million in the hole and cannot access a bank line of credit. The D.C. government has made it clear that it has no more money to put into the hospital, which serves some of the capital's poorest residents. [Source: Washington Post]

  • Ken Terry

    Ken Terry, a former senior editor at Medical Economics Magazine, is the author of the book Rx For Health Care Reform.