Medicare & Aging News From KHN

Kaiser Health News has had a variety of coverage about Medicare, long-term care and other issues affecting seniors’ quality of care and life. Below is a complete list of our 2014 coverage.

See Stories Published In: 2013 | 2012

KHN’s coverage of aging and long-term care issues is produced with support from The SCAN Foundation.

JULY

Study: Hospitals Not Bilking Medicare Using Electronic Medical Records
By Eric Whitney, July 8
In 2012, Medicare was rocked by allegations hospitals were systematically overcharging the government program by misusing electronic medical records. A study published Tuesday disputes that.

JUNE

Retooling Hospitals, One Data Point At A Time
By Julie Appleby, June 30
The University of Utah improved quality and reduced costs by tracking each patient’s care. Vivian Lee, senior vice president for health sciences, leads the effort to gather cost data from across the medical center.

Medicare Penalties For Hospital Infections Will Hit Alaska Hard
By Annie Feidt, June 27
The four largest hospitals in Alaska are facing Medicare payment penalties for the quality of their care.

More Than 750 Hospitals Face Medicare Crackdown On Patient Injuries
By Jordan Rau, June 22
The 1 percent cut in payments is the latest effort by the federal government to improve hospital care.

Patient Injuries: Hospitals Most Likely To Be Penalized By Medicare
By Jordan Rau, June 22
Out of all 761 hospitals that are in line to be penalized for high rates of infections and complications this fall, 175 of them are most likely to be penalized because their preliminary scores are nine or above on a scale of 1 to 10.

Methodology: How Hospital-Acquired Conditions Are Calculated
By Jordan Rau, June 22
Before assessing penalties, Medicare assesses rates of infection among patients with catheters in major veins and in the bladder and eight other patient injuries, such as blood clots, bed sores and accidental falls.

Review Finds Flawed Management Of Nursing Home Inspections In Los Angeles County
By Anna Gorman, June 20
Officials did not properly prioritize or track investigations, leading to delays and incomplete probes, according to a state audit.

Senators Offer Bill To Ease Readmission Penalties On Some Hospitals
By Jordan Rau, June 19
Legislation would require Medicare to consider patient financial status when deciding punishment.

FAQ: Hospital Observation Care Can Be Costly For Medicare Patients
By Susan Jaffe, June 18
The number of Medicare patients hospitalized for observation – and ineligible for follow-up nursing home coverage – beyond the recommended 24 hours has increased five-fold in the past six years. This updated FAQ explains how to avoid observation care and what you need to know if you can’t.

Insurer Begins Huge Palliative Care Program
By Marissa Evans, June 17
“Person-centered care” is the buzz phrase floating around the health care industry, and a Pacific Northwest-based giant insurer thinks it has hit the mark with a new palliative care program coming this summer.

Readers Ask: Are Insurance Premiums Capped? Do Doctors Have To Accept Medicare?
By Michelle Andrews, June 17
This week, consumers had questions about premiums and benefits for plans sold on the health insurance marketplaces as well as concerns about physician participation in the Medicare program.

Some Costly Hospital Complications Not Tracked by Medicare, Analysis Finds
By Jordan Rau, June 12
An analysis released Thursday identified dozens of potentially avoidable hospital complications that are not being tracked by the government even though some occur frequently and are expensive to treat.

PCORI, NIH Announce Plans For $30 Million Study On Falls
By Susan Jaffe, June 5
More than 18,000 seniors died as the result of falls in 2010, and thousands more are injured every year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Study: Medicare Could Save Billions On Rx Plans

By Julie Rovner, June 2

If Part D plans were selected based on the actual drugs patients take, it could save those patients hassle and money.

MAY

‘National Dialogue’ Urged On Cost Of New Hepatitis C Drug
By Julie Appleby, May 28
Paying for the new drug will fall on private insurers, and taxpayers through government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and could also lead to higher premiums.

Minnesota Is Healthiest State For Seniors
By Elizabeth Stawicki, May 22
The state beat out usual favorites Hawaii and Florida for the top spot in “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report.” 

Some Colorado Doctors May Be Overcharging Medicare For Routine Visits
By Eric Whitney, May 22
An analysis of newly available data may reveal fraud. But experts caution that the raw data alone could also make physicians who are doing nothing wrong look bad.

Should Medicare Pay The Same No Matter Where The Patient Gets Care?
May 21
That question was the focus of a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday, and it’s an important issue in the context of the debate over ending the Medicare SGR. Mary Agnes Carey and CQ HealthBeat’s John Reichard discuss.

California Doctors Among Those Charging Medicare The Most For Office Visits
By Lisa Aliferis, April Dembosky and Lisa Pickoff-White, May 21
Billing data show that some doctors charge the government much more than their peers in the same specialty by deeming almost all office visits “complex.” 

Medicare May Be Overpaying Hospitals For Short-Stay Patients
By Susan Jaffe, May 20
A congressional panel has held its first hearing on a controversial rule that governs the admission status of Medicare patients.

Medicare Reverses Denial Of Costly Treatment For Hepatitis C Patient
By Richard Knox, May 15
The policy change will affect many baby boomers waiting for the new drugs. 

Do Seniors Have Too Many Medicare Plans To Choose From?
By Phil Galewitz, May 14
But many seniors say they don’t want to change plans, which could cost them money, a new study says.

Medicare Struggling With Hepatitis-C Cure Costs
By Richard Knox, May 12
Millions of baby boomers have hepatitis-C, and as they age into Medicare, the problem is how to pay for a $100,000+ treatment.

Hospitals Boost Patient Safety, But More Work Is Needed
By Jordan Rau, May 7
Decreases in the proportion of Medicare patients who were re-hospitalized within 30 days of discharge coincide with the onset of Medicare penalties against hospitals with higher-than-expected rates of patient returns.

Health Law Requires Medicare To Cover Dementia Evaluation 
By Michelle Andrews, May 6
But an influential panel of experts say there isn’t enough evidence to recommend screening tests for the public.

Medicare Seeks To Stop Overpayments For Hospice Patients’ Drugs
By Susan Jaffe, May 1
New Medicare guidance taking effect today aims to stop the federal government from paying millions of dollars to hospice organizations and drug insurance plans for the same prescriptions for seniors.

APRIL

FAQ On ACOs: Accountable Care Organizations, Explained
By Jenny Gold, April 16
Updated: ACOs have become one of the most talked about new ideas in Obamacare. Here are answers to some of the more common questions about how they work.

Waiting – And – Waiting On The Nursing Home Inspector
By Anna Gorman, April 14
Mary Chiu complained in 2011 that her elderly mother suffered terribly from poor care in a nursing home. Hers is among hundreds of cases that remain unresolved due to a backlog of investigations in Los Angeles County.

L.A. County Nursing Home Inspections Chief Reassigned
By Anna Gorman, April 10
An audit that followed a KHN report revealed an alarming backlog of more than 3,000 open inspections at nursing homes. The supervisor in charge of the inspections has been replaced and moved to a ‘special assignment.’

Alzheimer’s Disease Support Model Could Save Millions
By Lisa Gillespie, April 10
Minnesota stands to save if a pilot program to support patient care for these patients is successful.

Medicare Records Provide Tantalizing New Details Of Payments To Doctors
By Jordan Rau, April 9
But physicians and database experts caution that the information can be easily misconstrued or misunderstood.

Obama Administration Retreats On Private Medicare Rate Cuts
By Jay Hancock, April 8
But insurers still contest the claim that rates will rise slightly after arriving at their own calculations of the originally proposed cuts.

Decoding The High-Stakes Debate Over Medicare Advantage Cuts
By Jay Hancock, April 7
In high-visibility ad campaigns, insurers maintain that reduced payment rates, which are expected to be announced Monday, will do real harm. What should beneficiaries expect?

Los Angeles County Audit Finds Backlog Of Nursing Home Complaints
By Anna Gorman, April 5
The Los Angeles County Auditor/Controller determined that there were more than 3,000 open investigations, including 945 that have been open for more than two years.

MARCH

Permanent ‘Doc Fix’ May Be On Hold As House Passes Short-Term Patch
March 27
Health on the Hill: Mary Agnes Carey and CQ Roll Call’s Emily Ethridge discuss the progress of the short-term bill and how it affect prospects for long-term changes to how providers are paid.

Draft Rules Would Help Protect Seniors When Medicare Advantage Plans Drop Doctors
By Susan Jaffe, March 24
The proposals by federal officials come in response to UnitedHealthcare’s efforts to cancel contracts with thousands of doctors in 10 states just weeks before seniors had to enroll in plans.

Cholesterol Advice Could Mean Statins For Many Over 40
By Richard Knox, March 20
The guidelines could bring the number of Americans taking these heart-attack reducing drugs to 56 million.

A Reader Asks: Would An IRA Withdrawal Count As Income For Exchange Subsidies?
By Michelle Andrews, March 14
KHN’s consumer columnist responds to a reader who is living off savings and wants to find a way to qualify for subsidies on the health insurance marketplace.

Lawmakers Weigh Changes To Medicare
Mary Agnes Carey and Jennifer Haberkorn, March 13
The House this week held a hearing on payment shifts in Medicare Advantage plans and has scheduled a vote Friday on a proposal to revamp the system for paying doctors. KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey and Politico Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn discuss the issues.

Ryan Quizzes Sebelius On Savings Estimate From IPAB
By Mary Agnes Carey, March 13
The Wisconsin Republican wants to know why estimated savings from the board tripled since last year.

UCLA Memory Program Offers ‘Gym For Your Brain’
By Anna Gorman, March 12
Games, stories, tai chi and dancing help patients — and caregivers — cope with memory loss

Medicare Officials Back Away From Changes To Prescription Drug Plan
By Mary Agnes Carey, March 10
Facing heavy bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill as well as from patient groups, businesses, insurers and others, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Monday it did not plan to move ahead “at this time” with several proposed changes to the Medicare prescription drug program.

Video: How Proposed Part D Changes Are Playing On Capitol Hill
Mary Agnes Carey and Emily Ethridge, March 7
Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are proposing to remove some drugs from Medicare’s prescription drug plans and limit how many plans insurers can offer. KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey and CQ Roll Call’s Emily Ethridge discuss.

IG Report Findings Could Strengthen Nursing Home Inspections
By Susan Jaffe, March 7
Nursing home oversight may be moving toward more effective ways to detect poor care.

L.A. County Health Officials Grilled Over Nursing Home Inspections
By Anna Gorman, March 5
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously ordered an audit Tuesday of how the public health department oversees nursing homes, after a news report revealed that managers told inspectors to close cases without fully investigating them.

L.A. County Officials Told Inspectors To Cut Short Nursing Home Probes
By Anna Gorman, March 3
They say they were trying to help clear a California backlog of 9,000 cases. Elder care advocate calls the move “unconscionable.”

Administration Faces Opposition To Changes In Medicare Prescription Drug Program
By Mary Agnes Carey, March 3
Officials say proposed alterations would help seniors and save money but some patient groups and the drug industry are raising concerns.

Three Key Changes Proposed For Medicare Part D
By Mary Agnes Carey, March 3
Among the elements of the proposal that consumers might notice are changes in what drugs will be “protected” so that they are more readily available to seniors, how many plans are offered and what pharmacies will be offering the best deals.

FEBRUARY

Lend Us Your Ears: Note Takers Help The Elderly At The Doctor
By Susan Jaffe, Feb. 28
Several groups dedicated to helping seniors stay in their homes provide the service for members who may need a record of the doctor’s office visits.

Obama Administration Proposes 1.9% Cut In Medicare Advantage Payments
By Mary Agnes Carey, Feb. 24
Insurers claim the cuts are deeper and are campaigning to stop them, saying they will hurt seniors.

Rep. John Dingell, Long-Time Champion Of Health Legislation, Will Not Seek Re-Election
By Mary Agnes Carey, Feb. 24
The 87-year-old, who has served in the House for nearly 60 years, is known in the health care world for championing a variety of issues, including Medicare, children’s health care and the quality and safety of the nation’s drug supply.

Impact Of Medicare Advantage Cuts On Seniors Sharply Disputed
By Phil Galewitz, Feb. 23
Experts say that costs may rise for some enrollees, but rates have been largely stable for most.

Medicare Data Show Wide Differences In ACOs’ Patient Care
By Jordan Rau, Feb. 21
The first public evaluation of how 141 networks of doctors and hospitals performed looks at five quality measures for patients with diabetes and heart disease.

Bipartisan Group Of Senators Concerned About Medicare Advantage Cuts
By Mary Agnes Carey, Feb. 18
Insurers say an estimated 6 to 7 percent payment reduction could mean higher premiums and fewer benefits.

States Accelerate Shift Of Nursing Home Residents Into Medicaid Managed Care
By Phil Galewitz, Feb. 11
Insurers say that safety is their No.1 concern, but consumer advocates and nursing home owners are wary.

Hill Plan Would Reward Medicare Doctors For Quality
By Mary Agnes Carey, Feb. 7
But finding a way to finance an SGR fix may be even more difficult.

JANUARY

Wyden Plan May Be Vision For Future Medicare Reforms
By Mary Agnes Carey, Jan. 21
Key members of both parties and both chambers of Congress stand before the podium to introduce their bipartisan Medicare proposal. Insurers and health care providers welcome it. Seniors’ groups are on board, too. If Congress is ever going to overhaul Medicare, it will almost certainly have to happen this way.

As HHS Moves To End Overload Of Medicare Claims Appeals, Beneficiaries Will Get Top Priority
By Susan Jaffe, Jan. 21
New requests from hospitals, doctors and other providers have been suspended for two years as officials try to get through a backlog of 357,000 cases.

Congress Is Poised To Change Medicare Payment Policy. What Does That Mean For Patients And Doctors?
By Mary Agnes Carey, Jan. 16
Capitol Hill committees appear close to replacing the controversial physician payment system that rewards doctors for volume with one that offers incentives for quality and coordination of care.

Maryland’s Bold Hospital Spending Plan Gets Federal Blessing

By Jay Hancock, Jan. 10

Maryland hospitals have agreed to new spending limits and big changes in the way they are paid, creating what could be a national model.

Study: Supplemental Plans Raise Medicare Costs 22 Percent

By Jay Hancock, Jan. 9

A new study takes the closest look yet at the relationship between Medigap coverage and Medicare spending.

How Much Does A New Hip Cost? Even The Surgeon Doesn’t Know

By Jenny Gold, Jan. 6

What will a gallon of milk set you back? How about a new car? You probably have a rough idea. But what about a medical device – the kind that gets implanted during a knee or hip replacement? Chances are you have no clue. And you are not alone: The surgeons who implant those devices probably don’t know either, a just-published survey shows.

Detailed Report Delivers Good News On Health Costs, But Will It Last?

By Jay Hancock, Jan. 6

Definitive 2012 numbers show continued, historically low increases in medical prices and the use of medical services. Health spending rose 3.7 percent, up slightly from 2011 but far below the 8 percent increases of the early 2000s, according to figures released Monday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

364 Hospitals Have High Rates Of Overall Readmissions, New Medicare Data Show

By Jordan Rau, Jan. 6

Medicare’s new comprehensive measure of hospital readmissions shows that at least 20 percent of the hospitals in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have higher rates of patients returning than the national average.

See Stories Published in 2013