KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medicare Analysis Finds Too Many Needless Deaths At Hospitals

A new Medicare analysis by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found a "double failure" at U.S. hospitals. Its release comes as the White House and Congress seek ways to reward quality over quantity of care in health care reform. USA Today reports that "Too many people die needlessly at U.S. hospitals, according to a sweeping new Medicare analysis showing wide variation in death rates between the best hospitals and the worst. The analysis examined death rates for heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia at more than 4,600 hospitals across the USA. At 5.9% of hospitals, patients with pneumonia died at rates significantly higher than the national average. With heart failure, 3.4% of hospitals had death rates higher than the average, and 1.2% of hospitals were higher when it came to heart attack. Researchers also found that the majority of U.S. hospitals operate the equivalent of revolving doors for their patients. One of every four heart failure patients and slightly less than one in five heart attack and pneumonia patients land back in the hospital within 30 days, data show."

USA Today notes: "The findings are based on more than 1 million deaths and readmissions among Medicare patients from 2005 to 2008. A separate USA Today analysis of the data found that patients have higher death rates at hospitals in the nation's poorest and smallest counties, compared with those in larger, more affluent areas. Death rates in hospitals in counties with fewer than 50,000 people rank 1 to 2 percentage points higher than their most-populated counterparts, a significant difference. A similar pattern emerges at hospitals in counties where the median household income falls below $35,000 a year" (Sternberg and Gillum, 7/9).

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