KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

AHRQ: Hospital Admissions For Adverse Drug Reactions Have Doubled

News outlets report on the hospital industry, including admission rates, mergers and quality improvement programs.

"Hospital admissions for adverse reactions from medications and illegal drugs doubled ... between 1997 and 2008, according to a new government report," MedPage Today/ABC News reports. "The report, released by the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that there was a major increase in hospital discharges from effects of both prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as illegal drugs, among adults ages 45 and older. … The increase was largely driven by hospitalizations from conditions related to three types of medications and drug-related conditions: drug-induced delirium; 'poisoning' or overdose by codeine and other opiate-based pain medicines; and withdrawal from narcotic or non-narcotic drugs, according to the press release (Walker 10/31).

The Wall Street Journal: A Massachusetts judge "cleared the way Friday for the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management L.P. to assume control of Boston's Catholic hospital system and convert it to a for-profit company in a deal valued at $895 million. The proposed transaction is one of several acquisitions this year by investors scooping up debt-laden nonprofit hospitals, betting they can turn around the facilities with better management and greater resources to outperform competitors. … The court was the last entity needed to grant permission for the deal" to purchase Caritas Christi Health Care System. "State health officials, the Roman Catholic archdiocese and the Vatican have all blessed the transaction" (Sataline, 10/30).

Also in Massachusetts, "[t]he state's largest health care system says it will redesign care for thousands of patients and reduce administrative costs as part of a major new initiative intended in part to make treatment at its teaching hospitals more affordable," The Boston Globe reports. "Partners HealthCare, a physician and hospital organization that includes Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's hospitals, also plans to launch a 'public education campaign' early next year to improve its image, which has taken a pounding this year in the debate over soaring health care costs. … In a report released last winter, Attorney General Martha Coakley found that Massachusetts insurance companies pay certain hospitals and doctors twice as much money as others for essentially the same patient care. Her investigation found no evidence that the higher pay was a reward for better-quality work or for treating sicker patients" (Kowalczyk, 11/1).

The Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, on how a local hospital merger might affect tax rates: "If you think who owns your local hospital is a matter only for high-stakes financiers, think again. With five of the area's eight hospitals supported with local property taxes, it's a matter for every property owner in Volusia County to consider, and particularly now in Edgewater, New Smyrna Beach, Oak Hill and a sliver of Port Orange. The hospital taxes from those places -- the highest hospital tax rate in the state -- support indigent care at Bert Fish Medical Center, where three suitors are vying to take over hospital management" (Geggis, 11/1).

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