Health News Review
  • Dec 20 2010

    “Secrets of the System” – WSJ series on potential fraud & waste in Medicare

    See the Wall Street Journal piece, “Top Spine Surgeons Reap Royalties, Medicare Bounty.” It begins: Norton Hospital in Louisville, Ky., may not be a household name nationally. But five senior spine surgeons have helped put it on the map in at least one category: From 2004 to 2008, Norton performed the third-most spinal fusions on [...]

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  • Nov 9 2010

    ProPublica: Dialysis means life-saving care at great risk and cost

    ProPublica has published another blockbuster piece of investigative health journalism: “Dialysis:The High Costs and Hidden Perils of a Treatment Guaranteed to All.” In an accompanying editor’s note, we learn a little bit about how much effort went into this project: “For two years, ProPublica reporter Robin Fields prodded CMS officials to release this data under [...]

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  • Nov 4 2010

    Drug company’s secret inducements to get docs to use $2,000 drug instead of $20 sibling

    The New York Times reports: Genentech has begun offering secret rebates to eye doctors as an apparent inducement to get them to use more of the company’s expensive drug Lucentis rather than a less costly alternative. Under the program, which started on Oct. 1, medical practices can earn up to tens of thousands of dollars [...]

  • Nov 4 2010

    When docs are paid less, inappropriate prescribing drops

    Take medical uncertainty. Add financial incentive to treat. Voila! Increased utilization. Now take away financial incentive to treat. Guess what you get? MedPageToday explains in the case of hormone therapy for prostate cancer: Medicare accomplished what clinical guidelines and evidence-based medicine couldn’t: it reduced unnecessary use of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) in prostate cancer. Inappropriate [...]

  • Oct 21 2010

    “A world of free lunches” – including payment for IMRT & proton beam for prostate CA

    In a New York Times column this week, David Leonhardt reflects on how “any deficit strategy needs to focus on Medicare.” Excerpt: “The treatment of prostate cancer offers a good example of the trouble with the current system. I devoted a column to prostate cancer last year, and the Health Affairs article — by Steven [...]

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  • Jul 25 2010

    Why do Minnesota patients get more low back MRIs?

    Kudos to Christopher Snowbeck and the Pioneer Press for digging into new Medicare data to report that the state the newspaper serves is out of whack with the rest of the country in how many expensive MRI scans are done on Minnesotans’ bad backs. Snowbeck artfully captures the predictable rationalization and defensive responses coming from [...]

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  • Jun 14 2010

    Emphasis on potential harms of new technologies and screening in this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine

    Reuters reports on a study in the current Archives of Internal Medicine that shows that: “…after the U.S. Congress had mandated Medicare coverage of a digital tool to help detect breast cancer, health providers were quick to pick it up even though it hadn’t showed clear-cut benefits for the women. The technology, known as computer-aided [...]

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  • Apr 30 2010

    AP: Seniors aren’t flocking to quality health plans

    This AP story raises many important questions about the quality of information consumers receive (or not) about the quality of care. Excerpt: “Millions of seniors signed up for popular Medicare Advantage insurance plans don’t get the best quality, an independent study found.…The analysis found that 47 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are in plans that rate [...]

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  • Apr 2 2010

    Cancer treatment debate asks: is proton beam proliferation outpacing evidence?

    In any talk I give to journalists, I encourage them to look into the proliferation of proton beam facilities for cancer therapy. Few have done so with any zeal. • The New York Times did a good job. • The Columbus Dispatch did not. Journalist Merrill Goozner gives ample food for thought in an article [...]

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  • Feb 23 2010

    News stories that paint Medicare as the villain in cost containment

    WBBM in Chicago last week asked, “Is Medicare Ignoring Cheaper Lung Cancer Test?” In its report, the TV station’s “investigator” team promoted a company president’s complaints against Medicare for much of the piece. They let him get away with saying: “This is a potentially very powerful tool in the toolbox against lung cancer. You can [...]

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