Daily Rounds: Bounce-Back Patient Penalty; Suicide Up; Harvard Health Costs; Campaign Focus On Abortion

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Hospitals look to lower readmission penalties (The Boston Globe) - "In Massachusetts, 54 medical centers will lose some money, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis, and Beth Israel Deaconess is among 10 that will lose the maximum amount — 1 percent of their Medicare payments. Some also face state penalties. Many hospitals are rolling out new programs in response, hiring people such as the nurse who works with Sewell, installing technology to predict which patients need the most help once they leave the hospital, and forging new partnerships with nursing homes, doctor offices, and social services. But there has been considerable debate about whether the penalties are fair or will have a real impact on patient care."

Increase seen in U.S. suicide rate since the recession (The New York Times) - "The rate of suicide in the United States rose sharply during the first few years since the start of the recession, a new analysis has found. In the report, which appeared Sunday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal, researchers found that the rate between 2008 and 2010 increased four times faster than it did in the eight years before the recession. The rate had been increasing by an average of 0.12 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 through 2007. In 2008, the rate began increasing by an average of 0.51 deaths per 100,000 people a year. Without the increase in the rate, the total deaths from suicide each year in the United States would have been lower by about 1,500, the study said. The finding was not unexpected."

Harvard, large union at odds over health care (The Boston Globe) - "Members of Harvard University’s largest union reacted angrily Friday to assertions by the school in its annual report that health care costs for employees are growing at unsustainable rates. The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, which represents about 4,600 skilled office, laboratory, and library staffers, is negotiating medical care contributions and wage increases with university officials. Its contract expired June 30...Harvard, in its annual report released Friday, said, 'Our employee benefit expense, of which health care is the largest component, has been increasing at an unsupportable rate relative to actual and expected growth in the university’s revenue.'"

Why abortion has become such a prominent campaign issue (NPR-Shots) - "Abortion isn't usually a major issue in presidential campaigns. But this year is different. Both President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are putting the issue front and center, including official campaign-produced ads. A TV spot from the Romney campaign shows the candidate's abortion stance in a different light. That's a big change from many of the previous presidential races, where the campaigns normally let surrogates do the talking about one of the most contentious issues in politics. That's because in both cases candidates wanted to secure their base voters – those who support abortion rights in the case of Democrats and those who oppose them for Republicans – without antagonizing the minorities in each party who hold the other view. This fall, however, GOP challenger Romney has been walking an interesting tightrope – appearing to moderate his position on the one hand, while maintaining a strict anti-abortion stance on the other."

This program aired on November 5, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.