Could Republicans and Democrats actually be listening to each other when they discuss how to tackle the growing national headache of rising health care expenditures? Three current or former members of the White House Council of Economic Advisors discussed the issue at a meeting sponsored by the American Risk and Insurance Association in terms that suggest the coming national debate over health care entitlement programs might be less hidebound than in years past.
The acting director of the Congressional Budget Office said that the federal budget deficit for fiscal 2006 had shrunk to a "sustainable" level of $260 billion, the lowest in four years. Donald B. Marron issued a sanguine view of the economy and the deficit picture. He described the deficit as below the historical average as a percentage of gross domestic product and projected a reduction in inflation coupled with continued economic growth.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network released details on seven quality measures developed to assess care for breast and colorectal cancer patients. The measures include recommendations on therapy for patients with tumors larger than 1 centimeter, breast radiation therapy for patients under 70, post-operative chemotherapy for patients under 80, and the amount of time for treating a patient with chemotherapy after diagnosis.
The number of physicians no longer accepting new Medicaid patients has grown over the last decade, even though the program saw modest increases in payment rates and enrollment, according to a report by the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). The report, which examined data from HSC's nationwide Community Tracking Study Physician Survey, finds that one-fifth, or 21 percent, of physicians surveyed were not accepting new Medicaid patients in 2004 to 2005, compared with 19.4 percent in 1996 to 1997.
Three-quarters of adults believe the U.S. health care system must undergo fundamental change or be completely rebuilt, according to a Commonwealth Fund survey. Findings from the report also conclude that 42 percent of the more than 1,000 adults interviewed reported experiencing poorly coordinated, inefficient, or unsafe care at some time over the last two years. One of four U.S. adults reported that their physician had recommended unnecessary care or treatment, and one of six reported their physician ordered tests that already had been done.
Medicare beneficiaries received better care under Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) in 34 of 41 areas measured by a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study found that in nursing homes working closely with QIOs, the number of patients suffering from chronic pain was cut in half. Physicians' offices improved care for patients with diabetes and increased the number of women receiving timely mammograms. The study also found that surgical infections were lowered in hospitals that worked with QIOs.