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Medicare Releases Data on Physician Payments

Following years of pressure from consumer groups and news outlets, Medicare for the first time publicly released data showing what it pays providers. The data, released earlier this month, show the services provided to Medicare beneficiaries by physicians and other health care professionals in 2012 and the amount Medicare paid for those services—detailing some $77 billion in payments to 880,000 physicians providing lab tests, surgeries, office visits, and other services. News headlines have focused on the large amounts charged by a very small minority of physicians (4,000 physicians billed in excess of $1 million). But the American Medical Association and other provider groups have expressed concerns that the information may be misleading (for example, high billing may be related to extremely high overhead in certain cases). 

CDC Report: Progress in Reducing Infections

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed to significant reductions in the numbers of health care–associated infections. Dropping fastest are central line–associated blood stream infections (44 percent from 2008 to 2012) and certain surgical site infections (down 20 percent over the same time period). Meanwhile, there have been only minimal reductions in the number of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections and hospital-onset methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream infections in recent years, while rates of catheter-associated urinary tract infections actually increased between 2009 and 2012. The report found great variation in infection rates among states, as discussed in this Commonwealth Fund blog and infographic.  

8 Million Enroll in Health Insurance Under ACA

The Obama Administration announced this month that 8 million people have signed up for insurance coverage through provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), surpassing its goal of 7 million. Some 28 percent of those signing up were younger individuals (between ages 18 and 34), who are critical to healthy risk pools—though some experts say this still isn't a sufficient number to keep premiums low in the exchanges. Still to come: details on how many of the 8 million were previously uninsured, and information on how many have paid their initial premiums.

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