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New Data Fuels Disagreements Over Regional Medicare Spending

New data fuels some regional disputes on Medicare spending while some communities create better care and spend less than others. The New York Times reports that "new government data show that Medicare costs per patient in those cities [New York City, Boston] are slightly below the national average when the numbers are adjusted for the cost of living and other factors. The new numbers add fuel to a raging debate over what Congress should do to reduce geographic disparities in Medicare spending. The debate involves a combustible mix of health policy and money." As part of efforts to to revamp the health care system, "President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress say they want to reward doctors and hospitals for providing higher-quality, lower-cost care.

Pzifer To Pay 2.3 Billion In Medicare Medicaid Fraud Settlement

The Obama administration announced a landmark $2.3 billion health care fraud settlement with Pfizer, Inc. Wednesday, which is expected to change drug companies' promotion of off-label use of medicines. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Justice Department "said that Pfizer and its subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn Company Inc. have agreed to pay the unprecedented amount of civil and criminal penalties in order to end a series of investigations into their allegedly fraudulent marketing practices and other potentially illegal acts. The settlement reflects a renewed emphasis by the Obama administration on holding health care corporations accountable for their activities, especially in trying to market drugs for uses that haven't been approved, Justice Department officials and legal experts said.

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Medicare Advantage Rates Could Go Up, While Part D 'Exceeding Expectations'

Seniors on Medicare Advantage plans could pay more in premiums, while Medicare payments for drugs, dialysis and power wheelchairs get mixed reviews. "Despite near-zero inflation and recessionary conditions, health insurers in 2010 face another year of double-digit increases in the charges they pay for hospital services, physicians, drugs, and other healthcare costs, " U.S. News and World Report writes in a news column. Many insurers will raise premiums and co-pays or eliminate some coverage of certain expensive drugs, but "[t]he biggest percentage impact of the changes may be felt by the estimated 11 million older Americans with Medicare Advantage policies, according to Edward A.

Advocates Hope Homeless Will Receive Better Health Care

Advocates for the homeless are seeking to make sure that any health care reform measure meets the needs of these people who sometimes do not qualify for Medicaid. NPR reports on a Baltimore homeless clinic and notes: "Most homeless people in America are too poor to buy their own health coverage, but many also don't qualify for Medicaid, the government-run health program for the poor. Medicaid is mainly for people who have children or a disability, and most homeless people are childless adults." Jeff Singer, president and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless of Maryland says, "In 41 states, single adults are not eligible for Medicaid.... So you can have zero income and still not be eligible for any sort of health insurance.

Medicare Part D Still Stumping Seniors

Medicare's Part D program, designed to subsidize the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, has been the subject of much debate. Proponents have touted the plan's ability to expand access to prescription drugs to seniors; critics have long questioned its design and user-friendly appeal. Now, a recent report published by the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that, overall, Medicare Part D is producing favorable results. In fact, by the beginning of this year, about 60 percent of Medicare beneficiaries were actively participating in a Part D plan. But, despite these findings, professionals in the health care sector cannot help but point to the large number - roughly 4.

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Wednesday's Round Up Of State Health Stories

State health news coverage includes political vandalism in Colorado, health-related bills in Maine, Medicaid cuts in Maryland and a dismissed medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida. In Colorado, The Boston Globe/Associated Press reports: "At least two people smashed windows bearing health-care reform posters at the Colorado Democratic headquarters in Denver in what party officials are calling an act of political vandalism. Police say the windows were broken at about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. A policeman on regular patrol witnessed two people smashing windows with hammers, stopped, then pursued the suspects as they fled on bicycles" (Banda, 8/25).

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