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Consumer groups protest disappearance of doctor discipline data

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Robert Tenny, a doctor identified by the Kansas City star who was sued multiple times for malpractice.
[(Photo from the Kansas City Star website.)

[Note: this post has been corrected. Please read the note at the bottom, and comments, for further clarification.]

Reporters' and consumers' groups are protesting the Obama administration's decision to remove from the web a database of disciplinary actions and malpractice suits against physicians. The file, which has been online and publicly available since 2001, hides the names of individual doctors.

But that hasn't stopped reporters over the past decade from doing just that, using ...

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Shrinking of private practice may drive up health care costs: study

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Over the last three years, more and more doctors have left private practice to work for hospitals. A new study has found that this trend might be contributing to the rising cost of health care, at least in the short term.

Hospital groups, which continue to be some of the biggest donors to members of Congress, wielded considerable influence during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, last year's health care reform law: during 2009 and 2010, hospital and nursing home groups spent over $216 million on lobbying, employing over 1,100 lobbyists in 2010 alone, according to the ...

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Medicare and the Super Committee: Can doctors afford to lose two percent of their payments?

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Medicare and other health care services could see their funds drained in any number of ways as, over the next few months, the congressional Joint Committee on Debt Reduction--better known as the "super committee"--looks for ways to reduce the national debt.

Health care interests are well represented among the big donors to the committee's dozen members. Half those members--including Max BaucusFred UptonXavier Becerra and Chris Van Hollen--number health care concerns among their top ten career donors. Collectively, health care professionals ranked fourth among those career donors, giving $9.3 million, according to an analysis of ...

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New Sunlight Health App points to problems at an Illinois nursing home

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On October 19, 2010, a Rockford, Illinois man was admitted to a local hospital. Emergency room staff found seven large bed sores on his body; some spanned several inches and had advanced to stage IV, the most severe. One wound, according to emergency room notes, was infected and covered his entire tailbone.

The man, identified in inspection reports only as "R1," had developed all of his wounds since arriving at Rockford Nursing & Rehab Center, a 67-bed facility in Rockford, Illinois. Bed sores -- also known as pressure ulcers -- are lesions that typically form when a patient has limited mobility, and her ...

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Controversy heats up over Medicare cost-cutting board

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The fight over who will be in charge of keeping Medicare costs in line heated up this week as two House committees held contentious hearings on the subject. Opponents of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a 15-member panel appointed by the president and authorized to cut Medicare spending when it rises above a certain level, say such decisions should be left to Congress.

The board was created as part of last year's health care reform overhaul, and is expressly forbidden from "rationing" care, raising premiums or reducing benefits. Savings would likely come from lowering payments to doctors or ...

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First glimpse at medical error rates separates the good, the bad and the ugly

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Between Oct. 1, 2008 and June 30, 2010, Medicare patients at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, N.Y., suffered thirteen instances of severe bed sores during their stay requiring additional treatment, a rate of nearly 2.9 per 1,000 treated. At St. John’s Riverside Hospital, three miles down Broadway from St. Joseph’s, the rate was 20 times lower: only one severe bed sore was reported, even though St. John's discharged far more Medicare patients during that period -- 8,270 to St. Joseph's 4,541.

Over the protests of groups like the American Hospital ...

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One year after passage, health care reform continues to generate lobbying and legal fees

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One year ago today, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The legislative process that led to the bill's enactment proved to be a boon to lobbyists, including former aides to key members. Industry exerted influence on the administration and members of Congress from early on in the process, and continued lobbying after the bill was passed.

In 2009 and 2010, lobbyists for some 1,251 organizations disclosed lobbying on the bill, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Those interests included pharmaceutical firms and their trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of ...

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New GOP wave could slow the pace of healthcare reform

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House Republicans will begin planning their agendas this week. Many of these candidates made their opposition to the President's health care law a central issue in their campaigns. But to what extent will Tuesday's elections actually affect the course of reform?

Likely Speaker of the House John Boehner has been an outspoken proponent of the "repeal and replace" approach, telling reporters yesterday that he wants to begin "lay(ing) the groundwork" to repeal the law. But overturning health care reform would require a two-thirds majority to beat an Obama veto, a mark the GOP falls far short of ...

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Can we rate heart surgeries like blenders?

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The Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, released a set of ratings yesterday for something rather more important than appliances: heart bypass surgery. Using data submitted to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), the Consumers Union has graded various heart surgery groups using a three-star scale, similar to the way it rates radios, cameras and washing machines. It's a set of valuable public data that could serve as a model for expanding the Department of Health and Human Services' open government sites like Data.medicare.gov and the Community Health Data Initiative.

The heart surgery ratings are based on ...

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States of Transparency: Tennessee

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The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.

This week: Tennessee

Website: www.tn.gov/opengov/

The open government site for the state of Tennessee offers checkbook-level spending data, but would be extremely frustrating to serious researchers looking to do their own analysis. It's just not laid out in a computer-friendly way.

Currently, spending information is available in PDF format. It isn't searchable by vendor name or spending type, and isn't downloadable in any machine-readable format. And it's updated ...

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