KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Hospital Roundup: Recession Takes Toll On NY Hospital, Investigation Of Heart Surgeries In Maryland And California’s Soaring Fees

The New York Times: Harlem's North General hospital may fold. Despite "often successful" efforts by "Harlem's civic, political and religious leaders … to get more money and more state subsidies to keep it going," the hospital may not survive this period of general "economic malaise." The hospital serves many low-income and uninsured patients in addition to middle-income patients. A rehabilitation center operated by a city-run hospital appears to be eyeing its location for an expansion as hospital officials consider restructuring and linking up with partners (Hartocollis, 2/25).

Baltimore Business Journal: "In a letter written Feb. 16 to state health department Secretary John M. Colmers, Del. Peter A. Hammen, a Baltimore Democrat, suggests cardiologists at the Towson hospital may have violated patient safety laws if they wittingly and unnecessarily implanted patients with stents used to widen clogged coronary arteries." Federal officials are also looking into the hospital's Medicare billings.

"The state investigation is another in a growing string of black marks against St. Joseph's [Medical Center]cardiology practice, historically among the best in the nation. The hospital disclosed in January that as many as 369 cardiac patients may not have had blockages severe enough to warrant the open-heart procedure. Since then, class-action and individual lawsuits have piled up against St. Joseph. At the center of the hospital's investigation is Dr. Mark Midei, a cardiologist who joined St. Joseph in January 2008 but is said to have performed the unnecessary stent implants and no longer practices at the hospital. St. Joseph began notifying Midei's patients in December that they may have been through the possibly harmful procedure for no reason" (Graham, 2/26).

BusinessWeek: "California's hospital fees surged 10.6 percent annually from 1999 to 2005, twice the national average, as the state's biggest hospital networks began to demand higher rates from insurance companies, according to the report released today." The report by Health Affairs indicates that the health systems may be as responsible for soaring prices as the state's insurers, who have recently come under attack (Arnst and Wechsler, 2/25).

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