KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Heart Attack Death Rates Drop In Hospitals; CDC Reports Increase In Colon Cancer Screening Rate

USA Today: Hospital heart attack death rates fell, according to new Medicare data. "Death rates at 4,569 hospitals that treat Medicare patients who suffer heart attacks fell by almost half a percentage point, from a national average of 16.6% last year to 16.2%. Death rates for most hospitals ranged from about 14.5% to 17.9%. ... The new hospital report card comes seven years into an effort by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to spur improvement by publicly reporting how consistently hospitals provide recommended treatments to patients. Three years ago, the agency added heart attack and heart failure mortality. The agency now also reports pneumonia death rates and 30-day readmission rates for all three conditions" (Sternberg and Gillum, 7/7).

The Tennessean: Heart attack deaths "[i]n the Nashville area, Vanderbilt University Medical Center had the lowest heart attack death rate, 14 percent, down slightly from last year. … Nearly 25 percent of heart failure patients and 20 percent of heart attack and pneumonia patients return to the hospital within a month of discharge, indicating little progress in slowing the revolving door that drives up costs and raises concerns about the transition from hospital to home" (Sternberg and Gillum, 7/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Although millions of Americans are being screened for colon and breast cancer regularly, federal health officials want to continue to improve those statistics. "New CDC data released Tuesday showed the rate of colorectal screening increased to 63% in 2008 from 52% in 2002 among adults ages 50 to 75. Breast-cancer screening rates among women ages 50 to 74 were 81.1% in 2008 compared with 81.5% in 2006. The rate has remained mostly level at just above 80% since about 2000, suggesting that efforts by public-health officials to encourage wider use of mammograms may have hit a wall. Thomas Frieden, the director of CDC, said he believed the recent health-care reform law would help boost screening rates both for colon and breast cancer. The law, which is intended to get more Americans into health plans, also requires insurers to pay for recommended cancer screenings" (Dooren, 7/7).

The Associated Press/CBS News: "About 81 percent of 120,000 women surveyed said they'd had a mammogram in the previous two years, as experts recommend. But there was no improvement. The rate is about the same as it's been since 2000. Part of the reason may be lack of health insurance among some women, noted Elizabeth Ward, who oversees surveillance and health policy at the American Cancer Society. … Screening rates for both types of cancer were higher among people with more education and with insurance coverage" (7/6). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.