Extra Extra : Health

Taxpayers face big Medicare tab for unusual doctor billings

More than 2,300 providers – doctors, nurses, physician assistants – earned $500,000 or more from Medicare in 2012 from a single procedure or service, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the data. A few of those providers, including an internist in Los Angeles and a dermatologist in Port St. Lucie, Fla., collected more from the single procedures than anyone else who billed for them — by very large margins.

The data release was prompted by a Journal legal effort to make the information public. This story is the first of a series, Medicare Unmasked, examining how payments are made ...

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Despite evidence of danger, some parents still share beds with infants

The tragedies put the city on pace for a deadlier-than-usual year for bed-sharing infants.

Jackson County, meanwhile, has recorded 100 such deaths since 2004 believed to be related to co-sleeping — grim statistics seldom discussed publicly.

The deaths continue to increase nationally despite a campaign by the American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid bed-sharing and efforts by advocates to promote safe-sleeping guidelines for infants.

Read the full story from The Kansas City Star here.

How the VA developed its culture of coverups

The resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki isn’t likely to fix systemic problems at the beleaguered agency, the Washington Post reports.

The VA’s “towering bureaucracy,” once designed to prevent mismanagement and corruption, ultimately allowed it to hide its problems from senior staff.

Scheduling clerks were told to “zero out” wait times. In Phoenix, for instance, official data showed veterans waited an average of 24 days for an appointment. In reality, the average wait was 115 days. Reporter David Fahrenthold explains:

This is how it worked: A patient asked for an appointment on a specific day. Turner ...

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Is an Arizona prison healthcare provider driving up its profits at the expense of taxpayers?

Arizona taxpayers pay $125 million a year to Corizon, a company contracted to provide healthcare to Arizona's inmate population. A KPNX-Phoenix investigation revealed there are questions about whether the company is driving up its profits at the expense of taxpayers.

What's more, billing records show the Department of Corrections is spending millions more to defend itself from a 2012 class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Prison Law Office out of Berkeley, Calif. That filing accuses the department of not providing adequate medical care, mental health care and dental care to prisoners ...

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Trials of spinal surgery option Infuse were too little, too late

Three years after back surgery, Grace Nestler-Bramm learned that a drug designed to repair her spine was causing new bone to wrap around it and compress nerves.

In March, the Cedar Grove resident became one of nearly 1,000 people who are suing Medtronic, the company that markets Infuse — a number certain to grow.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today analysis of U.S. Food and Drug Administration data found that more than 6,500 reports of Infuse-related problems have been registered with the agency's medical device reporting system since 2002, the year Infuse was approved. Roughly half of ...

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Extra Extra Monday: High-poverty schools, the troubled VA healthcare system, medical examiner accuracy

Fatally flawed: Truth gets buried under broken rules | The Charlotte Observer

In a five-part series launched Saturday, the Charlotte Observer reveals that N.C. medical examiners routinely fail to follow crucial investigative steps, raising questions about the accuracy of thousands of death rulings.

The living face the consequences. Widows can be cheated out of insurance money. Families may never learn why their loved ones died. Killers can go free.

After a medical examiner concluded David Worley died in a Harnett County car wreck last July, a funeral home discovered what the examiner missed: four stab wounds in his back. His ...

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The cost of not caring: Inside a mental health system drowning from neglect

States have been reducing hospital beds for decades, because of insurance pressures as well as a desire to provide more care outside institutions, USA TODAY reports.

Tight budgets during the recession forced some of the most devastating cuts in recent memory, says Robert Glover, executive director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. States cut $5 billion in mental health services from 2009 to 2012. In the same period, the country eliminated at least 4,500 public psychiatric hospital beds — nearly 10% of the total supply, he says.

The result is that, all too often, people with ...

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Fatally flawed: Truth gets buried under broken rules

"In a five-part series launched Saturday, the Charlotte Observer reveals that N.C. medical examiners routinely fail to follow crucial investigative steps, raising questions about the accuracy of thousands of death rulings. The living face the consequences. Widows can be cheated out of insurance money. Families may never learn why their loved ones died. Killers can go free," The Observer reported.

Read their full story here.

How much salt is in your well water? For some, too much

More than half of the private wells in the Town of East Fishkill have higher concentrations of sodium from road salt than some government health standards recommend, according to a new study by local scientists.

The findings by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies are preliminary. But they represent the first scientific analysis of well test data collected as a result of laws enacted in 2007 by three southern Dutchess County towns. The findings highlight the potential for continued and deeper analysis of the growing body of well test data, which include results for dozens of other contaminants at each ...

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Portable classrooms loosely monitored, regulated

Earthfix and InvestigateWest worked together and looked at portable, or mobile classrooms in Oregon and Washington.

"Several efforts are underway to create more efficient portables that offer healthier learning environments, including two prominent efforts in the Northwest," according to the report.

The team of journalists also made a database of various schools in the area where viewers can look up information.

To read part one of the three-part series, click here.