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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Knee replacements soar among older Americans

CHICAGO — Just like age-defying baby boomers, older folks have seen a surge in knee replacement surgeries, driven partly by a desire to stay active and by joint-damaging obesity.

Spokane physician proposes changes

WASHINGTON – It’s not uncommon for a medical school student to be told he or she is “too smart” to be a family physician, said Glen R. Stream, a family doctor from Spokane. He wants Congress to help change that. Along with doctors from Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and New Mexico, Stream discussed ways to cut health care spending at a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee this week. The president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Stream also expressed his specialty’s views on the way Medicare pays doctors.

Aging workforce strains Social Security, Medicare

An aging population and an economy that has been slow to rebound are straining the long-term finances of Social Security and Medicare, the government's two largest benefit programs.

Clinics tapping Medicare market

Large Spokane clinics say they are hiring more doctors to absorb the growing numbers of new Medicare patients. Rockwood Clinic, for example, hired 13 primary care physicians last year and plans to hire 13 more this year.

Bates Drug Stores Inc. agrees to pay settlement

Bates Drug Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $602,271 to settle allegations that it double-billed Medicare and Medicaid. The U.S. Department of Justice along with Washington state officials announced the deal Tuesday. It included accusations that Bates, an employee-owned pharmacy that has been doing business in Spokane for about 70 years, submitted false claims between May 2006 and January 2011.

Medicare, Medicaid payment boost sought for rural hospitals

WASHINGTON – Rural hospitals in Washington and around the country would receive more federal money for Medicare and Medicaid patients through legislation introduced recently by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The legislation is designed to help medical facilities that have a high proportion of patients on Medicare and Medicaid, a situation common in many rural communities. The bill would send more money to so-called Disproportionate Share Hospitals by removing the current cap on annual payments to those facilities, said Todd Winer, spokesman for the Republican congresswoman.

Bill aims to lessen fraud and mantra

Waste and abuse, waste and abuse. It’s the chorus to a tune that is sung more or less constantly during debates about government spending: We don’t need to pay for government programs, we just need to eliminate waste and abuse.

Medicare cuts could hit Jan. 18

Nearly 650,000 doctors caring for millions of seniors will get a steep cut in Medicare payments Jan. 18 unless a gridlocked Congress issues a reprieve, program officials said today. A provision waiving a scheduled 27.4 percent cut in physician reimbursement was included in the payroll tax legislation now ensnared in partisan political wrangling between the House and Senate. Medicare deputy administrator Jonathan Blum told the Associated Press the cut will go through unless Congress acts, because the backlog from more than a couple of weeks of waiting for lawmakers could cause the program’s computers to crash.

Talk at federal, state levels alarms rural hospitals for future

Many of Eastern Washington’s small hospitals are bracing for cutbacks as federal and state governments look to save money. Consider Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Chewelah: On any given day perhaps nine of its 25 patient beds are occupied. Two of those patients might have private insurance. One might not pay the medical bill. The rest will be covered by government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicare back on the brink over cuts to doctors

Politicians of both parties outdo each other vying for the approval of seniors, but their inability to compromise on the federal budget has put Medicare in the crosshairs again. Unless Congress acts before Jan. 1, doctors face a 27 percent cut in their fees for treating Medicare patients. That could undermine health care for millions of elderly and disabled beneficiaries.

Some Medicare patients could face insurance ouster

Group Health Cooperative says it plans to drop Medicare patients who are not enrolled in a supplemental plan that costs an additional $20 a month. It’s a step the Seattle-based managed care company has been considering for years as Medicare’s fee-for-service reimbursements don’t adequately fund nor fit Group Health’s integrated care model, said Dr. Tom Schaaf, medical director of the organization’s Eastern Washington operations.

Rates down, but only for those in know

When Patti Redmond discovered in October that she was paying almost twice the going rate for her insurance policy, she called her company to ask them why. A representative from the company, Sterling Insurance, explained to her that, yes, she was in fact paying an old rate, she said. She was being charged $340 a month for supplemental Medicare coverage; due to changes in the program, monthly rates for that plan had dropped to $185.

Numbers paint a grim picture for Medicare

This commentary from the Vancouver (Wash.) Columbian does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board. Statistics from senior citizens and projections about baby boomers loudly proclaim that Congress and President Barack Obama are moving far too slowly in solving the health care and health insurance crises. Columbian staff writer Paris Achen recently presented some compelling numbers.

Providence acquires Spokane Cardiology

Providence Health Care has purchased Spokane Cardiology as part of its plan to develop a new heart institute serving the region. Federal antitrust regulators foiled a more ambitious deal earlier this year when they expressed concern about Providence’s plans to buy both Spokane Cardiology and Heart Clinics Northwest.

AARP, state offering information sessions on health reform

Political opportunism and the complexity of federal health care reform legislation have confused many seniors regarding the merits of the plan, according to AARP, which has launched a series of information sessions around Washington state. It’s been a year since the landmark legislation passed and yet the debate still rages, even as preparations are being made for the major changes that take root by 2014.