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What We're Reading - August 29th, 2014

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)
August 29, 2014
A rundown of the articles and stories that caught our eye this week:

Medicare Star Ratings Allow Nursing Homes to Game the System
“The Medicare ratings, which have become the gold standard across the industry, are based in large part on self-reported data by the nursing homes that the government does not verify. Only one of the three criteria used to determine the star ratings — the results of annual health inspections — relies on assessments from independent reviewers. The other measures — staff levels and quality statistics — are reported by the nursing homes and accepted by Medicare, with limited exceptions, at face value.”
The New York Times, August 24, 2014

Two neighboring states, one big financial gap: Illinois struggles with debt while Indiana sits pretty with a surplus
"'We do have $2 billion in the bank and we are in a much better position in Indiana than they are fiscally in Illinois, but at the same time, I think Illinois streets might be in better shape than our streets right now,’ McDermott said. ‘I think Illinois is providing better services during crisis than we are because they have more tools available. It cuts both ways.’ McDermott’s point is this: What’s the use of a surplus if some basic services aren’t being met?'"
Curios City via WBEZ, August 27, 2014

Baby’s Drug Co-Pay Jumps, and a Health Reporter Is Stumped

“It’s not easy being an educated health care consumer.

I was reminded of this when I went to refill a prescription this month for an asthma and allergy medication for my 9-month-old son, Holden. The first time I filled his prescription for Montelukast granules — the generic version of Singulair from Merck — my insurance co-payment was $15. A month later, the co-payment had risen to $30 (and my insurance was paying $85.94, rather than $118.53). Why?"
The Upshot via The New York Times, August 29, 2014

40 Percent of Restaurant Workers Live in Near-Poverty
“The industry's wages have stagnated at an extremely low level. Restaurant workers' median wage stands at $10 per hour, tips included—and hasn't budged, in inflation-adjusted terms, since 2000. For nonrestaurant US workers, the median hourly wage is $18. That means the median restaurant worker makes 44 percent less than other workers. Benefits are also rare—just 14.4 percent of restaurant workers have employer-sponsored health insurance and 8.4 percent have pensions, vs. 48.7 percent and 41.8 percent, respectively, for other workers.”
Mother Jones, August 27, 2014

More on the wage gap: A Look at Income Inequality, Hour by Hour from The Wall Street Journal

Long Read: Thousands with Mental Illness End Up Homeless, but there are Approaches that can Help Out
"More than 124,000 – or one-fifth – of the 610,000 homeless people across the USA suffer from a severe mental illness, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They're gripped by schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression — all manageable with the right medication and counseling but debilitating if left untreated. In the absence of such care, their plight costs the federal government millions of dollars a year in housing and services and prolongs their disorders."
USA Today