Health Highlights: May 7, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Hospital Care Improvements Saved 15,000 Lives and Billions in Health Spending: HHS

Improvements in hospital care prevented nearly 15,000 deaths and 560,000 patient injuries, and saved $4 billion in health spending in 2011 and 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The overall 9 percent decrease in hospital-caused harm to patients is due to reductions in areas such as drug-related complications, falls, and infections.

Hospital readmissions among Medicare patients have also declined. The 30-day readmission rate held steady at 19 percent from 2007 to 2011, fell to 18.5 percent in 2012, and further decreased to 17.5 percent in 2013.

That reduction means there were about 150,000 fewer hospital readmissions among Medicare patients between January 2012 and December 2013, according to the federal government.

"We applaud the nationwide network of hospital systems and providers that are working together to save lives and reduce costs," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an agency news release.

"We are seeing a simultaneous reduction in hospital readmissions and injuries, giving patients confidence that they are receiving the best possible care and lowering their risk of having to be readmitted to the hospital after they get the care they need," she added.

The government attributes the improvements in hospital care to policies and public-private cooperation carried out under the Affordable Care Act.

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$100 Million Fund Proposed for Victims of Meningitis Outbreak

A fund of more than $100 million could be created to compensate Americans affected by a meningitis outbreak linked to the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.

The fund would be created under a settlement reached between the owners of the pharmacy and a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee. It was filed with a federal bankruptcy judge, who must approve it, the Associated Press reported.

Under the settlement, the company's owners would pay $50 million into the fund and insurers would contribute another $25 million. The company owners would also be permitted to seek $20 million in tax refunds, which would be added to the fund.

Money from the proposed sale of an affiliated company, Ameridose, would increase the total amount of the fund to more than $100 million, the AP reported.

The 2012 meningitis outbreak, which sickened more than 750 people in 20 states and caused 64 deaths, was blamed on tainted steroids produced by the New England Compounding Center. Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee were hardest hit by the outbreak.

The settlement is "another important step in a frustratingly long process to get fair compensation to hundreds of victims of the meningitis outbreak," said Thomas Sobol, the attorney representing people who sued the company, the AP reported.

He said he hoped the court would approve the settlement by the end of the year and that victims would began receiving their payments in early 2015. Those eligible for compensation include people who suffered serious injuries and the families of those who died.

No criminal charges have been laid in the case and the owners of the New England Compounding Center have denied wrongdoing or liability, the AP reported.

Posted: May 2014


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