Hard times

Politi­cos aim to slash health pro­grams, but Mod­ern Health­care is on a roll

Modern Healthcare - - Opinions Editorials - NEIL MCLAUGH­LIN Man­ag­ing Edi­tor

Any­one who thought the coun­try was out of the woods eco­nom­i­cally got a dose of re­al­ity last week with the lat­est round of health­care earn­ings re­ports.

In­surer Unit­edHealth Group, for ex­am­ple, posted strong earn­ings helped in no small part by a de­cline in health­care uti­liza­tion. The con­tin­ued slug­gish­ness in the econ­omy damp­ened de­mand for ser­vices. Peo­ple who are short of cash are choos­ing to forgo hos­pi­tal and doc­tor vis­its and pro­ce­dures.

Med­i­cal-de­vice mak­ers are re­port­ing that pa­tients are post­pon­ing sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures such as hip re­place­ments.

While busi­ness limps along and or­di­nary peo­ple strug­gle with med­i­cal and other bills, the U.S. Congress con­tin­ues to fum­ble the eco­nomic ball in ne­go­ti­a­tions over rais­ing the debt ceil­ing. As we have pointed out for the past two weeks on this page, mind­lessly slash­ing gov­ern­ment spend­ing in an eco­nomic down­turn—this one the most se­vere since the Great De­pres­sion—is a fis­cal rem­edy the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian would have loved.

Last week, the House, in an ef­fort to ap­pease the an­ar­chist lobby, passed leg­is­la­tion with spend­ing caps that would al­most cer­tainly cause dra­co­nian cuts in Medi­care and Med­i­caid among other pro­grams. The Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties es­ti­mates it would also re­sult in the loss of roughly 700,000 jobs.

At dead­line, the Se­nate was show­ing a lit­tle more sense (em­pha­sis on a lit­tle) in try­ing to avert fi­nan­cial Ar­maged­don with more work­able al­ter­na­tives. Physi­cian groups were elated that lawmakers were con­sid­er­ing an end to the trav­esty of the sus­tain­able growth-rate for­mula for doc­tor pay­ments. How­ever, physi­cians should hold their ap­plause un­til they see the fi­nal agree­ment. That pact may re­move one thorn from their side while tank­ing the econ­omy and en­sur­ing that fewer pa­tients will show for treat­ment at any re­im­burse­ment rate.

And now for more pleas­ant news: Mod­ern Health­care has won eight editorial awards from the in­ter­na­tional busi­ness press as­so­ci­a­tion.

Trade, As­so­ci­a­tion, Busi­ness Pub­li­ca­tions In­ter­na­tional be­stowed the ci­ta­tions, known as the Tab­bies, on Mod­ern Health

care for work pub­lished in 2010. The group chose the win­ners from about 400 en­tries from English-lan­guage busi­ness pub­li­ca­tions around the world.

The mag­a­zine won a Gold Award for news cov­er­age. The staff and then-News Edi­tor Paul Barr were cited for ex­cel­lence.

An­other Gold Award, for best sin­gle news ar­ti­cle, went to the mag­a­zine and re­porter Joe Carl­son for his Aug. 2 cover story on how hos­pi­tals use in­vest­ment and other in­come to com­pen­sate for a lack of op­er­at­ing prof­its.

Out­liers, the mag­a­zine’s back-page look at off­beat and hu­mor­ous in­dus­try news, earned the bronze award for best depart­ment. The award cited the editorial staff and Copy Desk Chief Julie A. John­son, who ed­its the page.

The March 29 is­sue mark­ing the pas­sage of the health re­form law won an Hon­or­able Men­tion for best sin­gle is­sue. Other Hon­or­able Men­tions were awarded for: Edi­tor’s Col­umn: the July 12 editorial “A page out of Twain’s book” by Man­ag­ing Edi­tor Neil McLaugh­lin.

Fo­cus/Pro­file Ar­ti­cle: The March 1 In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Sur­vey, led by edi­tor Re­becca Miel­carski and IT re­porter Joseph Conn.

Fea­ture Ar­ti­cle: “Putting hos­pi­tals on no­tice,” the May 24 Cover Story by re­porter-turned-News Edi­tor Gregg Blesch on gov­ern­ment en­force­ment of anti-pol­lu­tion laws against hos­pi­tals.

Front Cover, Pho­to­graphic: The May 24 cover il­lus­trat­ing the above fea­ture by As­sis­tant Graph­ics Edi­tor Eric Semel­roth.

These awards honor the mag­a­zine’s com­mit­ment to pro­vide the best in­de­pen­dent news cov­er­age and anal­y­sis to our read­ers.

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