by Hannah McCartney
Cincinnati infants are dying at an alarmingly high rate
Some parts of Cincinnati suffer from higher infant mortality rates than third-world countries. In the city as a whole, infants die at rates more than twice the national average. We’ve been asking, “Why?” for a long time; this mysterious plague wiping out our infants hasn’t been solved even as our hospitals are recognized worldwide and as it continues to be at the forefront of our public health discussions. Local politicians, hospitals, health experts and advocates are hoping the answer is one that's been lying in front of them the whole time: collaboration. Today marked the official conjoining of local politicians, health experts, advocates and Cincinnati’s top hospitals providing birthing services in hopes of working together to reduce the areas’ infant mortality rate to below that of the national average within the next five years. The new partnership is comprised of Hamilton Country Commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel, who co-chair the effort; the Center for Closing the Health Gap; Mayor Mark Mallory; Councilmember Wendell Young; and hospitals including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Christ Hospital, Mercy Health, TriHealth, UC Health and the UC College of Nursing. While the hospitals are typically competitors, the disturbing, long-standing statistics Monzel described as an "embarrassment" have fueled area health providers to set aside competition and unite Cincinnati’s top health experts to bring Cincinnati's infant mortality levels below the national average within the next five years. “We’re checking egos and names and brands at the door,” said Commissioner Portune. "Enough is enough." Efforts to reduce infant mortality, Portune explained, have been active for years; however, because they've been fragmented — disconnected from one another — establishing best practices just hasn't been possible. Initial funding comes from an agreement that County Commissioners Portune and Monzel made with Jim Kingsbury, UC Health president and CEO, as part of the county's sale of Drake Hospital. Representatives plan to meet on a regular basis to share best practices, exchange ideas and report data. In February, Mayor Mark Mallory entered the city into the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a national competition to inspire city leaders to solve urban problems. His proposal involved the creation of the Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which would have followed new mothers in high-risk areas through pregnancy, creating a database of new mothers and monitoring pregnancies. In Mallory’s submission, he put the problem into perspective: “In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital, and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate.”Although Cincinnati was named one of the top 20 finalists out of more than 305 cities, it was not selected as one of the five to receive up to $5 million in funding to jump-start the initiative. Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6; the national average is 6. Cincinnati’s black community is especially afflicted by infant mortality. In Ohio, black infants die at more than twice the rate of white infants. To look at a map of infant mortality rates in Greater Cincinnati by zip code or to read about some of the leading causes of infant mortality, visit the Cincinnati Health Department's website.
by German Lopez
Charges and payments can differ by thousands of dollars
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled price data
today for more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals, revealing large price
variations between hospitals around the nation, including in Cincinnati.
For treating chest pain, charges from three Cincinnati
hospitals varied by thousands of dollars: Bethesda North charged on
average $17,696, Christ Hospital charged $12,000 and University Hospital
But the initial charge seems to have little relation to
what Medicare ultimately paid out. In the three cases for chest pain,
Medicare on average paid $3,242 to Bethesda North, $3,657 to Christ
Hospital and $5,463 to University Hospital.
In other words, University Hospital charged about 57
percent of what Bethesda North charged, but University Hospital was
ultimately paid 68 percent more.
The price variation wasn’t exclusive to chest pain,
either. For major joint replacement or reattachment of a lower extremity
without major complications, Bethesda North charged $61,947 and was
paid $12,712 on average, Jewish Hospital charged $38,465 and was paid
$14,069 on average and University Hospital charged $46,463 and was paid
$20,116 on average.
In fact, all of the 100 metrics tracked by CMS had at
least some degree of variation in charges and payments. Whether it was
chest pain, joint replacement, diabetes or cardiovascular complications,
prices always varied between hospitals — sometimes greatly, other times
by a little.
The data from fiscal year 2011 shows how much hospitals initially charged
Medicare for the 100 most frequently billed
discharges and how much Medicare ultimately paid out. The difference
between charges and payments is usually large because Medicare
negotiates prices down.
CMS says the price discrepancy is happening at hospitals
all around the nation: “As part of the Obama administration’s work to
make our health care system more affordable and accountable, data are
being released that show significant variation across the country and
within communities in what hospitals charge for common inpatient
Still, some health care advocacy groups say Ohio is doing worse than other states. A study from Catalyst for Payment Reform
and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six
other states a “D” for health care price transparency, based on the states’ laws and regulations. That was actually
better than 29 other states, which flat-out flunked with an “F.” Only New Hampshire and Massachusetts received an “A,” the
highest grade possible.
Even then, the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health
Care Incentives Improvement Institute cautioned in the study that their
grades were given on a curve, which means all states would likely fare worse if the organizations measured them based on ideals instead of
Many health care experts and advocacy groups claim the
price variation is caused by a lack of transparency in the health care
system, which gives hospitals free reign to charge without typical
market checks (“Healthy Discussion,” issue of April 10).
by German Lopez
at 10:14 AM | Permalink
Council to vote on parking, hospitals push Medicaid expansion, MSD upgrades coming
City Council will vote today on the controversial plan
to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati
Development Authority. The plan would give up some control over the city’s
parking meters and garages to generate revenue to fund downtown
development projects and help balance the deficit for the next two
years. Before the City Council vote, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
will hold a presentation on solving Cincinnati’s long-term structural
deficit problems, which Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan said was a
remaining concern even if the parking plan passed. CityBeat previously covered the parking plan here, the city manager’s and John Cranley’s alternatives here, Councilman Chris Seelbach’s alternative here and the Budget and Finance Committee vote on the plan here.
Hospital groups are telling lawmakers that the Medicaid expansion is “necessary”
to preserve facilities that will face big cuts in the next year. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), hospitals will lose funding from the federal government,
but the cuts were supposed to be made up with the prospect of more
customers. If the state doesn’t expand Medicaid, the hospitals will
still lose funding, and they won’t get many of their potential new customers. As
part of Obamacare, the federal government is carrying the full cost of
the expansion for the first three years. After that, the federal
government’s share is brought down to 95 percent and ultimately phased
down to 90 percent. By some estimates, the Medicaid expansion would save Ohio
money by shifting costs from the state to the federal government and
generate more revenue through increased economic security. Gov. John
Kasich suggested the expansion in his budget proposal, which CityBeat covered here.
Cincinnati and cities all around the nation are facing new federal requirements
to update sewer systems to better handle stormwater runoff, which can
mix with sewage and spill into rivers. Tony Parrott, executive director
of the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), says his agency has developed
software to prioritize upgrade projects and make them more efficient. CityBeat previously covered some of MSD’s efforts here.
A bill sponsored by Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, would limit the window
for collecting additional signatures for a state ballot initiative to
10 days if the secretary of state deems the initial petition signatures
short of minimum requirements. Seitz says the bill will eliminate a
loophole that allows politically motivated petitioners to extend and
abuse the state’s petitioning process, and Secretary of State Jon Husted
says the bill “is on the right track.” Opponents are calling the bill
“punitive” and saying it will weaken Ohioans’ rights to take up ballot
initiatives and referendums.
Supporters of Internet sweepstakes parlors are saying that a state ban on the establishments would be unconstitutional
and would potentially face litigation. Luther Liggett, an attorney
representing Internet Sweepstakes Association of Ohio, said a Toledo
appeals court ruling found Internet cafe games are not gambling because
the outcome is predetermined. He also said a ban would violate
constitutional protections against retroactively negating contracts,
which internet cafes hold with employees, real estate owners and
Greater Cincinnati Walmart stores are installing rooftop solar panels
as part of the retailer’s nationwide green initiative to completely
power all its stores with renewable energy. The arrays on 12 Ohio
Walmart stores will generate enough electricity to power 820 homes
year-round and eliminate carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the
output of 1,152 cars.
The University of Cincinnati could get $30 million
as a result of the reported settlement with seven schools breaking away
from the Big East to form their own non-football conference.
The average American severely underestimates
how bad wealth inequality is, according to a YouTube video that went
viral over the weekend. If the inequality trend is truly downplayed,
that could have bad repercussions for Ohio: A previous report
from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found
Ohio’s income gap — the income difference between the rich and poor — is
wide and growing, and low-income and middle-income Ohioans have
actually seen their incomes drop since the 1990s.
How did you fare in the aftermath of the winter storm yesterday? Some southwest Ohio areas were reporting widespread power outages.
Indiana lawmakers are considering changes
to their state’s casinos to make them more competitive with
Cincinnati’s newly opened Horseshoe Casino and other Ohio
establishments. The Indiana Senate already passed a bill that would
allow riverboat casinos to move on shore and racinos to replace
electronic game tables with live dealers. The bill is now going to the
Indiana House for approval.
A gay couple was kicked out of a California mall
for holding hands and kissing. Apparently, the security officer who
kicked the couple out paid very close attention to the make-out session;
in a recording, the officer said that he counted the couple kissing 25
A new study suggested Europa, Jupiter’s moon, could have salt water on its surface, which would be good for potential extraterrestrial life.