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12 Biggest Healthcare Stories of 2012 in Central Mass

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Staying healthy is a top priority on nearly everyone's list. And with UMass Medical School, UMass Memorial Medical Center, St. Vincent Hospital and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, not to mention Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and Fallon Community Health Plan, all a stones throw from downtown Worcester, the healthcare industry is a huge part of what makes Central Mass tick.

From healthcare costs to quality of care to emerging health risks, GoLocalWorcester had your health news covered in 2012.

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12. Lowest Uninsured Rate

Massachusetts always ranks near the top of the list when it comes to healthiest states. Bay Staters are pretty good at staying healthy too, and the Commonwealth once again boasted the lowest uninsured rate in the nation thanks in large part to the state's leadership in healthcare reform in recent years.

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11. MA's Top 10 Killers

No one likes to think about death, but GoLocal's list of the top 10 killers in Massachusetts contained a few surprises. With cancer and heart disease topping the list, accounting for more than 15,000 combined deaths in 2009, this story was a wakeup call to be more health conscious.

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10. Worcester Heroin Use

The rise of prescription drug abuse in recent years has led to some devastating consequences in Worcester as opioids and painkillers lead to even more dangerous alternatives. Nearly 5 percent of high school-age kids in and around New England's second-largest city reported using herion at least once in their lifetime, double the state and national average.

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9. Obamacare Taxes

For those Central Mass residents who thought they were already paying enough for health insurance under Romneycare, we had to bring the bad news that the roll out of Obamacare means you'll be paying even more--$3.8 billion more--in the coming years. With 18 new taxes, the Affordable Care Act will hit just about everyone's wallet.

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8. Docs Paid Millions

If you think your doctor charges and arm and a leg for a 15-minute appointment, wait until you see the six-figure sums area physicians pulled in for speaking fees from big drug companies. GoLocalWorcester found that the top 30 physicians in Central Mass collected more than $2 million in fees and payments from Big Pharma, raising lots of questions about who the docs are really working for.

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7. UMass Readmission Rate

A stint in the hospital is rarely a fun experience. Having to go back again for the same issue is even less enjoyable. But at UMass Memorial, it's happening more and more often, and the hospital boasts the highest readmission rate in the region, costing the hospital millions in Medicare penalities.

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6. UMass vs. Nurses

The nurses union and UMass Memorial management clashed over staffing cuts that left nurses overburdened and put the safety of patients at risk. Local State Senators, Representatives and City Councilors took to the streets to protest alongside the hospital's nurses.

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5. Retiree Health Costs

Worcester was saddled with a $765 million bill for post-employment health benefits and no easy way to come up with the money even as costs continue to rise. Worcester's not alone either. Between the state and municipalities, the total unfunded liability for retiree health benefits is estimated at over $40 billion.

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4. Primary Care Wait Time

If you're looking for a new primary care physician in the Worcester area, you'd be wise to find a doctor before you actually get sick. GoLocalWorcester found that new patients face an average wait of two to six weeks for a routine physical appointment, when they can schedule one at all.

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3. Best/Worst Docs

If you're going to wait forever to see a new doctor, you might as well make sure you're choosing the right one. GoLocalWorcester ranked the best and worst doctors in Central Mass so you can make an informed decision about your personal healthcare.

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2. Subpar Nursing Homes

Nearly one-third of nursing homes in Central Mass and more than half of the facilities in Worcester scored "below average." See how the region's nursing homes ranked and what to look for before deciding on where to take a loved one. 

Photo: simaje/flickr

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1. Assisted-Suicide Law

Religious groups dumped millions into the campaign to stop the Commonwealth's assisted-suicide ballot measure, often referred to as Question 2, this November. While the dollar amounts involved were staggering, opponents only defeated the measure by the slimmest of margins, and a similar law is sure to show up on the ballot again in four years.


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