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AHA launches blog   09/16/2014
AHA today launched AHAStat, a blog by AHA leaders that will highlight key policy, regulatory, legislative and other issues affecting the hospital field. Why another blog? Read today’s post by AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. Hospital leaders and other health care stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.aha.org/ahastat often to read the latest post and add their voice to the conversation.
AHA, others urge HHS to modify Oct. 1 EHR reporting requirements   09/16/2014
As the Oct. 1 deadline to begin reporting meaningful use of electronic health records for fiscal year 2015 approaches, AHA and 16 other national organizations yesterday urged Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to adopt a more realistic timeline. “To date, only 143 hospitals and 3,152 EPs have demonstrated an ability to meet Stage 2 requirements using 2014 Edition Certified Electronic Health Record Technology,” they wrote. “This represents less than 4% of the hospitals required to be Stage 2-ready within the next 15 days. And while eligible professionals have more time, they are in comparatively worse shape, with only 1.3% of their cohort having met the Stage 2 bar thus far. We urge you to take immediate action by shortening the 2015 EHR reporting period to 90 days and by adding flexibility in how providers meet the Stage 2 requirements, particularly related to Transitions of Care and View, Download, Transmit measures. We believe these changes will have a dramatically positive effect on program participation and policy outcomes sought in 2015 and beyond.” Without HHS action, hospitals and EPs that fail to meet the requirements face the loss of incentive payments and significant penalties.
Brady questions CMS proposal to address short-stay appeal backlog   09/16/2014
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, yesterday expressed “serious concerns” with the way the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has chosen to address a backlog of Medicare short-stay appeals at the administrative law judge level. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals imposed a moratorium on ALJ appeals in December. To address the backlog of over 800,000 claims, CMS recently issued a notice offering to provide partial payment, equal to 68% of the net allowable amount of the Part A claim, for pending administrative appeals of inpatient status denials for acute care hospitals. In a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Brady questions CMS’s authority for making the settlement offer, noting that the statute cited by the agency refers to overpayments while the appeals in question pertain to medical necessity. He also questions CMS’s “all-or-nothing approach,” noting that each discharge is unique. In addition, Brady urges the agency to publicly outline how it arrived at the proposed settlement rate, noting CMS has not provided an empirical analysis to justify it. “While the backlog of Medicare appeals is at an unacceptable high, settling all appeals without reviewing the merits of the appeals or coming up with any plan to address the backlog is just throwing money at a problem to make it go away,” Brady said in a release accompanying the letter. “It hurts the integrity of Medicare and is a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
CDC, Census Bureau release health insurance estimates   09/16/2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Census Bureau today released early health coverage estimates for the first three months of 2014 from the Current Population Survey and National Health Interview Survey. According to the agencies, the uninsured rate at the time of the interview was 13.8% for the CPS and 13.1% for the NHIS. Health coverage purchased through the Affordable Care Act’s new health insurance marketplaces took effect in January. According to the Census Bureau, which conducts the CPS, an estimated 13.4% of the U.S. population, or 42 million people, lacked health insurance for the entire year in 2013. The 2013 CPS estimate cannot be compared with prior years due to changes to the health insurance questions, but will provide a baseline to measure future changes in health coverage caused by the ACA, officials said. According to the American Community Survey, which provides a slightly different measure of annual health insurance coverage, the uninsured rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points in 2013, to 14.5%. The Bureau will release specific ACS estimates for states and counties on Thursday.
President announces new resources to fight Ebola in West Africa   09/16/2014
President Obama today announced new resources to confront the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. These include an estimated 3,000 U.S. forces who will be stationed in Liberia to help coordinate relief efforts, build additional Ebola Treatment Units, and establish a site to train up to 500 health care providers per week. Among other actions, the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will deploy 65 officers to Liberia to manage and staff a Department of Defense hospital to care for health care workers who become ill; and the U.S. Agency for International Development will provide Ebola protection and home care kits and training to communities and households.
CDC issues enterovirus D68 guidance for health care providers   09/15/2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Friday issued recommendations for clinical care, laboratory testing, infection control and reporting for enterovirus D68. As of today, CDC has confirmed the virus in a total of 104 people in 10 states: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, New York, Louisiana and Alabama. Some state laboratories may also have confirmed additional cases. Hospitals in Missouri and Illinois have seen more children than usual with severe respiratory illness caused by the virus, which was first isolated in California in 1962 but has been rarely reported in the U.S. It primarily causes respiratory illness, although the full spectrum of disease remains unclear. There are no vaccines or specific treatments for the virus, and clinical care is supportive. Prevention tips include washing hands often with soap and water. For more on the virus, visit www.cdc.gov.
CDC: NHSN users will need new access credentials by April 15   09/15/2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will no longer issue new digital certificates to access the National Healthcare Safety Network, the agency announced Friday. Hospitals and others that submit data on health care-associated infections to the network for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ quality reporting programs must have Secure Access Management Service credentials to access the system as of April 15, 2015, CDC said. Users of the network will be invited to apply for SAMS credentials before their digital certificates expire. CDC encourages them to respond promptly when notified, as the application process will take slightly longer and cannot be expedited if digital certificates expire close to reporting deadlines.
OIG: CMS should issue regulations for 'essential-provider' Rural Health Clinics   09/15/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should issue regulations for determining “essential-provider” Rural Health Clinics, according to a report issued Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 directed CMS to develop the regulations, and to terminate certification for RHCs that are no longer located in rural areas with a shortage of health care providers if they are not deemed essential providers. According to the OIG report, about 12% of RHCs no longer met the location requirements for certification in 2013. In the report, CMS neither agreed nor disagreed with the OIG recommendation.
Reminder: Hospitals can preview quality data, HCAHPS star rating   09/15/2014
Today through Oct. 14, hospitals can preview and validate their quality data scheduled to be added to the Hospital Compare website in December. At the same time, hospitals can preview how their Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems data would appear in an HCAHPS star rating system to be added to Hospital Compare in April 2015, and provide feedback to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on how to improve the star rating system. Hospitals may access their preview reports at the QualityNet portal. For assistance accessing reports, contact HospitalCompare@hsag.com. CMS expects to announce an October National Provider Call on the HCAHPS star rating methodology soon.
CDC to offer Ebola training for health care workers deploying to Africa   09/12/2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention next month will begin offering an introductory training course in the United States for licensed nurses, physicians and other health care providers intending to work in an Ebola Treatment Unit in West Africa. Similar to courses developed by Médecins Sans Frontières and the World Health Organization, the three-day course is intended to ensure that clinicians urgently deployed to the outbreak have sufficient knowledge of the disease and its transmission routes to work safely and efficiently in a well-designed ETU. After completing the training and before working independently in an ETU, the agency strongly encourages clinicians to receive mentoring and coaching in an ETU designated for such training in an affected country. For more information, including tentative course dates, see the CDC announcement.