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AHA, others launch flu vaccine awareness campaign   11/25/2014
The AHA has launched a collaborative effort with eight national health care organizations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage individuals to get a flu vaccination. This year’s flu season takes on fresh importance given the recent Ebola crisis and the need to keep preventable cases of influenza out of the emergency department. United Against the Flu is a three-week campaign that uses fun, lighthearted social media messages, as well as paid advertising, to encourage flu vaccination. For example, this week’s theme centers on sharing a meal with friends and family, not the flu. The United Against the Flu web page features resources from participating groups and promotional messaging. Efforts culminate during the CDC’s National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 7-13. 
CMS call will review changes to physician quality reporting programs    11/25/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will host a Dec. 2 National Provider Call on changes to the physician quality reporting programs in the 2015 physician fee schedule final rule. Topics will include the Physician Quality Reporting System, Value-based Modifier, Physician Compare, the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program and Medicare Shared Savings Program. For more information and to register for the call, from 1:30 - 3 p.m. ET, click here. Registration will close at noon on the day of the call or when available space has been filled. 
Nebraska CEO receives AHA Shirley Ann Munroe Award   11/25/2014
The AHA today awarded its 2014 Shirley Ann Munroe Leadership Award to Harold Krueger, Jr., CEO of Chadron (NE) Community Hospital & Health Services. The award recognizes small or rural hospital leaders who have improved health care delivery in their communities through innovative and progressive efforts. Krueger was recognized as a widely respected leader who fosters strong collaborative partnerships that improve the health care of the rural community. Three award finalists also were honored for their significant community service achievements: Michael Perry, M.D., president and CEO of FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport, IL; John Gardner, CEO of Yuma (OH) District Hospital; and William Sexton, CEO of Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien, WI. For more on the honorees, see the AHA news release. 
AHA urges OIG to halt extrapolated Medicare audits, recoupments   11/24/2014
The AHA last week urged the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General Office of Audit Services to immediately cease conducting “hospital compliance reviews” and extrapolating the findings of the audits to estimate Medicare overpayments to hospitals. “We are truly dismayed to see that despite the numerous legal defects that we identified in these audits, the OIG has proceeded to issue at least four new audit reports using extrapolation in the last month that include many of the same flaws,” AHA Senior Vice President and General Counsel Melinda Hatton said in a letter detailing the flaws in the audit process. The letter notes, among other findings, that the audits artificially inflate estimated overpayment amounts and use extrapolation “without a clear process for hospitals to challenge the OIG’s sampling and extrapolation methodology through the claim appeal process.” In June, AHA urged then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to halt the audits, saying they were redundant with Medicare’s recovery audit contractor program.
CDC issues interim guidance on Ebola-related sewage   11/24/2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued interim guidance on the handling of untreated sewage from hospitals, medical facilities and other facilities treating confirmed cases of Ebola. The guidance includes the types of personal protective equipment to be worn by workers and proper hygiene for the safe handling of untreated sewage that may contain Ebola virus. In addition, CDC released a factsheet detailing how to properly ensure the virus is destroyed during the handling of medical waste.
CMS extends 2014 EHR attestation deadline for eligible hospitals, CAHs   11/24/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today extended through Dec. 31 the deadline for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals to attest to meaningful use of electronic health records for 2014 under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. “This extension will allow more time for hospitals to submit their meaningful use data and receive an incentive payment for the 2014 program year, as well as avoid the 2016 Medicare payment adjustment,” CMS said. In addition, CMS has extended the deadline for eligible hospitals and CAHs that are electronically submitting clinical quality measures to meet that requirement of meaningful use and the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting program. Hospitals now have until Dec. 31 to submit their eCQM data via Quality Net. The extensions do not impact the deadlines for the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.
CMS webinar tomorrow on 2016 payment adjustments for EPs, group practices   11/24/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services tomorrow will host a webinar to review the negative payment adjustments in certain Medicare quality reporting programs for physicians and other eligible professionals in 2016. Specifically, the presentation will cover guidance and instructions on how eligible professionals and group practices can avoid the 2016 negative adjustment for the Physician Quality Reporting System, satisfy the clinical quality measure component of the Medicare Electronic Health Records Incentive Program, and avoid the automatic Value-Based Modifier downward adjustment. To register for the 60-minute webinar, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET, click here.
GAO releases report on GPOs    11/24/2014
The Government Accountability Office today released a report on group purchasing organizations’ contracting practices and the potential impact on Medicare costs. Specifically, the report examines GPO contracting practices and the reported effects of these practices, as well as how GPOs are funded and the reported effects of the funding structure. For the report, GAO questioned representatives of the five largest national GPOs about their contracting practices and sources of revenue; reviewed literature on the effects of the GPO funding structure; reviewed laws, regulations and guidance on the GPO safe harbor; and interviewed government officials and other stakeholders. In the report, GAO recommends that the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services determine whether hospitals are appropriately reporting administrative fee revenues on their Medicare cost reports and take steps to address any under-reporting that may be found. HHS agreed with the recommendation. A recent survey by The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted for the AHA and Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management, found that, while hospitals’ purchasing decisions are driven by clinical rather than financial considerations, 90% of hospitals use national GPOs and 88% of hospitals agree that their GPO generates savings from lower prices.
Government issues three insurance rules related to ACA coverage   11/24/2014
The federal government Nov. 21 issued three rules regarding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act: a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ proposed rule on the notice of benefit and payment parameters establishes key standards for issuers and Marketplaces for 2016; an Internal Revenue Service and Department of the Treasury final regulation outlining the minimum essential coverage and other rules regarding the shared responsibility payment for individuals; and an Office of Personnel Management proposed rule that would implement certain changes to the Multi-State Plan Program. The proposed rules contain a significant number of changes, updates and technical corrections. CMS is accepting public comment on the notice of benefit and payment parameters proposal until Dec. 22. AHA members received a Special Bulletin with further details.
Kansas report quantifies benefits if state expands Medicaid    11/24/2014
The Kansas Hospital Association has released a report quantifying the benefits to the state of extending Medicaid to uninsured low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act. According to the analysis by researchers at George Washington University and Regional Economic Models Inc., expanding KanCare would increase the state gross product by more than $1.2 billion and total business activity by about $2.2 billion between 2016 and 2020, resulting in about $36 million in net savings for the state. Without expansion, they estimate the state will lose about $334 million in federal funding in 2014 and more than $380 million in 2015; more than $6 million in potential state tax revenue in 2014; and 3,000 jobs in 2014 and beyond because the total economy is about $220 million smaller than it would have been. “KanCare expansion would stimulate economic growth and job creation in Kansas,” said Kansas Hospital Association President and CEO Tom Bell. “In addition, more than 100,000 low-income Kansans would have access to health care in a more appropriate setting than the hospital emergency department.”