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AHA Town Hall webcast Tuesday   10/17/2014
The next AHA members-only Town Hall webcast, Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, will focus on the Ebola crisis and mid-term elections. AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack and Pam Thompson, CEO of the American Organization of Nurse Executives, will review the latest Ebola preparedness resources. Then Bill McInturff, partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, and Peter Hart, chairman of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, will discuss the health care implications of the mid-term elections and political landscape. For details and to register, go to www.aha.org/townhall or call (800) 424-4301.
AHA, AMA and ANA stress collaboration on Ebola   10/17/2014
The American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association today expressed solidarity and stressed collaboration in the fight against Ebola. “As our nation’s strategy to address the Ebola virus continues to evolve, hospitals and their partners in nursing and medicine are coming together to emphasize that a solution-oriented, collaborative approach to Ebola preparedness is essential to effectively manage care of Ebola patients in the U.S.,” the groups said in a joint statement. “…Our nation’s hospitals, physician and professional nursing organizations remain in communication with one another and with our nation’s public health institutions at the local, state and national levels. We are committed to maintaining a strong collaborative effort to address this public health threat.” Click here to read the full statement. In other Ebola news, President Obama today appointed Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff for Vice President Joe Biden from 2007 to 2011, to coordinate the government’s response to the disease. “Klain’s talent and managerial skill will be crucial in providing the resources and expertise we need to rapidly, cohesively, and effectively respond to Ebola at home and abroad,” wrote Tanya Somanader, deputy director of digital content for the Office of Digital Strategy, in a White House blog post.
CMS: 8.7 million enroll in Medicaid/CHIP October through August   10/17/2014
Nearly 8.7 million people enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program between Oct. 1 and Aug. 31, increasing total enrollment in the programs by an estimated 14.9%, according to a report released today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The preliminary estimate is based on 48 states and the District of Columbia reporting both August enrollment data and baseline data from July through September 2013. A total of 66.9 million people were enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP in those states as of Aug. 31, with Medicaid expansion states showing a 20.7% increase and non-expansion states showing a 5.1% increase. About 716,000 people enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP in August. Medicaid and CHIP enrollment continues year round.
Conference to focus on care and cost of complex patients   10/17/2014
ECRI Institute will convene a free leadership conference Nov. 6-7 in Washington, D.C., on issues surrounding the care and cost of complex patients. Co-sponsors include Kaiser Permanente, Health Affairs, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Department of Veterans Affairs, Academy Health, Penn Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. For more information, visit www.ecri.org/2014conf.
Study: Current measures of SNF quality unlikely to reduce hospital readmissions   10/17/2014
A study reported this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found little association between available performance measures for skilled nursing facilities and the risk of hospital readmission. The authors used national Medicare data on fee-for-service beneficiaries discharged to a SNF after an acute-care hospitalization between Sept. 1, 2009 and Aug. 31, 2010 to examine the association between SNF performance on publicly available metrics and the risk of readmission within 30 days. “Ultimately, although SNF performance measurement plays an important role in promoting transparency and accountability in the U.S. health care system, our findings suggest that in their current form they are unlikely to serve as a sole basis for large-scale reductions in readmissions unless accompanied by other strategies,” the authors write.
Supreme Court urged to scrutinize use of interpretive rules   10/17/2014
The AHA, Association of American Medical Colleges, and Healthcare Financial Management Association yesterday urged the Supreme Court to recognize that agency action undertaken as an interpretive rule can do much more than simply explain to the public how the agency understands the law. “Such action can and does impose real change on regulated entities, change that can be a wholesale reversal of longstanding agency policy, including policy originally adopted through more formal procedures,” the groups said in a friend-of-the-court brief. For example, they said the Internal Revenue Service recently revised through an interpretive rule “its longstanding position on how to demonstrate whether nonprofit hospitals qualify for tax-exempt status. For decades, under the ‘community benefit’ standard, medical and medically related research activities counted as evidence of community benefit regardless of whether the research was funded by restricted (i.e., funds given for specific research) or unrestricted grants.” However, through a 2013 change in Schedule H instructions, “the IRS summarily reversed its long-held position,” the brief notes. “…This results in a reduced and inaccurate picture of the actual ‘community benefit’ provided by a hospital.”
CMS extends effectiveness of fraud and abuse waivers for ACOs   10/16/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General today extended the effectiveness of an interim final rule related to waivers from fraud and abuse rules for Accountable Care Organizations participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. In November 2011, CMS and OIG issued an interim final rule with comment period establishing waivers of the application of the physician self-referral, federal anti-kickback statute and certain civil monetary penalty law provisions to specified arrangements involving ACOs participating in the MSSP. CMS is currently developing a proposed rule regarding the MSSP, and says that the extension of the waivers “will avoid impediments to the development of innovative care models envisioned by the Share Savings Program and new approaches to the delivery of health care for beneficiaries.” CMS and OIG said in today’s notice that it has extended the timeline for publication of a final rule through Nov. 2, 2015. In addition, the fraud and abuse waivers will remain in effect through that day unless a final rule on waivers becomes effective on an earlier date.
EHR attestation system, product list updated; CMS to host call on flexibility rule   10/16/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has updated its attestation system for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs to fully support the flexibility options included in the 2014 Certified EHR Technology Flexibility Rule. The rule provided additional options for eligible hospitals and physicians to meet meaningful use requirements in 2014 in order to earn incentives and avoid future penalties. The Certified Health IT Product List maintained by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT also has been updated to support the rule. On Oct. 30, CMS will host a National Provider Call on the rule, which took effect Oct. 1. The presentation will cover guidance and instructions on how eligible professionals and hospitals can use the rule's flexibility to report EHR meaningful use for 2014. An AHA member advisory on the rule is available at www.aha.org.
HHS funds third experimental Ebola vaccine   10/16/2014
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will provide $5.8 million in funding to further develop an experimental Ebola vaccine, the Department of Health and Human Services announced today. Under a one-year contract, Profectus BioSciences Inc. will manufacture the vaccine for use in animal safety studies and future clinical trials and conduct animal studies to test safety. If successful, the company is expected to submit an investigational new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration, which if accepted would allow the vaccine to begin clinical trials for safety in humans. In previous animal studies, a single dose of the experimental vaccine provided 100% protection in non-human primates. Clinical trials also are underway for two other experimental Ebola vaccines. BARDA is part of HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
Hospital prices rise 0.2% in September   10/16/2014
Overall hospital prices increased 0.2% in September, and were 1.7% higher than a year ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday. Prices for the subgroup of general medical and surgical hospitals increased 0.2%, and were 1.5% higher than in September 2013, according to the BLS' Producer Price Indices, which measure average changes in selling prices received by domestic producers for their output. For hospitals, this translates into actual or expected reimbursement for a sample of treatments or services. The PPI for hospitals measure changes in actual or expected reimbursement received for services across the full range of payer types. This includes the negotiated contract rate from the payer plus any portion expected to be paid by the patient.