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AHA seeks HAVE Award nominees   07/30/2014
The AHA seeks nominations through Sept. 26 for its 2015 Hospital Awards for Volunteer Excellence. Hospital CEOs and directors of volunteer services are encouraged to nominate outstanding volunteer programs in the areas of community service, fundraising, in-service needs or challenges, and community outreach/collaboration. For more information, and to view or submit a nomination form, click here. The awards will be presented on May 4, 2014 at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Bill to extend direct supervision enforcement moratorium clears House committee   07/30/2014
The House Energy & Commerce Committee today voted 31-11 to approve H.R. 4067,  AHA-supported legislation that would extend through 2014 the enforcement moratorium on the outpatient therapy “direct supervision” policy for critical access hospitals and rural prospective payment system hospitals with100 or fewer beds. The House Ways and Means Committee must approve the measure before it moves to the full House. The Senate approved the legislation (S. 1954) by unanimous consent in February. AHA has urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to extend the moratorium, which expired Jan. 1, to protect access to outpatient therapeutic services. If approved by the House, the legislation would give Congress more time to enact legislation such as the AHA-supported Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services Act (H.R. 2801/S. 1143), which would adopt a default standard of “general supervision” for outpatient therapeutic services, among other provisions.
Coalition digital initiative highlights 'hospital heroes'   07/30/2014
The Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care today launched Hospital Heroes, a program that showcases hospital caregivers and many others, from administrative staff to maintenance and security personnel, who go above and beyond in their work to help patients and communities. Hospital Heroes is a continuation of the Coalition’s digital outreach effort, which includes social media, to educate the public about the pressures facing hospitals and encourage them to contact Congress on hospitals’ behalf. Since its launch last year, this online community has grown to more than 750,000 hospital advocates across email and social media platforms. AHA is a founding member of the Coalition, a broad-based group dedicated to educating the public about threats to hospital financing and how these threats affect patients and their families.
House passes AHA-supported VA bill   07/30/2014
The House of Representatives today voted 420-5 to approve a conference agreement with the Senate to address ongoing problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate is expected to take up the measure tomorrow. Earlier today, AHA expressed strong support for the bill in a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), who chair the Veterans' Affairs committees in their respective chambers. “For decades, the VA has been there for our veterans in times of need, and it does extraordinary work under very challenging circumstances for a growing and complex patient population,” wrote AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack. “…We believe the final conference agreement will help improve veterans’ health by enabling them to more easily secure the care that they need in the health care setting of their choice.” AHA expressed appreciation for the retainment of language in the final agreement that enables hospitals to contract directly with their local VA facilities rather than requiring hospitals to go through a managed care contractor, noting that many hospitals have “ongoing and cooperative relationships with their local VA facilities, which can be built upon to enable veterans to readily secure needed care.” AHA also expressed appreciation for language that establishes adequate reimbursement rates for non-VA providers, as well as provisions to require the VA Secretary to implement a system to ensure prompt payment of claims. “We believe these provisions will increase veterans’ access to care and encourage broad participation by non-VA providers,” he said. “Lastly, the AHA is pleased that conferees have minimized the administrative burden on non-VA health care providers furnishing care to veterans by exempting them from federal contractor or subcontractor obligations imposed by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs for the limited duration of this legislation.”
PCORI awards $54.8 million for 33 research projects   07/30/2014
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute yesterday awarded $54.8 million to support 33 new comparative clinical effectiveness studies. The awards, approved pending completion of staff review and a formal contract, include studies of ways to improve outcomes for people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic pain, mental health conditions, nervous system disorders, kidney disease, multiple chronic conditions, and cancer. The studies also will compare different approaches to delivering care, improving patients’ access to care, and strengthening methods to conduct more rigorous patient-centered research. In addition, several of the projects focus on the needs of particular populations, including older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, children and low-income individuals. For more on the studies, visit www.pcori.org/pfaawards.
Surgeon General issues call to action to prevent skin cancer   07/30/2014
The U.S. Surgeon General yesterday issued a call to action to prevent skin cancer, the nation’s most commonly diagnosed cancer with more than 5 million people treated each year. Rates of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, increased more than 200% between 1973 and 2011 to more than 63,000 new cases a year. The initiative includes strategies for business, health care, education, government and other sectors. Among other actions, it encourages clinicians to counsel patients on using sun protection and avoiding intentional tanning in accordance with U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations, and to remain alert to suspicious skin lesions when examining patients. For more information, visit www.surgeongeneral.gov.
CDC advises providers to consider Ebola in certain travelers   07/29/2014
U.S. health care workers should be alert for signs and symptoms of Ebola Virus Disease in patients with compatible illness who recently traveled to West Africa, where 1,201 EVD cases and 672 deaths have been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since late March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday. The cases include two U.S. citizens working in a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. “EVD poses little risk to the U.S. general population at this time,” CDC said. “However, U.S. health care workers are advised to be alert for signs and symptoms of EVD in patients with compatible illness who have a recent (within 21 days) travel history to countries where the outbreak is occurring, and should consider isolation of those patients meeting these criteria, pending diagnostic testing.” EVD is characterized by sudden onset of fever and malaise, accompanied by other nonspecific signs and symptoms, such as headache, vomiting and diarrhea. Patients with severe forms of the disease may develop multi-organ dysfunction, leading to shock and death.
IOM panel recommends new financing system for physician training   07/29/2014
An Institute of Medicine committee today recommended replacing Medicare’s separate funds for indirect and direct graduate medical education with one direct payment to program sponsors based on a geographically adjusted national per-resident amount. The report recommends maintaining aggregate support for Medicare GME at the current level while phasing out the current Medicare GME funding provided to hospitals over the next decade. Among other changes, the proposed system would allocate financing to two distinct funds. One fund would support currently approved residency positions and the other would support payment demonstrations (such as performance-based payment) and new training positions in priority disciplines and geographic areas. In addition, the committee calls for a new policy council to develop a strategic plan and federal policies for Medicare GME financing, and a new center at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to manage GME funds and ensure transparency. Linda Fishman, AHA senior vice president for public policy analysis and development, said, “Today’s report on graduate medical education is the wrong prescription for training tomorrow’s physicians. We are especially disappointed that the report proposes phasing out the current Medicare GME funding provided to hospitals and offering it to other entities that do not treat Medicare patients.”
Report, hearing focus on state Medicaid financing   07/29/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should take steps to ensure states report accurate and complete data on all non-federal Medicaid funding sources, the Government Accountability Office said today in a report issued at a congressional hearing on the issue. Based on a questionnaire sent to state Medicaid agencies, GAO found that states financed 26%, or more than $46 billion, of the nonfederal share of Medicaid expenditures with funds from health care providers and local governments in state fiscal year 2012. “States have increasingly turned to sources of funds other than state general funds to finance the nonfederal share of their Medicaid programs,” the report concludes. “These sources include levying taxes on health care providers and receiving funding transfers from local governments and local government providers to help finance the nonfederal share of Medicaid. These financing arrangements can have the effect of shifting costs of Medicaid from states to the federal government, while benefits to providers, which may be financing a large share of any new payments, and the beneficiaries whom they may serve are less apparent.” CMS did not concur with the recommendation, but said it will examine efforts to improve data collection for oversight. Witnesses at the hearing, held by the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, included CMS Deputy Administrator Cindy Mann and John Haag, director of Medicaid audits for the Department of Health and Human Services.
AHA: CMS proposed rule would help ensure seamless exchange coverage   07/28/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ proposed rule for annual eligibility determinations and re-enrollment in health insurance exchanges would help enrollees continue seamless coverage into the next benefit year, AHA said in comments submitted today. The rule would allow exchanges to use the current eligibility redetermination process or an alternative process approved by the Department of Health and Human Services to facilitate continued enrollment, including a process set out by HHS to allow coverage renewal if an enrollee takes no action. “The most significant of these redetermination options is allowing exchanges to automatically enroll QHP enrollees in their current plan if the enrollee makes no changes to his or her selected coverage,” wrote Linda Fishman, AHA senior vice president for public policy analysis and development. “If an individual is currently enrolled in a QHP that will not be available in the next benefit year, the rule would establish a prioritization process for automatic re-enrollment in a different product offered by the QHP issuer. Automatic enrollment allows for greater continuity of coverage and brings coverage offered through the exchange in line with current practices in the existing insurance market.”