Congress passes 'fiscal cliff' deal, physician fix   01/02/2013
Congress yesterday passed legislation to avert parts of the so-called "fiscal cliff," most notably the across-the-board tax increases that were set to take effect Jan. 1. The bill also includes a 12-month Medicare physician payment fix, which will be paid for in part by implementing a documentation and coding offset and extending current Medicaid disproportionate share hospital reductions for an additional year, among other reductions. Physicians' Medicare payments were scheduled to decrease by nearly 27%. In addition, the bill extends a number of health care provisions, including ambulance add-on payments; the low-volume adjustment add-on; and the Medicare-dependent hospital program. The bill also delays by two months the sequester contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011, including the 2% Medicare sequester. "While fixing the physician payment formula is essential, it should not be done by jeopardizing hospitals' ability to care for seniors and their communities," said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. "That's why we are very disappointed at the approach taken in this measure. Hospitals are working to provide high-quality, innovative and effective care to seniors in their communities. Additional payment reductions will make it harder for patients to access the care they need and depend on."
AHA comments on quality measures for insurance exchanges   01/02/2013
Quality measures for health plans participating in exchanges should align with those in existing federal health care programs, AHA told the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week. Responding to the agency's public request for information on health care quality for exchanges, AHA urged CMS to implement strategies that encourage alignment and reduce the burden of measurement and reporting on hospitals. AHA also urged CMS to provide clear and transparent processes for hospitals to submit quality data to the plans, compare performance against benchmarks, and verify the accuracy of data used in public reporting. In addition, AHA said CMS' quality rating system for the plans should balance measures that assess hospital and provider quality with measures that assess health plan quality, including the ability to link patients to services. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires health plans participating in exchanges to collect and publicly report quality data, and CMS to develop a quality rating system for the plans.
CMS seeks comments on quality reporting using certified EHRs   01/02/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is accepting comments through Jan. 22 on hospital readiness to electronically report certain patient-level data under the inpatient quality reporting program beginning with calendar year 2014 discharges. In the request for information, CMS seeks comments on EHR Incentive Program alignment and support for other quality reporting programs, plans by hospitals to participate in electronic reporting, and resources that may be used to support electronic reporting. Hospital quality leaders are encouraged to share their input with AHA at
ONC issues health IT safety plan for comment   01/02/2013
The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is accepting comments through Feb. 4 on a proposed plan to improve the safety of health IT and use of health IT to improve patient safety, as recommended by a 2011 Institute of Medicine report. The plan includes strategies to increase data and knowledge about health IT safety; target resources and corrective actions to improve health IT safety and patient safety; and promote a culture of safety related to health IT. Comments on the plan should be e-mailed to
Hospitals can apply to administer non-VA provider networks   01/02/2013
The Department of Veterans Affairs seeks hospital and other applicants to administer a new VA program that will allow non-VA facilities to provide medical-surgical care to VA patients through five regional provider networks, according to a final request for proposals issued Dec. 21. The Patient-Centered Community Care program is modeled on Project HERO (Healthcare Effectiveness through Resource Optimization), a pilot program launched in 2008. Veterans would continue to go to a VA health clinic or medical facility for primary care needs, but could get follow-up specialty care at a hospital or other non-VA facility that participates in the network. Hospitals and others can apply to administer one of the five networks.
Study: Disabled adults more likely to use ED   01/02/2013
Working-age adults with disabilities account for a disproportionately high amount of annual emergency department visits, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Adults with disabilities account for nearly 40% of total ED visits, but only 17% of the working age population, the study found. To address this disparity, the authors recommend enhanced communication between ED and primary care physicians, and tailored prevention and primary care programs. The study was published online by Health Services Research.
Hospitals urged to participate in AHA RACTrac survey   01/02/2013
The AHA encourages all hospitals to submit data by Jan. 11 to its quarterly RACTrac survey. The free web-based survey helps AHA gauge the impact of Medicare's Recovery Audit Contractor program on hospitals and advocate for needed changes. To register for the survey or for technical assistance, participants should contact RACTrac support at (888) 722-8712 or For more on the survey, including the latest results, visit
'Listening sessions' on Version 5010, future HIPAA testing announced   01/02/2013
National Government Services, a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services contractor, this month will host a series of "listening sessions" with health care providers and others on best practices and lessons learned from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's Version 5010 upgrade, and a process and methodology for future health care provider testing of HIPAA administrative simplification requirements, beginning with ICD-10. The contractor will host sessions with "small providers" on Jan. 3 and 10, and with "large providers" on Jan. 3 and 15. The 5010 code sets were implemented last year. Hospitals and health systems must convert to ICD-10 by Oct. 1, 2014.