MedPAC approves 1% update for hospital inpatient, outpatient payments   01/10/2013
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission today unanimously approved a final recommendation to increase inpatient and outpatient hospital payments by 1% in 2014. MedPAC Chair Glenn Hackbarth clarified that the 1% update should occur despite recent provisions in the American Taxpayer Relief Act that result in a negative update. Commenting on the update, AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said, "America's hospitals appreciate MedPAC's recommendation to Congress to increase Medicare payments for hospital services. Since 2010, hospitals have been hit with repeated cuts, totaling $250 billion over the next 10 years. After a thoughtful discussion and analysis, MedPAC recognized that a positive update for hospital services is warranted to ensure patients continue to have access to high-quality, effective and innovative care. At the same time, we continue to believe that MedPAC's recommendation for additional reductions for document and coding changes is unwarranted. We strongly urge Congress to follow MedPAC's payment update recommendation to ensure that the quality health care that hospitals provide remains available to the patients they serve, and to reject any further reductions to hospitals in the upcoming debate on the debt ceiling and sequester." In other action today, MedPAC voted to eliminate the update for ambulatory surgical centers and require them to submit cost data, and voted not to increase the outpatient dialysis bundled payment rate in 2014.
Medicare spending per beneficiary slows to 0.4% growth   01/10/2013
Medicare spending per beneficiary grew just 0.4% in fiscal year 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services reported today. That's down from 3.6% in 2011 and 1.8% in 2010, and substantially below the 3.4% increase in per capita gross domestic product. While spending per beneficiary is projected to grow at or below GDP over the next decade, aggregate Medicare spending is expected to account for a growing share of GDP as the number of beneficiaries grows. "[M]ost of the increase in Medicare spending as a fraction of GDP from 2013 to 2035 is projected to result from the effects of aging and growth in the number of beneficiaries, with very little of it a result of excess growth in expenditures per beneficiary," the report states.
FDA lowers dosage for widely used sleep drugs   01/10/2013
The Food and Drug Administration is requiring drug makers to lower the recommended dosage for several prescription drugs used to treat insomnia that contain the active ingredient zolpidem. Since women eliminate zolpidem from their bodies more slowly than men, the FDA has notified the makers of Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist that the recommended dose should be lowered for women and that the labeling should recommend that health care professionals consider a lower dose for men. According to FDA, new data show that zolpidem blood levels in some patients may be high enough the morning after use to impair activities that require mental alertness, such as driving. The agency urged health care providers to caution all patients using the products about the alertness risk. People currently taking the higher doses should continue taking the prescribed dose as directed until discussing with their provider how to safely continue the medicine, FDA said.
Commission proposes strategy to slow health spending growth   01/10/2013
The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System today recommended 10 policies to control U.S. spending on health care. The proposals include payment reforms and incentives for providers to coordinate care, lower costs and improve outcomes; and incentives for consumers to choose high-value care based on quality and cost information. They also call for targeting growth in national health spending to per capita growth in gross domestic product, simplifying health plan administration and reforming the medical liability system. The report estimates the proposed policies could save $2 trillion over 10 years.
AHA report looks at workforce roles in a redesigned primary care model   01/10/2013
A new report from the AHA examines workforce trends in primary care and the role hospitals and health systems can play in effectively delivering primary care. Developed by the AHA Primary Care Workforce Roundtable, the report includes recommendations and guiding principles to help stakeholders address primary care workforce issues and develop a more effective model of primary care delivery that encompasses the birth to end-of-life continuum.
Hospitals given extra week to complete AHA RACTrac survey   01/10/2013
The AHA has extended to Jan. 18 the deadline for hospitals to submit data 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
AHA Section for Health Care Systems names 2013 leaders   01/10/2013
Stephen Hanson, executive vice president and operations leader for Texas Health Resources' North Zone in Arlington, TX, will lead the AHA's Section for Health Care Systems in 2013 as chair of its 21-member governing council. Hanson also serves as chair of the Texas Association of Voluntary Hospitals. Joseph Swedish, president and CEO of Trinity Health in Livonia, MI, is the section's chair-elect and will become chair in 2014. The AHA constituency section provides policy development and governance guidance to the association. For more on its 2013 governing council, see the AHA news release.