House votes to extend debt ceiling through May 18   01/23/2013
The U.S. House of Representatives today voted 285-144 to approve legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, or legal borrowing limit, through May 18. The bill (H.R. 325) also would require each house of Congress to pass a budget resolution for fiscal year 2014 by April 15 or risk having its pay withheld. The measure next goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid said he expects it to pass. The debt ceiling was technically reached Dec. 31, but the Treasury Department has taken measures to cover the nation's debts and keep the government from defaulting on its loans. Those measures are expected to be exhausted by late February or early March without congressional action.
House passes preparedness bill   01/23/2013
The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday voted 395-29 to approve the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act (H.R. 307). The legislation, which next moves to the Senate, represents common ground in separate preparedness bills passed by the House and Senate last year. AHA-supported provisions retained in the bill would reauthorize the Hospital Preparedness Program, Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals, Medical Reserve Corps and other critical preparedness activities through fiscal year 2017; clarify allowable activities for recipients of HPP funds; and permit national collaboration among HPP-funded entities.
Study: Medicare readmissions often for different illness   01/23/2013
Medicare patients hospitalized for heart failure, heart attack and pneumonia are readmitted within 30 days for a wide variety of reasons that usually differ from the cause of the initial hospitalization, according to a study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. For example, only 35% of heart failure patients were readmitted for heart failure and only 22% of pneumonia patients were readmitted for recurrent pneumonia, the study of Medicare fee-for-service claims data for 2007-2009 found. While more than 60% of readmissions for the three conditions occurred within 15 days of discharge, "the entire 30-day period after discharge is one of heightened vulnerability to readmission from a wide variety of conditions," the authors said.
Survey: States improving Medicaid enrollment systems   01/23/2013
Nearly all states are pressing forward with information technology and process improvements to develop faster, streamlined Medicaid enrollment systems as required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to a survey released today by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Forty-seven states have applied for or received increased federal funds to upgrade their Medicaid enrollment systems, and 42 states have begun their system development work, the survey found. Federal regulations released last year outlined the requirements for all Medicaid programs to have web-based, paperless, real-time enrollment processes. The annual survey provides a snapshot of Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program enrollment and eligibility policies.
Georgia hospital wins 2012 Foster McGaw Prize   01/23/2013
St. Joseph's/Candler Health System in Savannah, GA, today received the 2012 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service for its innovative programs to improve the health and well-being of its community. "The system's major initiatives tackle disparities in care to connect residents to essential resources, improve access to care for the uninsured, address basic life issues like housing and nutrition, and provide education in a variety of areas to help individuals and families overcome poverty," said John O'Brien, prize committee chair. "Through these efforts, working with community partners, St. Joseph's/Candler demonstrates its commitment to positively impact the overall health of its community." The Baxter International Foundation, AHA and Health Research & Educational Trust sponsor the annual $100,000 prize. Named as finalists this year and receiving $10,000 each are: Seton Healthcare Family in Austin, TX; Cheyenne (WY) Regional Medical Center; and Yale-New Haven (CT) Hospital.