AHA comments on hospital and vendor readiness for EHR reporting   02/01/2013
Electronic health records are not yet capable of routinely supporting reporting requirements under the hospital inpatient quality reporting program, AHA told the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today. "The AHA strongly supports the goal of using EHRs to streamline quality reporting while increasing access to real-time information to improve care," wrote Linda Fishman, AHA senior vice president for public policy analysis and development. "However, hospitals will not be ready to routinely report clinical quality measures through EHRs until measure developers and vendors build electronic specifications and EHRs that support efficient generation of accurate and reliable quality data. Significant work is needed to improve regulatory and technical processes before CMS can rely on the data produced via EHRs in the IQR program." The letter responds to a CMS request for information concerning hospital and vendor readiness for EHRs to electronically report certain patient-level data under the IQR program. Among other recommendations, AHA said all CQMs should be reviewed and endorsed by the Measure Applications Partnership, and CMS should evaluate and report results of an electronic reporting pilot program so that the findings can inform stakeholders about successes and challenges.
Agencies propose rule change for women's preventive services   02/01/2013
The U.S. departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services today issued a proposed rule that would amend health coverage requirements for women's preventive services for certain religious employers, including hospitals. "First, the proposed rules would amend the criteria for the religious employer exemption to ensure that an otherwise exempt employer plan is not disqualified because the employer's purposes extend beyond the inculcation of religious values or because the employer serves or hires people of different religious faiths," the rule states. "Second, the proposed rules would establish accommodations for health coverage established or maintained by eligible organizations, or arranged by eligible organizations that are religious institutions of higher education, with religious objections to contraceptive coverage. Amendments to rules concerning excepted benefits and Affordable Insurance Exchanges are also proposed in connection with the proposed accommodations." For more information, visit cciio.cms.gov.
Senators plan to improve Medicare/Medicaid program integrity efforts   02/01/2013
Six current and former members of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday announced they will work with Congress, federal agencies and stakeholders to develop specific administrative and potential legislative actions to improve Medicare and Medicaid program integrity efforts. The announcement came as part of a report summarizing recommendations the group received from health care and other stakeholders in response to its May solicitation of innovative solutions to improve program integrity, strengthen payment reforms and enhance fraud enforcement. The report highlights several recommendations received, which include eliminating duplication and redundancy in federal and state antifraud programs; clarifying when it is appropriate to use certain care and settings; making process changes to ensure CMS audit contractors are efficient and effective; balancing incentives to identify Medicare overpayments with penalties for contractors whose findings are overturned on appeal; and creating an advisory panel to provide clinical input as part of contractor oversight. AHA submitted recommendations to the senators in June.
HHS, USDA to host rural health call Monday   02/01/2013
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will discuss new steps HHS is taking to reduce the regulatory burden faced by rural hospitals, clinics and clinicians during a call for rural health stakeholders Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Patrick Conway, M.D., chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and director of the CMS Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, also will join the call. To access the call, dial 888-455-2963; passcode "Rural." A replay of the call will be available for 30 days by calling 888-568-0502.
Hospitals add 3,600 jobs in January   02/01/2013
Employment at the nation's hospitals rose by 0.08% in January to a seasonally adjusted 4,833,500 people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. That's 3,600 more people than in December and 73,000 more than a year ago. Without the seasonal adjustment, which removes the effect of fluctuations due to seasonal events, hospitals employed 4,829,600 people in January - 8,600 fewer people than in December but 73,400 more than a year ago. The nation's overall unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percentage point in January to 7.9%.