Hospital leaders tell Congress 'no more cuts'   02/13/2013
Hospitals leaders united today on Capitol Hill to deliver a direct message to lawmakers: No more cuts to funding for hospital care. Participants in the AHA Advocacy Day event, which included a live webcast, were briefed on concerns related to several approaching fiscal deadlines, beginning with automatic spending cuts set to take effect March 1 under the Budget Control Act sequester, which includes a 2% cut to Medicare spending. For example, proposals by lawmakers and others to delay or replace certain sequester cuts, or make any health care reductions for other deficit reduction purposes, could include reducing payments for evaluation and management services and other procedures provided in hospital outpatient departments; cuts to graduate medical education, bad debt and provider assessments; additional Medicare prospective coding offsets; and changes to programs that support rural health care. After the briefing, hospital leaders met with lawmakers and their staffs to urge support for alternatives that represent real solutions to the deficit and reject further hospital payment cuts that could jeopardize access to patient care.
SOTU: President cites support for 'modest' changes to Medicare   02/13/2013
Delivering his State of the Union address last night before Congress, President Obama said he is open to making "modest reforms" to Medicare as Congress works to reduce the deficit. "On Medicare, I'm prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission," Obama said. "Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I'm proposing go even further. We'll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We'll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn't be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital - they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don't violate the guarantee of a secure retirement." For the full text of the president's speech, click here.
FTC: Proposed integrated care network would not prompt antitrust challenge   02/13/2013
The Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition does not intend to challenge a proposal by the Norman (OK) Physician Hospital Organization to create a clinically integrated health care network, the agency said today in a letter responding to the organization's request for an advisory opinion. Based on Norman PHO's representations, Bureau staff concluded that the network's proposed activities "appear unlikely to unreasonably restrain trade." The agency said the proposed program "appears likely, on balance, to be pro-competitive or competitively neutral," adding that "staff's current enforcement view likely would change to the extent that, for whatever reason, Norman PHO's actual operations deviate substantially from its proposal…or otherwise prove to have anticompetitive effects."
House panel holds hearing on future of NLRB   02/13/2013
The House Committee on Labor and the Workforce today held a subcommittee hearing on the future of the National Labor Relations Board. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last month invalidated three "recess" appointments to the board, potentially leaving NLRB decisions since the appointments last January open to future challenge. Among other concerns, Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) said recent decisions by the board have made it "increasingly difficult for employers to investigate possible misconduct and employee complaints," citing Banner Health and Piedmont Gardens, cases in which the board "restricted the ability to keep internal investigations confidential while allowing unions to obtain sensitive statements provided by witnesses." Testifying at today's hearing were Lawrence Lorber, a partner in the Proskauer law firm in Washington, D.C.; Raymond LaJeunesse Jr., vice president and legal director of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Springfield, VA; Elizabeth Reynolds, a member of the Allison, Slutsky & Kennedy law firm in Chicago; and Roger King, a partner with the Jones Day law firm in Columbus, OH.
IOM report calls for changes to improve global drug quality   02/13/2013
A report released today by the Institute of Medicine calls for global agreement on an international code of practice on drug quality. "Given the international nature of modern manufacturing and trade, every nation has a stake and a role to play in ensuring the production and sale of high-quality medications," said committee chair Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights in Washington, D.C. "…We're calling on WHO, in collaboration with regulators, companies and civil society worldwide, to adopt a global code of practice, build national regulatory capabilities, and promote international cooperation." The report also recommends establishing a mandatory drug tracking system and tightening the licensing requirements on medication wholesalers in the United States. All state licensing boards should license only wholesalers and distributors that meet the accreditation standards of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, and should collaborate with the Food and Drug Administration to create a public database where states should report violations and license suspensions and cancellations, the authors said.
Center proposes oversight framework for health IT safety   02/13/2013
The Bipartisan Policy Center today proposed an oversight framework for assuring patient safety in health information technology. Among other guiding principles, the framework should be risk-based, flexible and assure patient safety is a shared responsibility, the authors said. "Assuring safety in clinical software in particular is a shared responsibility among developers, implementers, and users across the various stages of the health IT life cycle, which include design and development; implementation and customization; upgrades, maintenance and operations; and risk identification, mitigation and remediation," the report states. Among other recommendations, the center said clinical software such as electronic health records and software used to inform clinical decision making "should be subject to a new oversight framework, rather than traditional regulatory approaches applied to medical devices given its lower risk profile."