President signs sequester order   03/04/2013
President Obama late Friday signed a sequestration order triggering $85 billion in fiscal year 2013 spending cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act. Half of the cuts will come from defense and half from other portions of the federal budget, including a 2% cut to Medicare payments for hospitals and other health care providers effective April 1. According to a report released Friday by the Office of Management and Budget, the sequester will reduce funding for non-exempt defense programs by about 13% and non-exempt nondefense programs by about 9% through September. Cuts to discretionary health care programs include $1.6 billion to the National Institutes of Health; $303 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; $209 million to the Food and Drug Administration; $168 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and $44 million to insurance exchange grants.
House appropriations chair files continuing resolution   03/04/2013
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) today filed a continuing resolution (H.R. 933) to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2013. The new CR reflects current funding for most government agencies (excluding the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which would see increases in their funding), minus the $85 billion in cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act’s sequester, including a 2% reduction to providers’ Medicare payments. Under the bill, which is expected to be voted on in the House later this week, funding for military health programs would increase by about $233 million. The current CR expires March 27.
CMS notice implements ATRA extension of rural hospital provisions   03/04/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today issued a notice implementing the extension of the Medicare-Dependent Hospital program and payment adjustment for low-volume hospitals through fiscal year 2013, as required by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. The notice explains how CMS will implement the AHA-supported provisions, which are retroactive to Oct. 1, 2012. Under the ATRA, the low-volume adjustment provides an add-on payment to the prospective payment system rate that ranges from 25% for hospitals with fewer than 200 Medicare discharges to no adjustment for hospitals with more than 1,600 Medicare discharges. Under the MDH program, rural hospitals with no more than 100 beds and at least 60% of inpatient days or discharges covered by Medicare receive the sum of their inpatient PPS rate, plus three-quarters of the amount by which their cost per discharge exceeds the PPS rate.
Study: Cesarean delivery rates vary widely across hospitals   03/04/2013
Cesarean delivery rates varied from 7% to 70% in a study of 593 hospitals in 2009, published today in Health Affairs. Among women with lower risk pregnancies, the cesarean rate ranged even more, from about 2% to 37%. “Although some variation would reasonably be expected given differences in patient populations, the scale of the variation in hospital cesarean delivery rates – most notably, a 15-fold variation among the lower-risk subgroup – indicated a wide range in obstetric care practice patterns across hospitals and signaled potential quality concerns,” the authors said.
HHS makes health IT advisory committee appointments   03/04/2013
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Friday named eight new members to the Health Information Technology Standards Committee. Created by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, the committee recommends standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria to HHS’ national coordinator for health IT. The new members are: Jeremy Delinsky, chief technology officer at Athenahealth; Keith Figlioli, senior vice president of health care informatics at Premier Inc.; Lisa Gallagher, senior director of privacy and security at HIMSS; Anne LeMaistre, M.D., chief medical information officer at Seton Healthcare Family, Ascension Health; Kim Nolen, medical outcomes specialist at Pfizer Inc.; Eric Rose, M.D., director of clinical terminology at Intelligent Medical Objects; Andrew Wiesenthal, M.D., director of health care practice at Deloitte Consulting; and Taha Kass-Hout, M.D., director of the division of informatics solutions and operations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, see the HHS news release.