GAO: HHS should ensure that certified EHRs collect reliable quality data   03/07/2014
The Department of Health and Human Services should develop a strategy to ensure that certified electronic health records collect reliable data for clinical quality measures, the Government Accountability Office said in a report issued yesterday. The strategy should include testing for and mitigating reliability issues arising from variance in certified EHR systems tested to different CQM specifications, the agency said. One concern raised by AHA and others is that CQMs generated by EHRs do not produce results that are comparable to corresponding measures based on data obtained through other methods, such as manual abstraction of patient medical records by trained professionals, the report notes. “Until HHS establishes and implements a comprehensive strategy to ensure the reliability of CQMs collected using certified EHRs, it will be unclear whether the department’s plans are sufficient to address the concerns, and therefore it will be uncertain when the CQM data can be reliably used to help assess provider performance, improve quality, and adjust provider payments,” GAO said. HHS also should develop performance measures to assess the effects of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs on health care quality, efficiency and patient safety, GAO said.
CMS finalizes certain marketplace, health plan standards for 2015   03/07/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this week issued a final rule setting forth certain payment parameters and standards for health insurers and the Health Insurance Marketplace for the 2015 benefit year. According to a CMS factsheet, the provisions pertain to premium stabilization programs; the open enrollment period for 2015; annual limitations on cost sharing; consumer protections; financial oversight; and Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). As finalized in the rule, the open enrollment period for the 2015 benefit year will begin on Nov. 15, 2014 and extend through Feb. 15, 2015.
House holds hearing on proposed NLRB rule to expedite union elections   03/07/2014
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce Wednesday held a hearing on a proposed rule reissued last month by the National Labor Relations Board that would change the process for filing and processing petitions for union representation of employees, essentially speeding up the time between filing a petition and holding an election. “The NLRB’s proposed rule changes are in excess of the board’s rulemaking authority, are substantively unnecessary, and are contrary to the [National Labor Relations Act],” testified Doreen Davis, a labor and employment attorney and partner in the Jones Day law firm. Also testifying were witnesses for the Society for Human Resource Management and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and a partner with the firm Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld. After portions of the earlier 2011 rule were finalized, a federal district court ruled that the board did not have the statutorily required quorum when it adopted the final rule. AHA and its American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration and American Organization of Nurse Executives affiliates had urged the NLRB to abandon the previously proposed rule in its entirety, and supported the legal challenge to the previous final rule in a friend-of-the-court brief.
NH Senate approves Medicaid expansion alternative   03/07/2014
The New Hampshire Senate yesterday voted 18-5 to approve bipartisan legislation (SB 413) that would use federal Medicaid funds to help an estimated 50,000 low-income uninsured adults obtain private health coverage. About 38,000 uninsured adults would initially be covered by the state’s Medicaid managed care plan and transition to private coverage in 2016, while the rest would be covered by a program that subsidizes employer-based coverage. New Hampshire Hospital Association President Steve Ahnen called the vote “a terrific step forward for patients, providers, businesses and our state’s economy. By extending private health insurance coverage to more low-income, uninsured New Hampshire residents, we are taking steps to address one of the biggest challenges facing our businesses and health care system today – the rising cost of uncompensated care and the hidden tax that we all pay to support those without coverage who seek care in our hospital emergency rooms.” Gov. Maggie Hassan supports the legislation, which now moves to the House. If approved, the plan would require a waiver from the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Hospital employment falls by 1,200 in February   03/07/2014
Employment at the nation's hospitals fell by 0.03% in February to a seasonally adjusted 4,787,900 people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. That's 1,200 fewer people than in January and 2,800 fewer than a year ago. Without the seasonal adjustment, which removes the effect of fluctuations due to seasonal events, hospitals employed 4,778,900 people in February – 3,800 fewer than in January and 7,400 fewer than a year ago. The nation's overall unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percentage point in February to 6.7%.
HRET issues 2013 annual report   03/07/2014
The Health Research & Educational Trust has released “Making an Impact in 2013,” a report and infographic showing the impact of the organization’s work over the past year. This includes leading national projects such as the AHA/HRET Hospital Engagement Network and On the CUSP: Stop CAUTI, and partnering with the AHA on Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence and with AHA and others on the Equity of Care initiative, among other projects. HRET is an AHA affiliate. For more information, visit www.hret.org.
NJ hospitals report $2.6 billion in community benefits   03/07/2014
New Jersey hospitals provided $2.58 billion in community benefits in 2012, according to a new report from the New Jersey Hospital Association. The total includes the value of free and discounted care for the poor, uninsured and senior citizens; community health offerings like immunization clinics and other wellness programs; education for future health care professionals; medical research; and a wide array of additional community programs. “Hospitals’ contributions – in both economic and community benefits – make them an essential part of the Garden State’s well-being,” said NJHA President and CEO Betsy Ryan. “It is a responsibility and commitment that they proudly embrace.”