MedPAC expands discussion of site-neutral payment policies   03/08/2013
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission yesterday considered several proposals to expand site-neutral payments, a discussion the commission expects to continue this fall. One proposal would expand the site-neutral policy to 66 additional ambulatory payment classifications, reducing hospital payments by another $900 million. Another more targeted proposal would equalize payment between physician offices and hospital outpatient departments for three high-volume cardiac imaging APCs, reducing hospital outpatient payments by $500 million. In addition, commissioners discussed equalizing payments for certain surgical services commonly furnished in ambulatory surgical centers, which would reduce hospital payments for 12 surgical APCs by $590 million. In January 2012, MedPAC recommended Congress reduce total payments for 10 hospital evaluation and management (E/M) services to the level paid under the physician fee schedule, a policy that would reduce payments to hospital outpatient departments by $1 billion. During the meeting, Joanna Kim, AHA vice president for payment policy, expressed concern about further payment cuts to hospitals. “Together, these policies would cut hospital outpatient revenue by at least 5.4% at a time when the Medicare hospital outpatient margin is already negative 11%,” Kim said. This margin does not take into account all of the additional cuts that hospitals face, such as the sequester, cuts in disproportionate share payments, increasing readmissions penalties, the hospital-acquired condition policy and meaningful use, she noted.
AHA report provides roadmap for healthier future   03/08/2013
As policymakers grapple to rein in federal spending, a new report from the AHA Board of Trustees recommends 12 priority actions to promote health care quality, appropriateness and efficiency, and wise use of health care dollars. With 10,000 baby boomers entering Medicare each day, advances in medical technologies and growth in chronic illness, the Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare costs will almost double by 2022 to more than $1 trillion a year, the report notes. “Real improvements in health and health care – as opposed to arbitrary cuts in provider payment – have the ability to put our country on a more sustainable fiscal path,” the report states.…”[B]y focusing our efforts and taking responsibility for that which we can control, together we can ensure a healthier tomorrow.” For the full list of recommended actions, see www.aha.org/healthiertomorrow.
ONC offers guidance on health IT patent issues   03/08/2013
The certification criteria adopted for meaningful use of electronic health records conscientiously avoid prescriptive language, minimizing the likelihood that any one patented method or process will cover the implementation, officials at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said in a blog post this week. For example, they said, “We believe the functionality in the ‘view, download and transmit to 3rd party’ EHR certification criterion could be accomplished in many ways and does not limit providers in their use of EHR technology and attempts to achieve meaningful use.” ONC invites public input on patents and other intellectual property as they relate to certified EHR technology via email at ONC.Policy@hhs.gov. “As matters of general interest arise, whether through comments received or otherwise, we intend to inform stakeholders through appropriate channels,” the officials said.
CMS to host call on state innovation initiative   03/08/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will host a conference call Tuesday on the State Innovation Models initiative and how health care providers can participate. The initiative last month awarded six states a portion of more than $250 million to test proposals to improve health care delivery and payment for Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program beneficiaries. Another 19 states received awards to plan and design proposals. For more on the call, from 3-4 p.m. Eastern Time, click here. An audio recording and transcript will be posted after the call.
Hospitals add 8,900 jobs in February   03/08/2013
Employment at the nation's hospitals rose by 0.18% in February to a seasonally adjusted 4,829,200 people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. That's 8,900 more people than in January and 58,200 more than a year ago. Without the seasonal adjustment, which removes the effect of fluctuations due to seasonal events, hospitals employed 4,822,900 people in February – 8,100 more than in January and 58,200 more than a year ago. The nation's overall unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percentage point in February to 7.7%.
CNN to air health care documentary Sunday   03/08/2013
CNN on Sunday will air a 2012 documentary titled “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare.” The documentary was shared widely on last year’s film festival circuit. According to the press release, the film “reveals flaws in the notion that the health care delivered via America’s patchwork of facilities, practitioners and insurers offers good value for its outcomes.” According to CNN, the two-hour broadcast, at 8 and 11 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, will be followed by a 30-minute discussion moderated by CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, M.D., “focused on how Americans can cut through the red tape to save money and increase their access to health care.”