Bill would factor socioeconomic risk into hospital readmission rates   03/11/2014
Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) today introduced AHA-supported legislation (H.R. 4188) that would adjust the Medicare Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program to account for certain socioeconomic and health factors that can increase the risk of a patient’s readmission, such as being eligible for Medicaid as well as Medicare. “The bill introduced today would provide welcome relief to hospitals that are unfairly penalized by readmission penalties because they care for large numbers of poor patients, often with very complicated and multiple medical problems,” said AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack. “It helps ensure that hospital performance improvement efforts are focused on readmissions that are preventable.” Effective in fiscal year 2015, the bipartisan bill would require an analysis of each hospital’s dual-eligible population to ensure hospitals are not unfairly penalized for treating the most vulnerable patients; and would exclude from the program certain readmissions that are classified as transplant, end-stage renal disease, burns, trauma, psychosis or substance abuse. The legislation also would require the Department of Health and Human Services to review the program’s risk adjustment methodology to account for dual-eligible individuals, and consider using V (external cause of injury) codes to ensure hospitals are not penalized when patients are purposefully not adhering to their physician-recommended treatment. In addition, the bill would require the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to study whether the program’s 30-day readmission threshold is appropriate.
Hospital leaders urge Congress to protect hospital payments   03/11/2014
As Congress prepares to address a physician payment fix at the end of March, hospital leaders gathered today on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to reject further reductions to hospital payments that would hurt patients’ access to care. Hospital leaders also urged legislators to extend expiring Medicare provisions that are important to rural hospitals and to provide relief from harmful policies such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services two-midnight policy, recovery audit contractors, the 96-hour rule for critical access hospitals and the direct supervision policy for outpatient therapies. Before visiting lawmakers’ offices, participants in the AHA Advocacy Day were briefed by AHA staff on the latest developments in Washington.
AHA infographic: Health care spending growth at record low   03/11/2014
A new AHA infographic depicts the record low growth in health care spending over the past four years, driven in part by low growth in hospital prices. “These trends are leading to an improved long-term federal budget outlook,” the infographic notes. “The Congressional Budget Office projections of future Medicare spending from 2014 through 2020 are down by more than a half a trillion dollars. Health care cost growth typically slows during recessions, but the continuation of this trend well into the recovery suggests more factors at hand. A growing body of recent research points to the impact of structural changes in how health care is delivered and financed.”
CMS finalizes proposal to phase in new ACA-related safety standards   03/11/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has finalized its proposal to phase in new patient safety standards required by the Affordable Care Act for hospitals with more than 50 beds that wish to contract with Qualified Health Plans in health insurance marketplaces. In a final rule published in today’s Federal Register, CMS adopted its proposal to not require hospitals to join Patient Safety Organizations until at least 2017. Instead, beginning Jan. 1, 2015, QHPs will be required to collect CMS Certification Numbers from their contracted hospitals with more than 50 beds that are subject to the regulation. AHA recommended such a policy in its December comment letter and is pleased that CMS finalized the proposal with only minor modifications.
CDC: Most pediatric C. difficile infections linked to outpatient antibiotics   03/11/2014
Most pediatric Clostridium difficile infections are not associated with an overnight stay in a health care facility, but occur among children in the general community who recently took antibiotics prescribed in doctors’ offices for other conditions, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in Pediatrics. C. difficile infections are bacterial infections that cause severe diarrhea and are potentially life-threatening. About seven in 10 pediatric cases are community-associated, the study found. Among the community-associated cases where parents were interviewed, 73% were prescribed antibiotics during the 12 weeks prior to the illness, usually in an outpatient setting and to treat ear, sinus or upper respiratory infections. Most respiratory infections do not require antibiotics, which also can alter or eliminate beneficial bacteria. “When antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly, our children are needlessly put at risk for health problems including C. difficile infection and dangerous antibiotic resistant infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D.
AHA seeks applicants for patient safety leadership fellowship   03/11/2014
The AHA seeks applications through April 1 for the 2014-2015 AHA-NPSF Comprehensive Patient Safety Leadership Fellowship, a year-long program for clinical teams and strategic leaders dedicated to improving quality and patient safety results. Through a highly participatory learning experience, fellows gain competency in advanced patient safety concepts and use them to complete an Action Learning Project. The AHA and National Patient Safety Foundation co-sponsor the program. For more information and application requirements, visit www.ahafellowships.org.