CMS implements extension of two programs for small, rural hospitals   03/14/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today issued an interim final rule implementing a six-month extension of the low-volume payment adjustment and Medicare-Dependent Hospital program under the inpatient prospective payment system rule for fiscal year 2014, as required by the Pathway for SGR Reform Act of 2013. To qualify for the low-volume adjustment for discharges occurring before April 1, a hospital must have fewer than 1,600 Medicare discharges annually and be located 15 miles or more from the nearest IPPS hospital. To receive the adjustment, hospitals must notify their Medicare Administrative Contractor before March 31 and provide documentation that they meet the 15-mile mileage criterion. Hospitals participating in the MDH program when it expired will be reinstated as an MDH effective Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014 if they have not been reclassified as a sole community hospital or requested a cancellation of their rural classification. CMS will accept comments on the rule for 60 days. AHA members will receive a Special Bulletin Monday with more information.
House approves SGR bill with individual mandate penalty offset   03/14/2014
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 238-181 today to approve legislation (H.R. 4015) that would repeal and replace the Sustainable Growth Rate formula for Medicare physician payment updates, and offset the cost of the policy changes by suspending for five years the Affordable Care Act’s tax penalty on individuals who go without health insurance. With the exception of the payment offset, the bill is similar to the SGR replacement bill unveiled by congressional leaders last month, which would provide a 0.5% payment update for five years under the fee-for-service model as a transition and allow further updates if needed. The Congressional Budget Office projects the House bill would increase by 2018 the number of uninsured Americans by about 13 million and premiums by 10%-20%. The president this week said he would veto the legislation if it reaches his desk. The Senate could vote on a different version of the bill later this month. Without congressional action, Medicare payments to physicians and other health care professionals will decline by a mandated 24.4% on April 1. The AHA has urged Congress to fix the physician payment formula, but to do so in a manner that does not result in reduced payments to hospitals. 
HITRUST announces health care cyber threat briefings, alert system   03/14/2014
The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) and Department of Health and Human Services will conduct free monthly briefings beginning in April to help hospitals and other health care organizations better understand current and probable cyber threats in the health care sector and share best practices for cyber threat defense and response. HITRUST also has established an alert system to notify health care organizations of high probability and impact cyber threats targeted at the health care sector. To receive the C3 Alerts or participate in the monthly online briefings, register at www.hitrustalliance.net/cyberupdates. Participating hospitals are encouraged to provide feedback directly to HITRUST about the effectiveness and format of the alerts and briefings.
Pre-existing Condition Insurance Program extends coverage through April   03/14/2014
The federally-run Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan is offering an additional month of coverage to current enrollees who have not yet found coverage through the new health insurance marketplaces, according to an announcement on the program’s website. “Enrollees will be notified by mail of this option to extend their PCIP plan through April, along with details about cost-sharing,” the notice states. “Eligible enrollees can purchase PCIP transitional coverage by sending in an April premium payment; which will be the same monthly rate that they paid for January-March 2014.” The Affordable Care Act created the program as a bridge to 2014, when the ACA prohibits denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The program previously was extended through March.
Minnesota hospitals report on community benefits   03/14/2014
Minnesota hospitals and health systems contributed more than $3.9 billion in programs and services to benefit the health of their communities in 2012, a 10% increase from 2011, according to a new report by the Minnesota Hospital Association. The total includes $1.7 billion in government underpayments for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients; and $521 million in uncompensated care, a 9.5% increase since 2008; among other community benefits. “As nonprofits, hospitals and health systems ensure access to care for patients – regardless of their ability to pay – 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said MHA President and CEO Lawrence Massa. “In addition to making sure patients receive the care they need when they need it, hospitals provide a number of important services that otherwise would not be available in the community.”
Reminder: Next AHA members-only Town Hall webcast Tuesday   03/14/2014
Deborah Feinstein, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, will be the guest on AHA’s next members-only Town Hall Webcast – Tuesday, March 18, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Feinstein will speak on key issues for the field surrounding the FTC’s competition enforcement efforts, federal antitrust laws and mergers and acquisitions. The webcast will conclude with an update on critical hospital and health care issues at play in Washington, including the short-term physician payment fix and Medicare extenders set to expire on March 31. For more information, visit www.aha.org/townhall.