Senate passes substitute CR   03/20/2013
The U.S. Senate today voted 73-26 to approve a substitute amendment to the House-passed continuing resolution that would fund the government through September while adding appropriations and flexibility for certain agencies, without increasing overall funding. Among other changes, the bipartisan legislation (H.R. 933) includes a $71 million increase for the National Institutes of Health and would require the administration to obligate all fiscal year 2013 funds appropriated for community health centers. The legislation retains the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1 under the Budget Control Act, including the 2% reduction to providers’ Medicare payments. The CR now must return to the House, which is expected to accept and approve the changes. The current CR expires March 27.
CMS issues final rule implementing ACA long-term care requirement   03/20/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday published a final rule implementing a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requirement that long-term care facilities provide before closing at least 60 days advance written notice and a plan for relocating residents. Effective April 18, the rule adopts with only technical changes an interim rule published in February 2013.
House bill would suspend NLRB actions requiring quorum   03/20/2013
The House Education and Workforce Committee today voted 23-15 to approve legislation (H.R. 1120) that would require the National Labor Relations Board to cease all activity requiring a three-member quorum until either more board members are confirmed by the Senate, the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of three appointments to the board, or the congressional session ends. The bill also would prohibit the board from enforcing any action taken after January 2012 or making any interagency appointments that require a quorum. Last week, the board said it intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a January ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that found three NLRB members were not validly appointed. At issue was whether President Obama validly used his recess appointment authority to appoint three members to the board on Jan. 4, 2012 without Senate approval. If the ruling stands, it could invalidate all NLRB decisions made since the appointees joined the board due to lack of a legally required quorum for doing business. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it likely would be heard in the term beginning October 2013.
Rankings compare population health by county   03/20/2013
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute today released their latest annual health rankings for U.S. counties based on 25 factors that influence health, including health behaviors, social-economic factors and access to care. While premature death rates are the lowest in 20 years, people in the unhealthiest counties are more than twice as likely as those in the healthiest counties to die prematurely, the organizations said. Among other trends, they said the counties where people don’t live as long and don’t feel as well tend to have the highest rates of smoking, teen births and physical inactivity, as well as more hospital stays for conditions that don’t usually require hospitalization if well managed. Residents living in healthier counties also are 1.4 times more likely to have access to a doctor and dentist than those in the least healthy counties, the groups said. RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., said the rankings “can be put to use right away by leaders in government, business, health care, and every citizen motivated to work together to create a culture of health in their community.”
AHA to host members-only webinar on FCC Healthcare Connect Fund   03/20/2013
On April 4 and 5, AHA will host a free members-only webinar with the Federal Communications Commission on the new Healthcare Connect Fund. Part of the FCC Rural Health Care Program, the fund will provide up to $400 million annually to help rural health care providers improve broadband capacity and leverage the full potential of telemedicine, electronic health records and other health information technology through consortia with metro partners. The FCC expects to begin the competitive bidding process for applicants this summer. The webinar will feature case examples from pilot programs in Colorado and Iowa, and provide more information on how to access the new fund. To register for the webinar, click on April 4 or April 5, respectively. For more information, email or call (312) 422-3345.