FTC workshop focuses on quality and transparency   03/21/2014
The Federal Trade Commission today concluded its two-day workshop examining health care competition with sessions focused on quality and transparency of health care services. A general theme was what information is important to consumers and how to ensure the information consumers receive is useful in making health care decisions. Several panelists discussed the evolution of quality measures, with Kate Goodrich, M.D., director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Quality Measurement and Health Assessment Group, noting CMS’s movement toward outcome-focused measures. During a panel on price transparency, James Landman, a policy director with the Healthcare Financial Management Association, previewed a report on price transparency being developed by a task force of health care providers, employers and patients, including the AHA. Most of the panelists agreed that what is most useful to consumers is not only providing information on pricing, but making sure that consumers know where to find it and that the information is relevant to their care. 
AHA files brief supporting subsidies in federal-facilitated exchanges   03/21/2014
AHA today urged the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm a district court ruling that rejected a legal challenge to premium subsidies for lower income Americans in states that do not set up their own health insurance exchanges. “In short, the [Affordable Care Act] will not work without subsidies, and Congress knew it,” AHA said in a friend-of-the-court brief. “Yet plaintiffs insist that Congress designed the ACA so that tens of millions of Americans, in more than half the states, would be walled off from subsidies altogether. That interpretation should be rejected for many reasons. It would be devastating to the ACA and to that statute’s key goals. It would be equally devastating to America’s hospitals – especially in their efforts to care for the poorest among us. And, critically, it bears no resemblance to what Congress intended.” The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in a similar case, for which AHA also filed a brief.
Medical school seniors, others matched to residency slots   03/21/2014
A total of 16,399 U.S. medical school seniors were matched to first-year residency positions today through the National Resident Matching Program. Other applicants for the 29,671 first- and second-year positions, 500 more than last year, include past medical school graduates, graduates of osteopathic schools, and students and graduates of international medical schools. More than half of this year’s additional positions were in primary care specialties. The most competitive specialties this year were neurological surgery, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, plastic surgery and radiation-oncology. Darrell Kirch, M.D., president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said “it appears that several hundred U.S. medical students did not match to a first-year residency training program. As a result, with a serious physician shortage looming closer, we remain concerned that the 17-year cap on federal support of new doctor training will impede the necessary growth in residency positions that must occur to ensure that our growing and aging population will receive the care it needs.” AHA continues to recommend that the 1996 cap on residency slots be lifted.
Spring edition of Great Boards newsletter available   03/21/2014
The spring edition of AHA's Great Boards newsletter describes four practices boards can use to manage and minimize strategic risks during times of uncertainty, and techniques to help boards allocate sufficient time to strategic matters. Administered by AHA's Center for Healthcare Governance, the free quarterly newsletter examines hospital and health system governance trends and effective practices. To subscribe, click here. For additional tools and resources for hospital boards of trustees, visit www.greatboards.org.
Study: MA health reform increased ED use   03/21/2014
The annual number of visits to hospital emergency departments increased between 0.2% and 2.2% after Massachusetts implemented state health care reforms, according to a study reported in Annals of Emergency Medicine. Implemented in stages between 2006 and 2008, the reforms included a series of Medicaid expansions, subsidized insurance offerings, insurance market reforms, safety net alterations, and individual and employer mandates to purchase or provide health insurance. “Although there is no definitive explanation for these findings, previous work suggests there are several potential explanations, including but not limited to pent-up demand before obtaining health insurance coverage, decreased economic barriers to seeking emergency care, the lack of access to primary care, or a combination of these factors,” the authors said.