Simpson-Bowles offers updated deficit plan   04/19/2013
The former chairmen of the president's bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform today offered an updated deficit reduction plan calling for $2.5 trillion in savings through a combination of spending cuts and tax changes. The 10-year plan by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) and Erskine Bowles, President Clinton's former chief of staff, would reduce Medicare and Medicaid spending by about $585 billion. Among other proposals, the plan calls for enacting delivery system and payment reforms; reducing payments for graduate medical education, bad debt and rural hospitals; reducing various payments to post-acute care providers; and gradually increasing the Medicare age while implementing a “buy-in” program with income-related premiums and subsidies for lower-income seniors. In addition to the $2.5 trillion in savings, the plan also includes options for longer-term reductions to entitlement programs. One proposal would, beginning in 2018, limit the growth of the net federal commitment to health care at the rate of the gross domestic product per beneficiary, and require Congress and the president to enact further reductions if costs are growing faster than the targets.
Representatives voice concern about proposed hospital payment cuts   04/19/2013
At a hearing yesterday on the president’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, several members of the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee expressed concerns about proposed cuts to hospital payments. “I’ve heard concern from hospitals in my district about the financial impact of the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program cuts and reductions on providers in states making a good faith effort to implement the Affordable Care Act,” Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) told HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. While the goal of the ACA provision was to reduce uncompensated care to hospitals as more Americans are covered by health insurance or the Medicaid expansion, Sebelius said HHS is “conscious of the notion that it won’t be a direct match. We’re looking very carefully and doing a lot of outreach about what is the most effective way to implement the cuts that are proposed in the law.” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) told Sebelius, “I think there needs to be a recognition that other funding streams such as [Graduate Medical Education], DSH and bad debt payments are essential for hospitals investing in delivery system reform. Hospitals need these various funding streams to treat those who will remain uninsured even after the ACA and to train our next generation of physicians.” In other comments, Sebelius said the agency was committed to issuing this year a final rule governing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
HHS announces new health IT workgroup   04/19/2013
The Department of Health and Human Services and Federal Communications Commission yesterday named a workgroup to advise the federal government on a risk-based regulatory framework for health information technology and mobile medical applications that promotes innovation, protects patient safety and avoids regulatory duplication. The Food and Drug Administration, in consultation with the FCC and HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, is required by the FDA Safety and Innovation Act to propose a strategy and recommendations for the framework, and will consider the recommendations of this workgroup. Hospital representatives on the FDASIA workgroup include David Bates, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, workgroup chair; Julian Goldman, Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners Healthcare; Keith Larsen, Intermountain Healthcare; and Mary Anne Leach, Children’s Hospital Colorado. The group will hold its first meeting April 29 and post discussion documents on its website.
FDA alerts providers to mattress cover safety risks   04/19/2013
The Food and Drug Administration today issued a safety alert and recommendations to prevent infection risks associated with damaged or worn medical bed mattress covers. Among other actions, the agency recommends regularly checking each mattress cover and immediately replacing any with visible signs of damage or wear, and removing damaged or worn mattresses according to the health care facility’s procedures and manufacturer’s instructions.
CDC highlights preparedness resources for bombing events   04/19/2013
In the wake of the two bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week issued an advisory highlighting resources available to help health professionals and others prepare for and respond to the health effects of bombings and other mass casualty events. The advisory includes links to CDC fact sheets, guidance and planning documents, data collection and planning tools, and training resources.