White House economic advisor discusses presidents budget proposal   04/29/2013
Failure to compromise on budget issues and “deal with the long-term challenges of entitlements shortchanges our future,” Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, told hospital leaders today at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting. Sperling defended the president’s budget approach as working to improve the economy through a mix of deficit-reduction, revenues and investments, and said a budget that seeks to deal with federal deficits through spending cuts alone could harm the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. He also expressed concern about the House-passed budget’s proposal to cut Medicaid spending by $810 billion over 10 years and turn it into a block grant program, which he said could undermine a “critical part of health security to the families who need it most.”
AHA: Hospitals boost quality, save costs   04/29/2013
The AHA’s Health Research and Educational Trust helped hospitals reduce non-medically necessary early elective deliveries by 42% and readmissions by 14% in one year, for an estimated savings of $10 million and $100 million, respectively, according to a report released today by the AHA. The HRET Hospital Engagement Network provides education and training to more than 1,600 hospitals in partnership with 31 state hospital associations and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Hospitals that are part of the HEN program are seeing significant improvements in other quality areas such as infection control, falls, ventilator-associated pneumonia and central line-associated blood stream infections,” the report adds. “This ongoing effort to share best practices will help accelerate quality improvement for hospital patients.” The savings from these quality improvements go back to government and private payers, the report notes.
Roskam says U.S. health system needs innovation, flexibility   04/29/2013
The U.S. health care system “is desperately in need” of hospitals’ leadership and innovation, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), chief deputy whip for the U.S. House of Representatives, told AHA members today at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C. “We have an opportunity to deploy technology to focus in on some of those cost drivers that don’t add real value to the health care equation,” he told participants via satellite. Roskam also praised hospitals for the important economic role they play in their communities and their life-saving efforts in response to the Boston Marathon bombings. He also urged support for additional anti-fraud efforts and called for giving hospitals and caregivers “more flexibility at the front end to be advocating healthier lifestyles that have the benefit of mitigating costs at the end of life.”
Former senators express ACA concerns, optimism   04/29/2013
Former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) today expressed concern about the pace and scope of the Medicaid expansion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and whether some rural hospitals can make the transformation to a more value-based health care system. “We have to take into account their special needs and provide some latitude to our smaller rural and critical access hospitals,” she said during a panel with former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting. Snowe urged Congress and the White House to “work out these complex, substantive issues” in implementing the ACA. While Conrad sees “fatigue” on Capitol Hill and little appetite to reexamine provisions of the law, he expressed optimism that the nation “is on the brink of addressing” key issues of access and coverage with the rollout of the ACA. “There may be some rough going ahead, but I am excited,” he said. On the federal budget, Conrad noted that “hospitals get asked to continuously generate savings” and said policymakers need to look more broadly at the health care sector in controlling costs.
AHA chairman optimistic about future of health care   04/29/2013
In his investiture address yesterday, AHA Chairman Benjamin Chu, M.D., encouraged hospital leaders to be optimistic about the future of America’s health care. Addressing the AHA’s Annual Membership Meeting, Chu cautioned that the “next few years will be messy,” but said “things are changing for the better” in health care. “We are creating an environment where we all have a decent chance of working for the right outcomes for our patients and our communities,” he said. “It is up to all of us to transform our care delivery systems and capitalize on these opportunities.” By embracing these opportunities, hospitals may finally realize their vision of a “society of healthy communities where all individuals can reach their highest potential for health,” he said.
Umbdenstock: Hospitals 'charting a path of progress'   04/29/2013
Kicking off the Federal Forum today at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting, AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock picked up on the theme sounded Sunday by AHA Chairman Benjamin Chu, M.D., as he described how hospital care is improving in America. “We are charting a path of progress that seemed impossible just a decade ago,” Umbdenstock told AHA members. He said hospitals are “moving toward zero preventable infections” and are bending health care costs downward. “The next step lies in getting better information, better teamwork, better engagement,” Umbdenstock said. He said hospital leaders should be proud of what they have accomplished. “We keep proving that we can do more,” he said. “Now we are demonstrating that we can do better. It’s a powerful combination.”
Hospital leaders urged to send strong, unified message to Capitol Hill   04/29/2013
AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack today urged hospital leaders to send a strong and unified advocacy message in their meetings this week with legislative staff on Capitol Hill. He outlined hospitals’ three key messages to Congress: reject arbitrary Medicare and Medicaid payment cuts for hospital services and support structural changes; delay cuts to Medicare and Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments, which were included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and pass the Medicare Audit Improvement Act (H.R. 1250), which would restructure the way Medicare’s recovery audit contractors and other Medicare auditors can review providers. These issues “are important for every kind of hospital regardless of type, location or form of ownership,” Pollack said. “That’s real unity.” 
CMS announces calls on navigator grants, health insurance marketplaces   04/29/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will host a conference call tomorrow for potential applicants for “navigator” grants under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and will begin holding calls this week for stakeholders in each state with a federally-facilitated or partnership health insurance marketplace. CMS this month announced $54 million in funding to support the marketplace navigators, which are authorized to provide unbiased information to consumers about coverage options. For details on tomorrow’s call, visit cciio.cms.gov.  For more on the state calls and to register, visit www.cms.gov. Specific questions on the navigator grants may be emailed to CMS at navigatorgrants@cms.hhs.gov. In addition, Enroll America has posted a replay of its recent webinar for potential navigator grant applicants at www.enrollamerica.org.
HRSA announces program to help veterans pursue nursing   04/29/2013
Accredited nursing schools and health care facilities can apply through June 7 for up to $350,000 a year in funding to increase veterans’ enrollment in baccalaureate nursing programs, and explore ways to award academic credit for prior military health care experience or training, the Health Resources and Services administration announced today. The agency expects to award up to nine four-year cooperative agreements. The funding was announced at a White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing.