CMS releases hospital charge data, funding for state data centers   05/08/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today released data on the most common inpatient diagnosis-related group charges for each hospital accepting Medicare patients, including information on average hospital charges per patient and average Medicare payment. CMS also announced $87 million in funding for states to enhance their insurance rate review programs and create or enhance data centers to collect, analyze and publish data on health care pricing. States can apply through Aug. 1 for up to $5 million each for 2013. Letters of intent are due June 17. More than 40 states already require or encourage hospitals to report information on their charges or payment rates, and make those data available to the public. AHA supports federal legislation (H.R. 1326) that would build on this system by requiring states to provide hospital charge and insurer information. “The complex and bewildering interplay among ‘charges,’ ‘rates,’ ‘bills’ and ‘payments’ across dozens of payers, public and private, does not serve any stakeholder well, including hospitals,” said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. “This is especially true when what is most important to a patient is knowing what his or her financial responsibility will be.”
House subcommittee approves 'track and trace' drug distribution bill   05/08/2013
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee today approved by voice vote legislation to increase the safety and security of the nation’s drug distribution system, which next moves to the full committee for consideration. Among other provisions, the “track and trace” bill would establish lot-level tracing requirements for manufacturers, wholesale distributors, pharmacies and repackagers based on changes in ownership, and establish a collaborative process between the Food and Drug Administration and stakeholders to better understand how and when to move to unit-level traceability. FDA then must issue a proposed regulation on unit-level traceability in 2027. Last month, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee released for comment a discussion draft of “track and trace” legislation that would require “interoperable, electronic unit-level product tracing” within 10 years.
Health care prices, spending, employment slow   05/08/2013
Health care prices in March were 1.6% higher than a year ago, one-tenth below the February level and the second lowest reading since December 1997, according to the latest economic indicators from Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. Hospital prices for Medicare and Medicaid patients grew by 2% and negative 0.8%, respectively. National health care spending in March grew at an annual rate of 3.8%, less than the record low levels seen in 2009-2011, Altarum said. Health care employment rose by 19,000 jobs in April, matching the average growth for the first four months of the year but down from 27,000/month in 2012. Hospitals added 2,700 jobs, just over half the average rate.