CMS: Hospital readmission rates decline in 2012   05/29/2013
The average 30-day hospital readmission rate fell to 18.4% in calendar year 2012 from 19% during the previous five years, according to a new analysis by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That translates to about 70,000 fewer readmissions for the year, CMS said. While the report does not examine the reasons for the decline, CMS said payment reforms and other initiatives to reduce avoidable admissions may be starting to have a measureable impact. Based on claims processed to date, the average all-cause readmission rate declined from 19% to 18.4% for hospitals participating in the Partnership for Patients program, and from 19.2% to 18.6% for other hospitals, CMS said. Regional rates vary widely but have not been adjusted to account for differences in demographic factors or risk profiles, limiting the ability to make direct comparisons between different areas, CMS said.
FDA allows import of injectable nutrition drugs to ease critical shortages   05/29/2013
The nation’s critically short supply of injectable nutrition drugs should ease this week due to imports from Norway, the Food and Drug Administration announced today. The Total Parenteral Nutrition products contain several drugs that have been in short supply, including trace elements, potassium phosphate and sodium phosphate. FDA said it will temporarily allow Fresenius Kabi USA to import trace elements and phosphate injection from its Norway plant so the drugs can reach Americans in need. Hospitals use the drugs to treat premature infants, cancer patients and others who are unable to eat or drink by mouth. FDA encourages hospitals to order only what they need now, since additional supplies are expected over the coming weeks. A large maker of the drugs (American Regent/Luitpold) temporarily shut down last year, prompting the shortages. FDA said it is working with the company to prioritize the most critical drugs as it restarts production. Other makers of TPN components, including Hospira Inc., also are working to increase supplies, the agency said.
Agencies issue final rule on wellness programs for group health plans   05/29/2013
The departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury today issued a final rule for employer-based wellness programs. Among other provisions, the rule outlines standards for non-discriminatory “health-contingent wellness programs,” which generally reward individuals who meet a specific standard related to their health. The rule also increases the maximum reward that may be offered under appropriately designed wellness programs, including outcome-based programs. The regulation takes effect 60 days after publication in the June 3 Federal Register, and applies to group health plans for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014.
Task force proposes screening for gestational diabetes   05/29/2013
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force yesterday proposed screening for gestational diabetes after 24 weeks of pregnancy in all women without symptoms of the condition. About 7% of women develop diabetes during pregnancy, which usually resolves after birth but can put expectant mothers and their babies at risk for health problems. The panel assigned a "B" grade to the proposed recommendation, which means all copays and deductibles for the screenings would be waived under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The task force will accept comments on the recommendation through June 24.
First in series of CMS calls on EHR incentive programs tomorrow   05/29/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services tomorrow will hold the first in a series of six National Provider Calls on various aspects of the Medicare and Medicare electronic health record incentive programs. To register for tomorrow’s call, on Stage 1 meaningful use for physicians and other eligible professionals, click here. Topics for future calls will address both physicians and hospitals, and include certification, clinical quality measures, Stage 2 meaningful use, hardship exceptions and payment adjustments. For more information and to receive notice of upcoming calls, click here.