Medicare trustees release annual report   05/31/2013
The Medicare Board of Trustees today estimated that the program's Hospital Insurance trust fund will remain solvent until 2026, two years later than projected last year, in part due to lower actual and projected spending for Part A services. “Hospitals are contributing to these trends, with hospital cost growth at its lowest rate in 10 years,” said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. “America’s hospitals will continue our efforts to decrease the cost of caring while providing the best quality health care for all patients.” The Supplementary Medical Insurance trust fund, which covers Medicare Part B physician and outpatient services and Part D prescription drugs, is projected to remain adequately financed because current law automatically provides financing each year to meet the next year's expected costs. “Such financing, however, would have to increase faster than the economy to cover expected expenditure growth under current law,” the report notes. The report calls for Congress and the executive branch to “work closely together with a sense of urgency to address the depletion of the HI trust fund and the projected growth in HI (Part A) and SMI (Parts B and D) expenditures.”
CMS issues final rule for Small Business Health Option Program   05/31/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today released a rule finalizing requirements for the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP), meaning eligible small employers can now evaluate participating plans and determine if they qualify for a tax credit to help fund the coverage. Starting in October, small employers will be able to choose from a range of SHOP coverage options for their employees beginning in January 2014. In 2014, the federally-facilitated SHOPs will allow employers to choose one plan from a range of plans to offer their employees, while other SHOPs will have the flexibility to decide whether employers can offer their employees a choice of plans during 2014. Beginning in 2015, all SHOPs will allow small businesses to let their employees choose coverage from a number of plans. The rule will be published in the June 4 Federal Register and takes effect July 1. Also today, CMS released the final applications employers and their employees will use to apply for the coverage. The paper applications are two and three pages, respectively, and the online application will allow applicants to answer only questions relevant to their situation.
GAO announces new MedPAC member   05/31/2013
The Government Accountability Office yesterday named to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission Jon Christianson, professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Christianson, whose term will expire in April 2016, is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Board on Health Care Services and recently served on the IOM Committee on Geographic Adjustment Factors in Medicare Payment. Also reappointed for three years were Scott Armstrong, president and CEO of Group Health Cooperative; Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics at the Harvard School of Public Health; Herb Kuhn, president and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association; Mary Naylor, director of the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing; and Cori Uccello, senior health fellow for the American Academy of Actuaries.
White House issues early estimates of insurance Marketplace options   05/31/2013
The White House yesterday issued early estimates of the number of health plans likely to be available in Health Insurance Marketplaces when enrollment begins in October. According to the memorandum, more than 120 issuers have applied to offer qualified health plans in the Marketplaces run by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 75% of those states, the administration expects at least one new insurance issuer to enter the individual market and thereby expand choice and competition among plans. The administration also expects multi-state plans to be offered in at least 31 states in 2014, with coverage expanding to all 50 states and the District of Columbia by 2017.
AHA members-only Town Hall webcast Tuesday   05/31/2013
Tune in for the next AHA members-only Town Hall Interactive webcast on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock, Senior Vice President of Federal Relations Tom Nickels and Senior Vice President of Policy Linda Fishman will discuss the latest legislative and regulatory activities in Washington. Hosted by AHA leaders, members-only Town Hall Interactive webcasts focus on advocacy and other important developments in the hospital and health care field. To participate in the 2013 webcasts, register here.  For more information, call (800) 424-4301.
CMS/ONC to offer webinar on advancing interoperability   05/31/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology will offer a June 6 webinar on “Advancing Interoperability through Meaningful Use.” For more information and to register, click here.