AHA urges changes to proposed inpatient payment rule   06/20/2013
The AHA today urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to revise its proposed rule for the inpatient prospective payment system for fiscal year 2014 expressing concerns regarding its disproportionate share hospital and Hospital-acquired Condition Reduction Program proposals, as well as the proposed handling of electronic quality measure data collection within the Inpatient Quality Reporting program. AHA yesterday sent CMS a separate letter urging the agency to issue new instructions to its recovery audit and other contractors explaining how to review the medical necessity of Medicare Part A inpatient hospital stays, instead of finalizing its proposed “time-based presumption” policy. Proposed in the FY 2014 inpatient PPS rule issued in May, the policy would instruct Medicare medical review contractors to presume an inpatient hospital admission is reasonable and medically necessary if a beneficiary requires more than one Medicare utilization day, which the agency defines as an encounter crossing two midnights. The association encourages hospital leaders to submit their own comments to CMS by the June 25 deadline, using the AHA letters as models. 
Medicare trustees brief Congress on program's financial challenges   06/20/2013
The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee today held a hearing on the Medicare Board of Trustees’ 2013 report. Released last month, the report 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. Testifying at the hearing were Charles Blahous and Robert Reischauer, public trustees for the Medicare HI and Supplementary Medical Insurance trust funds. Reischauer said that despite the extended solvency projection and slower growth in per beneficiary spending in recent years, “the fundamental financial challenge facing the program and the imperative for further cost restraint and reform remain largely unchanged.” Blahous said that under current projections, “legislation will be needed to prevent a financing shortfall in Medicare HI and to address rising budgetary pressures arising from Medicare SMI. The sooner such legislation is enacted, the more gradual can be its effects and the greater the potential for long-term savings.”
HHS announces 2012 premium rebates, savings   06/20/2013
About 8.5 million Americans will receive premium rebates averaging $98 per family from health insurers who did not meet medical loss ratio requirements in 2012, according to a report released today by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most individual and small group health plans must spend at least 80% and most large group plans at least 85% of premiums on direct medical care or quality improvement efforts or rebate the difference to policyholders annually by Aug. 1. In addition to the rebates, HHS estimates that the 80/20 rule and other ACA policies saved another 77.8 million enrollees $3.4 billion on their premiums upfront in 2012.
HHS issues updated organ transplantation guidance   06/20/2013
The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday issued updated guidance for reducing unexpected disease transmission through organ transplantation. The Public Health Service guidance was last updated in 1994. Among other changes, the new guidance recommends that donors be screened for the hepatitis B and C viruses in addition to HIV, and the use of more sensitive laboratory testing for living and deceased organ donors. It also includes a revised set of risk factors for HIV and hepatitis infection, and recommends a robust informed consent discussion between the transplant candidate and clinician. “Putting these new recommendations into practice will allow doctors and patients to make better, more informed decisions when accepting organs for transplantation,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, M.D.
PCORI to award $17 million to study disparities in asthma burden, care   06/20/2013
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute seeks proposals for up to $17 million in funding for research to reduce disparities in asthma control among African-American and Hispanic/Latino populations. The announcement is the first in a series of planned funding opportunities on research to answer patients’ questions about health care options in specific, high-impact areas. “We heard from patients, health care professionals and other stakeholders that improving asthma care among racial and ethnic minority groups who are the worst affected is a high priority area of concern, and we responded,” said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, M.D. PCORI will host an informational webinar for potential applicants on July 9. Letters of intent to apply are due Aug.  1, and applications by Sept. 18.
NAPH announces new name   06/20/2013
The National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems has changed its name to America’s Essential Hospitals, the organization announced today. The name change was recently approved by the organization’s roughly 200 members. As part of the rebranding, the organization’s research entity also will be renamed the Essential Hospitals Institute. “Today we take an important step forward in our growth and that of our membership,” said President and CEO Bruce Siegel, M.D. “We and our members are united by a common purpose: to serve all people and all communities with essential services and the best care possible. This is what defines us and the hospitals and health systems we represent.”