AHA urges Congress to focus, align quality measurement efforts   06/26/2013
In a statement submitted today to a Senate Finance Committee hearing on health care quality, AHA emphasized the need to align measures in various payment and public reporting programs using a consistent set of principles. Among other actions, AHA said the Health and Human Services secretary “should identify the top three to five priority areas for measurement each year and implement them aggressively across the department’s measurement programs,” noting that “the sheer volume of measures and disparate ranking and rating efforts has become overwhelming and distracting to quality improvement efforts.” Hearing witnesses and committee members expressed similar concerns. For example, Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) noted that Medicare uses 1,100 different measures in its quality reporting and payment programs. “While we need to recognize the differences among providers, do we really need more than a thousand measures?” he asked.
Agencies issue rule, notice on 'shared responsibility' payment exemption   06/26/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today issued a final rule for determining eligibility for exemption from the "shared responsibility" payment for not maintaining minimum essential coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Among other provisions, the rule clarifies that individuals who are ineligible for Medicaid solely based on a state’s decision not to implement the Medicaid expansion will qualify for a hardship exemption. The rule also exempts family members from the shared responsibility payment if the cost of covering the whole family through employer-sponsored coverage is deemed unaffordable, though determining eligibility for premium subsidies for workers is still based on the cost of individual coverage. The rule will be published in the July 1 Federal Register and takes effect Aug. 26. Also today, the Internal Revenue Service released two notices related to minimum essential coverage. One notice provides guidance on when, for purposes of the premium tax credit, individuals are treated as eligible for certain types of minimum essential coverage. For example, the guidance clarifies that individuals subject to a waiting period before enrolling in the Children’s Health Insurance Program may receive a premium tax credit during the waiting period. The other notice provides transition relief for people offered employer-sponsored coverage that follows a non-calendar plan year. Under the transition relief, employees and dependents eligible for such coverage are generally exempt from the individual shared responsibility provision until the new plan year begins in 2014.
House subcommittee holds hearing on Secret Ballot Protection Act   06/26/2013
The Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee of the House Education and Workforce Committee today held a hearing on the Secret Ballot Protection Act (H.R. 2346), AHA-supported legislation that would protect employees' right to a secret ballot in union organizing elections. The bill was reintroduced this month by Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN).