CMS issues proposed outpatient, PFS and home health rules    07/06/2012
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today issued calendar year 2013 proposed rules for the outpatient prospective payment system and ambulatory surgical centers, physician fee schedule and home health PPS. The OPPS/ASC rule would increase hospital outpatient payment rates by 2.1%, based on the projected inpatient market basket increase of 3.0% minus a proposed multifactor productivity adjustment of 0.8 percentage points and a 0.1 percentage point adjustment required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The rule also extends through 2013 the direct supervision enforcement delay for critical access hospitals and small rural hospitals, and would pay for drugs and biologicals that do not have pass-through status at the statutory default of average sales price plus 6%. Without congressional action, the PFS rule would reduce Medicare physician payments by an estimated 27% on Jan. 1. Under the rule, CMS proposes a separate payment for primary care practitioners to assist in transitioning beneficiaries from the hospital back into the community. The home health rule provides a net increase of 0.1% ($20 million) in Medicare payments for home health services over CY 2012 levels. The increase reflects a 2.5% market basket update which, in addition to other adjustments, is offset by mandatory cuts under the ACA and a 1.32% coding offset, which is part of a multi-year offset. Comments are due Sept 4 for the OPPS/ACS and home health proposed rules, and in 60 days for the physician fee schedule proposed rule. The AHA will send members a Special Bulletin with highlights on the rules' key provisions on Monday followed by detailed Regulatory Advisories in the next several weeks.
Report examines resource allocation during a mass casualty event   07/06/2012
A new report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reviews evidence-based strategies to help health care providers and policymakers optimize the allocation of scarce resources during mass casualty events. Among other questions, the report looks at how to engage providers in developing and implementing available strategies and the public's key perceptions and concerns regarding their implementation. "While it remains unclear which of the many options available to policymakers and providers will be most effective, ongoing efforts to develop a focused, well-organized program of applied research should help to identify the optimal methods, techniques and technologies to strengthen our nation's capacity to respond to MCEs," the report concludes. Prepared by the Southern California Evidence-based Practice Center, the report builds on the work of the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Guidance for Establishing Standards of Care for Use in Disaster Situations.
Study: MRSA infections down among Tricare patients   07/06/2012
MRSA infection rates declined among Tricare inpatients and outpatients between 2005 and 2010, according to a study in the July 4 Journal of the American Medical Association. The study looks at methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections among patients in the Department of Defense health care program. "These observations, taken together with results from others showing decreases in the rates of healthcare-associated infections from MRSA, suggest that broad shifts in the epidemiology of S aureus infections may be occurring," the authors conclude. "Additional studies are needed to assess whether these trends will continue, which prevention methods are most effective and to what degree other factors may be contributing."  
Replay of FDA teleconference on sterilizer product recall available   07/06/2012
The Food and Drug Administration yesterday held an informational teleconference on the voluntary recall of a product used by hospitals and surgical centers to monitor the effectiveness of certain sterilization systems. A replay of the call will be available until Aug. 5 by dialing (866) 428-3805. On Tuesday, Advanced Sterilization Products voluntary recalled its Sterrad Cyclesure 24 Biological Indicator after an FDA review showed that the product cannot effectively monitor the sterilization process throughout its stated 15-month shelf life. FDA recommends that hospitals and other health care facilities determine the new expiration date by subtracting nine months from the expiration date printed on the product's packaging; manually re-label non-expired product cases with the new expiration date; return outdated product as instructed in the ASP recall alert; and use an appropriate alternative sterilizer if available. In an update today, FDA confirmed that only lot numbers listed in the ASP recall alert are affected by the recall. For more information, see the FDA notice.
Hospital employment climbs by 3,700 in June   07/06/2012
Employment at the nation's hospitals increased 0.08% in June to a seasonally adjusted 4,815,800 people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. That's 3,700 more people than in May and 95,400 more than a year ago. Without the seasonal adjustment, which removes the effect of fluctuations due to seasonal events, hospitals employed 4,825,300 people in June - 22,300 more than in May and 94,700 more than a year ago. The nation's overall unemployment rate was unchanged in June at 8.2%.