CMS to suppress certain quality measures in July update to Hospital Compare   07/09/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday announced it will not report five readmission measures and one complication measure on Hospital Compare in July as previously planned, citing an issue related to categorization of hospitals as better, worse and no different than the national average. The affected measures are heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, hip and knee replacement, and hospital-wide readmissions; and hip and knee replacement complications. The agency said the issue does not affect the point estimates used to calculate payment penalties in the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program. “We plan to recalculate the hospital categories for these six measures, deliver new hospital specific reports, and conduct a new 30-day preview period,” the agency said in a notice. “This will allow hospitals to review their updated results. Please note that not all hospitals may be affected by this issue and their categorization as ‘better than,’ ‘worse than,’ and ‘no different than’ the national average may not change in the updated report. We will inform hospitals of the new timeline for receiving the revised reports and the new preview period for posting on Hospital Compare in the next few weeks.”
Senate panel approves Labor-HHS appropriations bill   07/09/2013
A subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee today approved a fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill that provides $164.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments. According to a committee summary of the bill, the funding includes $30.96 billion for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health; $5.2 billion for program management at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; nearly $1.6 billion for community health centers; $943 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program; $640 million for activities to control health care fraud and abuse, more than double the FY 2013 level; $290 million for Community Transformation Grants for evidence-based public health interventions; $267 million for Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education, the same level as in FY 2013; $119 million in new funding to increase access to mental health services; and $20 million for a new Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative to strengthen dementia-capable services and supports. Details on the bill should be available after the full committee mark up, scheduled for Thursday.
Studies show progress in health IT, but challenges remain   07/09/2013
Forty-four percent of hospitals had at least a basic electronic health record system in 2012 – a nearly three-fold increase from 2010 – but large urban hospitals continued to outpace small and rural hospitals in EHR adoption rates, according to a study published online today in Health Affairs. The study, co-authored by some AHA staff, notes that 42% of hospitals met Stage 1 meaningful use criteria, but only 5% had the ability to meet Stage 2. “Although our findings demonstrate considerable progress on the whole, they suggest the need for a focus on hospitals still trailing behind, especially small and rural institutions,” the authors wrote. “This will be especially important as Stage 2 meaningful-use criteria become the rule, and positive incentives are replaced by penalties for noncompliance.” Health Affairs also published a study highlighting growth in the number of hospitals and ambulatory practices participating in health information exchanges, and concerns about long-term funding for those efforts; and a study showing an increase in office-based physicians using EHR systems.
Energy and Commerce holds hearing on Medicaid reform   07/09/2013
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health yesterday held the third in a series of hearings on Medicaid reform. Witnesses included Nina Owcharenko, director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation; Tarren Bragdon, president and CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability; and Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy. In May, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) issued a paper proposing specific state-originated Medicaid policy reforms.
CDC updates recommendations for swine flu virus   07/09/2013
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health Alert Network Friday issued updated information on activity, case definitions and surveillance recommendations for the H3N2v swine flu virus, for which the first human cases this year were reported last month. The virus was first detected in people in 2011 and was responsible for a multi-state outbreak last summer that resulted in 306 cases, including 16 hospitalizations and 1 fatality. Symptoms have generally been similar to those for seasonal flu. Most cases have been associated with exposure to pigs at agricultural fairs. CDC anticipates that state health departments will identify more H3N2v cases in 2013 as agricultural fair season continues.