Senate committee approves Labor-HHS appropriations bill   07/11/2013
The Senate Appropriations Committee today voted 16-14 along party lines to approve 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, and $943 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. The bill also would provide $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; and $267 million for Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education, the same level as in FY 2013. Other provisions include $251 million for nursing workforce development programs; $119 million in new funding to increase access to mental health services; about $41 million for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants; and $20 million for a new Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative to strengthen dementia-capable services and supports.
AHA, BCBSA tell Congress they support current ICD-10 timeline   07/11/2013
The AHA and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association yesterday told Congress they oppose any action that seeks to further delay the October 2014 deadline for transitioning to the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, Clinical Modifications (ICD-10-CM) for all health care providers, and the ICD-10 Procedure Coding System for hospital reporting of inpatient procedures. “The adoption of ICD-10 is seen as an integral part of the [electronic health record] and will provide solid and detailed information to guide the innovations taking place in the delivery of health care services, such as patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations,” the groups told House and Senate members. “…Any delay in implementation threatens to increase costs, as investments already made will not be fully leveraged and may need to be duplicated.” More than 94% of hospitals recently surveyed by the AHA were fairly confident that they would meet the implementation date, but noted meaningful use of EHRs as a competing priority. The health plans surveyed by BCBSA also expect to meet the deadline, the letter notes.
Report: Many state marketplaces will exceed federal requirements   07/11/2013
Many state-run health insurance marketplaces are poised by 2014 to exceed federal quality-reporting requirements, offer small-business employees a choice of health plans and promote a “one-stop shop” for consumers to enroll in coverage, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. The report examines structural, operational and policy decisions by 17 states and the District of Columbia that chose to establish a state-based health insurance exchange for 2014. Despite federal delays in quality requirements until 2016, nine states plan to display quality data on the exchange in 2014 and 10 states intend to develop quality rating systems ahead of federal guidance. Nearly all Small Business Health Options (SHOP) exchanges are expected to offer “employee choice" options that give employees a choice of more than one plan in 2014, despite a delay in federal requirements. To help exchanges serve as “one stop shops’ for consumers, all but three states are developing information technology systems that house and execute the eligibility determination rules for exchange coverage, federal premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2014.
AHRQ guide offers patient/family engagement strategies   07/11/2013
A new guide from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers four proven strategies for engaging patients and families for better care through better communications. Patient satisfaction scores improved at all three hospitals that field-tested the guide, while hospital staff reported improved time management and more positive views of patient- and family-centered care. AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust affiliate will share the guide with hospitals through the AHA Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence platform and its Hospital Engagement Network. A report released by the AHA Committee on Research in January offers a framework for engaging health care consumers to achieve the "triple aim" of improving population health and the individual care experience while reducing or controlling per capita health care costs. Later this month, HRET will release “A Leadership Resource for Patient and Family Engagement Strategies.”
Study: Childhood vaccination reducing pneumonia hospitalizations   07/11/2013
The introduction of the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine into the schedule of immunizations routinely received by children in 2000 has “substantially reduced” pneumonia-related hospitalizations of both children and unvaccinated adults, according to a study in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine compared average annual rates of pneumonia-related hospitalizations from 1997 to 1999 to rates from 2007 to 2009 using data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. They found that the annual rate of hospitalization for pneumonia among children under the age of two declined by 555.1 per 100,000 children, which represents 47,000 fewer cases than expected based on the pre-vaccine rates. Reductions also were seen in the unvaccinated adult population. Overall, the researchers estimate an age-adjusted annual reduction of 54.8 per 100,000 people, or 168,000 fewer hospitalizations annually. “The reduction in hospitalizations for pneumonia among unvaccinated persons is perhaps more remarkable than the decline among young children, who were targeted for the vaccine,” the authors state. “Indeed, older adults accounted for more than half the decline in overall hospitalizations for pneumonia.”
Group reports on hospitals' equal treatment policies   07/11/2013
U.S. hospitals and clinics are increasingly committed to equality for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients, according to the 2013 Healthcare Equality Index survey, released today by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. A record 718 health care facilities, including 121 veterans’ medical centers, participated in the survey. About 93% of respondents include sexual orientation in their patient non-discrimination policies, while 87% include gender identity in those policies. About 90% of respondents explicitly grant equal visitation rights to same-sex couples and same-sex parents, and 85% include gender identity in their employment non-discrimination policies. The voluntary survey rates health care facilities in four areas: patient non-discrimination policies, visitation policies, employment non-discrimination policies, and training in LGBT patient-centered care. Responses can serve as a tool to help hospitals evaluate their compliance with Joint Commission hospital standards addressing non-discrimination and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requirements related to patient visitation rights.