CMS issues final rule for marketplace navigators   07/12/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today issued a final rule outlining the standards for navigators in federally-facilitated and state partnership insurance marketplaces (also known as exchanges). CMS said state-based marketplaces have the option of using this guidance or developing their own. The rule identifies training, conflict of interest standards, and standards for serving people with limited English proficiency or disabilities. Navigators are in-person assisters expected to provide unbiased information to consumers about health insurance, the marketplaces that will facilitate the purchase of qualified health plans in the individual and small group markets beginning in 2014, qualified health plans, and public programs including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CMS said that grant awards for navigators in states with federally-facilitated and state partnership marketplaces will be awarded on Aug. 15. AHA staff are reviewing the rule and will have more information for members in a Special Bulletin Monday.
HHS: States preparing to exchange health records after disasters   07/12/2013
Four Gulf states have partnered with six states in the East and Midwest to help patients and providers access critical health information when they are unable to visit their regular doctors or hospitals after a hurricane or other widespread disaster, the Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday. The partnership will allow health information exchange programs in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia to exchange health information among providers caring for patients displaced from their homes. Using a tool that allows for the secure exchange of health information over the Internet, all of the HIE programs in the initiative have established at least one interstate connection and are working with other states, HHS said. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also has published a guide that can help primary care clinicians connect their patients’ electronic health records to a local HIE hub and regional health information organizations, HHS said.
Security vulnerability in online application database leads to breach settlement   07/12/2013
WellPoint Inc. has agreed to pay $1.7 million to settle potential HIPAA violations resulting from security weaknesses in an online application database, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights announced yesterday. The weaknesses left the electronic protected health information of 612,402 people accessible to unauthorized individuals over the Internet. “This case sends an important message to HIPAA-covered entities to take caution when implementing changes to their information systems, especially when those changes involve updates to Web-based applications or portals that are used to provide access to consumers’ health data using the Internet,” HHS said. HHS said an investigation by its Office of Civil Rights indicated that WellPoint did not implement appropriate administrative and technical safeguards as required under the HIPAA security rule. It said the managed care company did not adequately implement policies and procedures for authorizing access to the on-line application database; perform an appropriate technical evaluation in response to a software upgrade to its information systems; or have technical safeguards.
CDC issues MERS preparedness resources   07/12/2013
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued checklists and a list of resources to help health care providers and facilities prepare for patients potentially infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. In June, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued an emergency determination of the potential for a public health emergency involving the coronavirus, which has infected 81 people in eight countries since April 2012, about half of whom have died. No cases have been reported in the U.S. to date. For the latest information on the virus, including case definitions and infection control guidance for health care providers, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers.
Health care price growth lowest in more than 20 years   07/12/2013
Health care prices grew 1.0% during the 12-month period that ended in May, according to the latest economic indicators from Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. That’s the lowest growth rate recorded since Altarum began its database in 1990. Hospital prices grew 1.8% over the period, the lowest rate in more than two years. Health care job growth slowed to an average 19,000 per month in the first six months of 2013, down from 25,000 per month in the first six months of 2012, with much of the slowdown seen in hospitals, Altarum said.