Congress urged to reject cuts that would hurt patients' access to care    09/11/2012
More than 150 hospital leaders gathered today on Capitol Hill, urging Congress to reject arbitrary funding cuts that hurt hospital patients and support alternatives that offer real savings and efficiencies. Participating in the AHA Advocacy Day in person and via webcast, hospital leaders received a briefing from AHA on the latest policy developments and hospital programs at risk in the looming federal budget debate. Hospital leaders then took their message directly to lawmakers, explaining their payment and other challenges as well as the many ways their organizations are improving performance and care for patients. They also urged lawmakers to extend expiring Medicare payment provisions that are critical to hospitals' ability to care for patients. "Lawmakers need to be our partners in making sure the care will be there for the people we both serve," said AHA Board Chair Teri Fontenot, president and CEO of Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, LA, who hosted the event.
Bill to protect access to laboratory services advances in House   09/11/2012
The House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee today voted to approve the Taking Essential Steps for Testing Act (H.R. 6118/S. 3391), AHA-supported legislation that gives the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services more discretion in enforcing the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments to preserve patient access to laboratory services. The TEST Act would give CMS discretion so that hospital and other laboratories would not have their CLIA certificates revoked for the unintentional referral of proficiency testing samples to another laboratory, or for referrals that occur without the intent to subvert the rules. The measure next goes to the full committee for consideration.
Survey: Growth in employer-sponsored premiums slows    09/11/2012
Average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased 4% for family coverage and 3% for individual coverage in 2012, according to a survey released today by Kaiser Family Foundation and the AHA's Health Research & Educational Trust. Workers contributed an average 18% toward individual coverage and 28% toward family coverage, unchanged from 2011. "Premium growth is at historic lows, which greatly benefits workers," said HRET President Maulik Joshi, AHA senior vice president for research. "Continuing to ensure that Americans have coverage options that are affordable is vitally important for our nation's health." The annual survey of more than 2,000 employers estimates that 2.9 million young adults - about 600,000 more than last year - are covered under a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision that covers dependents up to age 26. An estimated 48% of workers with employer coverage are in "grandfathered" plans, which are exempt from certain ACA requirements. That's down from 56% last year.
HHS: ACA rate review, MLR rules save consumers $2.1 billion   09/11/2012
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's rate review and Medical Loss Ratio rules have saved consumers an estimated $2.1 billion on health insurance premiums to date, according to a report released today by the Department of Health and Human Services. The ACA last year began requiring health plans to provide rebates to enrollees if their MLR, the percentage of premiums spent on clinical services and health care quality improvement activities, is less than 85% for large group health plan markets or 80% for small group and individual markets. The law also established a process for reviewing rate increases of 10% or more in the individual and small group markets. Insurers can either reduce their rate hikes or post a justification on their website within 10 days of the rate review determination.
CDC extends World Trade Center Health Program to certain cancers   09/11/2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday issued a final rule adding certain types of cancer to the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical monitoring and treatment to eligible firefighters, law enforcement officers, and rescue and recovery workers who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and to eligible survivors. The program was established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. The rule takes effect 30 days after publication in tomorrow's Federal Register.