Commonwealth Fund refocuses health policy agenda   09/12/2013
The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation supporting research on health system reform and performance, today announced a refocused grantmaking and research agenda. “To be more explicit, our work going forward will focus on four programmatic areas, some familiar and some new – health care coverage and access; health care delivery system reform; international health policy and practice innovations; and breakthrough health care innovations,” said David Blumenthal, M.D., president of the organization and former national coordinator for health information technology. “And those programs will be supported and complemented by a set of special initiatives: advancing Medicare, controlling health costs, tracking health system performance, and engaging federal and state health policymakers.”
AHA, ASHHRA comment on proposed IRS definition of full-time work status   09/12/2013
The Internal Revenue Service should treat “on-call” hours, until the employee is actually called in to work, as hours of service only if they are considered “hours worked” under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the AHA and American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration told the agency yesterday, commenting on a proposed rule defining the term “hour of service” for use in determining an employee’s full-time status. “For health care provider organizations, employees who are on-call are able to engage in other activities, unless and until they actually are called in to work,” wrote AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack and ASHHRA Executive Director Stephanie Drake. “Thus, including on-call hours as hours of service could result in an individual being treated as a full-time employee under Code Section 4980H, even though that employee is never expected to work a regular full-time schedule and, indeed, is never even actually called in to work.” ASHHRA is an AHA personal membership group for health care HR professionals.
HRSA awards grants for rural health IT workers, telehealth services   09/12/2013
The Health Resources and Services Administration yesterday awarded about $4.4 million in grants to expand the rural health information technology workforce. The grants will help rural organizations in 15 states train health care staff, unemployed workers, veterans and others to meet the technology needs of rural hospitals and clinics. Community colleges will work with health care providers to develop rural-focused HIT training programs, where students will gain EHR technology certification, apprenticeship training and the opportunity for employment in rural hospitals and clinics. “These funds are a very positive step for expanding the rural health IT workforce,” said Chantal Worzala, AHA director of policy. “Workforce shortages are one of the drivers of the digital divide in health IT adoption.” In addition, HRSA awarded $900,000 in grants to Maine, Montana, and Alaska for telehealth services to detect and treat post-traumatic stress disorders, traumatic brain injury and other injuries for rural veterans.
HHS: ACA rate review saved consumers $1.2 billion last year   09/12/2013
The rate review provision of the Patient Protection and affordable Care Act saved 6.8 million consumers with individual or small group health insurance an estimated $1.2 billion on health insurance premiums in 2012, according to a report released today by the Department of Health and Human Services. Implemented in September 2011, the federal rate review rules require health insurers in the individual and small group markets to submit for review and justify proposed premium increases of 10% or more. After rate review, the average rate request increase in 2012 dropped from 8.1% to 7.1% in the individual market and from 5.8% to 4.7% in the small group market, HHS said.