Congress urged to reject cuts that would hurt patients' access to care   09/17/2013
As Congress works to pass a continuing resolution for fiscal year 2014 and address the deficit, more than 150 hospital leaders gathered today on Capitol Hill to urge that lawmakers reject arbitrary funding cuts that hurt hospital patients. “We have had plenty of cuts,” AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock told hospital leaders participating in the AHA Advocacy Day event in person and via webcast. “We have certainly done more than our share to contribute to addressing these financial challenges, and it is time for Congress to identify other sources of revenue so that hospitals can be sure to be ready when needed.” Hospital leaders were briefed on key legislation, regulatory concerns and programs at risk for funding cuts in the looming federal budget debate. They also received resources to help convey their message and concerns to lawmakers, including an AHA infographic on the slowdown in health care spending, fueled in part by lower growth in hospital prices, and an infographic detailing how the Recovery Audit Contractor program burdens hospitals.
Hospital leaders brief Congress on problems with site-neutral payment   09/17/2013
At an AHA-sponsored briefing today on Capitol Hill, hospital leaders shared with congressional members and staff their deep concerns with proposals for Medicare to pay hospitals the same rates as physician offices, ambulatory surgical centers and others for certain services. In January 2012, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission recommended Congress reduce total payments for 10 hospital evaluation and management services to the level paid under the physician fee schedule, a policy that would reduce payments to hospital outpatient departments by $1 billion per year. The commission also is considering site-neutral payment proposals for other ambulatory payment classifications, including certain surgical and cardiac imaging services. “This proposal to look at changing the nature of the payment structure totally overlooks the costs built into emergency care,” said Michael Sack, CEO of Hallmark Health System in Medford, MA. Reginald Coopwood, M.D., CEO of the Regional Medical Center at Memphis (TN), said, “Our ability to continue to ensure that individuals have access to quality care at the right time, in the right setting would be considerably diminished with these cuts.”
Census: 15.4% of U.S. residents uninsured in 2012   09/17/2013
The proportion of U.S. residents lacking health insurance fell by 0.3 percentage point in 2012, to 15.4%, while the number of uninsured was unchanged at about 48 million, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. The proportion of people covered by private insurance and Medicaid were roughly unchanged, while the proportion covered by Medicare increased by 0.5 percentage point, to 15.7%. The proportion of uninsured children decreased by 0.5 percentage point, to 8.9%. Uninsured rates by household income ranged from 24.9% for those earning less than $25,000 a year to 7.9% for those earning $75,000 or more.
AHRQ report summarizes proposed pathways to quality through health IT   09/17/2013
A new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality summarizes perspectives on how to enhance quality measurement through health information technology, based on responses to the agency’s June 2012 Request for Information and focus group participants. “Four perspectives on the prioritization of activities to advance quality measurement enabled by health IT emerged from the various stakeholder engagement activities,” the report states. “The perspectives identified here are simplified for the purposes of discussion; there are many possible hybrids of these perspectives and a given stakeholder may express more than one perspective in different situations.” AHA submitted comments on the RFI and participated in AHRQ focus groups that contributed to the report.