AHA urges flexibility in implementing new tax-exempt rules   09/24/2012
Hospitals are committed to the goals of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's tax-exemption provisions, but the proposed rules for implementing the provisions are too prescriptive and prevent hospitals from using the most efficient and effective means to meet the requirements in their communities, the AHA today told the Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service. "Rather than prescribing uniformity, we urge you to allow hospitals flexibility for how they meet the requirements with full disclosure of the policies and procedures each hospital will use to carry out the law," wrote AHA Senior Vice President and General Counsel Melinda Hatton commenting on proposed regulations implementing Section 501(r) of the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, AHA said the regulations should take effect no earlier than Jan. 1, 2014 to allow time for hospitals to incorporate forthcoming changes due to the ACA's Medicaid expansion and implementation of health insurance exchanges into their financial assistance programs. AHA also requested "meaningful" enforcement guidance before the release of the final regulations, noting its absence in the proposed rule, and a public hearing on the impact of applying the regulations to government 501(c)(3) hospitals.
Senate sends continuing resolution to president   09/24/2012
The U.S. Senate voted 62-30 early Saturday to approve a continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 117) funding most federal programs at their current levels through March 27. The six-month measure, which now goes to the president for his signature, eliminates the threat of a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, as Congress has not yet approved all appropriations bills for next year. It also clears the way for lawmakers to tackle more difficult issues in the post-election "lame duck" session, such as the $109 billion in automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 2 under the Budget Control Act, including a 2% reduction in Medicare spending.
AHA files amicus brief in FTC challenge to Ohio hospital merger   09/24/2012
Hospitals' ability to compete depends on their ability to keep pace with three trends that are changing the health care landscape - reimbursement reductions and changes, electronic health records and limited access to capital, AHA said today in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is an appeal of a Federal Trade Commission decision to challenge a hospital acquisition in Ohio as anticompetitive. "[H]ospitals' ability to compete turns on their ability to keep pace with these trends, which requires significant capital investments and economies of scale," the brief states. "This Court should consider these 'proper indicators of future ability to compete' when determining whether, absent a merger, an acquired hospital can constitute a meaningful competitive force in this changing field." 
SAMHSA reports on alcohol, illicit drug use, treatment   09/24/2012
An estimated 19.3 million Americans aged 12 or older needed treatment for alcohol or illicit drug dependence or abuse in 2011, but did not receive it, according to findings from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Fewer than 5% of these people felt that they needed treatment, SAMHSA said. About 2.3 million people received treatment for alcohol or substance abuse at a specialty facility in 2011, including hospital inpatient care, about the same as in 2002. The number receiving treatment for nonmedical pain reliever use increased between 2002 and 2011, to 438,000 from 199,000. About 26.5% of Americans aged 12 or older were current tobacco users in 2011, down from 30.4% in 2002.