House members urge CMS to delay 'two-midnights' policy   09/24/2013
More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives today urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to delay by six months its “two-midnight” policy regarding hospital inpatient admission and review criteria. Under the policy, scheduled to take effect Oct. 1 under the inpatient prospective payment system, CMS and Recovery Audit Contractors will generally consider hospital inpatient admissions spanning two midnights as reasonable and necessary for payment under Medicare Part A. “We are aware that CMS received comments from numerous organizations representing hospitals and beneficiaries in response to the new policy and we are hearing from our constituents as well,” the representatives said in a letter initiated by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA). “Based on this input, we believe that further modifications to the admission and medical review criteria are needed to ensure patients are not forced to spend more out of pocket for their care and that our hospitals are not unfairly subject to denied claims or made vulnerable to unnecessary RAC audits. We respectfully urge you to delay enforcement of the regulations that apply to the entire two-midnight requirement for six months and to revisit this policy contained in the FY 2014 IPPS rule.”
HHS urged to extend timeline for EHR Stage 2 requirements   09/24/2013
Seventeen U.S. senators today urged the Department of Health and Human Services to extend by one year the time hospitals and eligible professionals have to meet Stage 2 meaningful use requirements before incurring penalties under the Medicare Electronic Health Records Program. In a letter spearheaded by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the senators wrote, “If the goal is to improve care by achieving broad and meaningful utilization of EHRs, providing sufficient time to ensure a safe, orderly transition through Stage 2 is critical to having stakeholder buy-in, a necessary component of long-term success. We are not suggesting a delay of Stage 2 and the progress we have seen to date. Providers who are ready to transition to Stage 2 should do so and should receive incentive payments in 2014 and 2015 consistent with current policy. However, providers that are not yet ready to transition to Stage 2 should have a one-year extension before they must demonstrate Stage 2 meaningful use, consequently mitigating the threat of penalties while still abiding by the statutory deadlines.” The letter was supported by both the AHA and American Medical Association, and underscored the importance of working with stakeholders to ensure widespread adoption of EHRs is achieved. “We believe that for this program to ultimately be successful, heeding stakeholder feedback on the current progress to achieving interoperability is imperative,” the senators wrote.
Congress urged to extend expiring Medicare rural provisions   09/24/2013
AHA today urged Congress to extend five expiring Medicare provisions important to rural hospitals and their patients. These include the Medicare-dependent hospital program; enhanced low-volume adjustment for inpatient prospective payment system hospitals; ambulance add-on payments; outpatient therapy caps exception process; and outpatient hold-harmless provision for rural hospitals and Sole Community Hospitals. “Hospitals strive to provide their communities with quality care every day, and they face tough challenges to ensure patients continue to have timely access to essential services,” wrote AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack. “However, it is often difficult to plan for community and patient needs when there is uncertainty over whether a program will continue.… Your support for extending these programs and provisions is vital.” The AHA-supported Rural Hospital Access Act (S.842/H.R.1787), Rural Hospital Fairness Act (H.R.2578) and Medicare Ambulance Access Act (S.1405) would extend many of these provisions, the letter notes.
Senate hearing highlights efforts to prevent, reduce HAIs   09/24/2013
The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee today held a hearing on U.S. efforts to reduce healthcare-associated infections. Witnesses included Jonathan Perlin, M.D., president of clinical and physician services and chief medical officer for Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America, who discussed how a “learning health system,” defined by the Institute of Medicine as one committed to both the generation and use of scientific evidence, can help address infection prevention and patient safety challenges such as MRSA and sepsis. Perlin will serve as AHA chair elect in 2014. Specifically, he discussed how the REDUCE MRSA trial, conducted across 74 intensive care units at 43 HCA-affiliated hospitals, reduced all bloodstream infections, including those caused by MRSA, by 44%. Also testifying at the hearing were Patrick Conway, M.D., acting director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; Beth Bell, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases; Ciaran Staunton of The Rory Staunton Foundation; and Joe Kiani, founder of the Patient Safety Movement.
AHA: Hospitals contributing to slowdown in health care spending   09/24/2013
Lower spending for hospital care is contributing to historically slow growth in national health care spending this decade, according to an infographic released today by the AHA. “Health care spending growth through 2013 is expected to remain slow, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary projections,” the infographic notes. “This trend is evident across Medicare and Medicaid, and lower growth in hospital spending is playing a role. While some of the slowdown is likely due to the sluggish economy, researchers also believe structural changes in health care delivery are playing a role. New payment methodologies, delivery system transformation, and health care reform are all driving down cost growth in ways that may persist in the future.”
CMS to host call Thursday on 'two-midnight' policy   09/24/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will host a Sept. 26 Special Open Door Forum call on its “two-midnight” policy regarding hospital inpatient admission and review criteria, scheduled to take effect Oct. 1 under the inpatient prospective payment system. The conference call will provide an opportunity for hospitals and others to ask questions about the criteria. For instructions to access the call, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern Time, click here.