Senate leaders unveil budget deal; votes expected later today   10/16/2013
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today unveiled a bipartisan framework for ending the 16-day-old partial government shutdown and raising the nation’s debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is due to be breached at midnight tonight without congressional action. The bill would fund the government at current levels through Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7. It also would allow the Department of the Treasury to take measures to pay the nation’s creditors beyond that date if Congress has not acted. In addition, the bill would establish a budget process with a deadline for agreement of Dec. 13. The bill would require income verification for people seeking health insurance subsidies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It would not make any other changes to the health care law. Votes on the bill are expected later today.
Medicare EHR incentive program attestation system available   10/16/2013
Despite the partial government shutdown, hospitals participating in the Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program must still attest to meaningful use of EHRs by Nov. 30 to qualify for an incentive payment in fiscal year 2013. The attestation website continues to operate and educational resources are available at www.cms.gov. While the website’s Frequently Asked Questions feature is currently not working, a complete set of the CMS FAQs is available at www.aha.org. For hospitals reporting on their first year of EHR program participation, the performance period is 90 days; hospitals in their second or third year of participation report on a full fiscal year. FY 2013 ended on Sept. 30, so reporting periods cannot last beyond that date. 
Study: Restricting tax-exempt financing would hurt economy   10/16/2013
Federal proposals to end or limit the tax exemption on municipal bonds would cost nonprofit hospitals and other charitable organizations between $5.8 billion and $16.6 billion in additional interest annually, according to a study released this week by the National Association of Health and Educational Facilities Finance Authorities. The proposals to end or limit the exemption to 28% also would eliminate between 105,000 and 300,000 U.S. jobs and reduce gross domestic product by $8.3 billion to $23.6 billion annually, the study by economic consulting firm IHS estimates. "Thousands of hospitals, clinics, colleges, job centers and boys and girls clubs throughout the United States depend on tax exempt bonds to access capital,” said NAHEFFA President Pamela Lenane. “Often, particularly in smaller communities, these nonprofits are the largest employers in the area and engines for economic growth.” Among other proposals to reduce the federal deficit, the White House supports a 28% cap on the tax exemption while the Simpson-Bowles plan would eliminate the exemption. AHA has urged Congress to protect tax-exempt bond financing.
Study: 5.2 million uninsured adults in ACA coverage gap   10/16/2013
An estimated 5.2 million uninsured adults in states not covering low-income adults through Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act earn too little to qualify for the law’s premium tax credits, according to a study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Most of these people have very limited coverage options and are likely to remain uninsured,” the authors said. State-level estimates range from 17,290 in Alaska to more than 1 million in Texas. The estimates do not include undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants residing in the U.S. for less than five years, who are not eligible for Medicaid.
Reminder: AHA RACTrac survey deadline Friday   10/16/2013
The AHA has extended to Oct. 18 the deadline for hospitals to submit data to its quarterly RACTrac survey. The free web-based survey helps AHA gauge the impact of Medicare's Recovery Audit Contractor program on hospitals and advocate for needed changes. To register for the survey or for technical assistance, participants should contact RACTrac support at (888) 722-8712 or ractracsupport@providercs.com. For more on the survey, including the latest results, visit www.aha.org/ractrac.