Hospital leaders urge lawmakers to protect patient care   10/29/2013
More than 100 hospital and health system leaders gathered today on Capitol Hill to deliver a strong, unified message to lawmakers preparing for the ongoing federal budget debate: No more cuts to hospital funding – protect patient care. Participants in the AHA Advocacy Day urged their congressional representatives to reject arbitrary cuts to Medicare and Medicaid payments for hospital services; provide relief from Disproportionate Share Hospital payment cuts, recovery audit contractors, onerous outpatient therapy requirements, and the two-midnight rule; and renew expiring Medicare provisions that help many small and rural hospitals protect patients’ access to care. To help convey their message and concerns to lawmakers, hospital leaders received AHA infographics on site-neutral payment policies, teaching hospitals and critical access hospitals and were briefed by AHA staff in person and via live webcast.
NIST seeks comments on preliminary cybersecurity framework   10/29/2013
The National Institute of Standards and Technology today released for comment through Dec. 13 a preliminary framework for reducing cybersecurity risks to critical infrastructure. The health sector, including hospitals, has been named by the federal government as critical infrastructure. Developed in response to an executive order issued by the president in February, the framework will consist of standards, methodologies, procedures and processes that align policy, business and technological approaches to address cyber risks. Adherence to the framework will be mandatory for the federal government, but voluntary for the private sector. “While the focus is on the nation’s critical infrastructure, the preliminary framework was developed in a manner to promote wide adoption of practices to increase cybersecurity across all sectors and industry types,” NIST said. AHA today hosted the first in a series of members-only webinars on cybersecurity issues for hospitals. Presenter Andy Ozment, senior director of cybersecurity for the White House national security staff, outlined the growing cybersecurity risks in health care, and said that "cybersecurity is a CEO and board-level issue that is bigger than HIPAA." The AHA encourages hospitals to review the preliminary framework, as well as the cybersecurity resources newly available at www.aha.org/cybersecurity.
AHA comments on proposed AHRQ ED discharge survey    10/29/2013
AHA yesterday urged the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to use a proposed pilot test of an emergency department discharge tool (EDT) to identify ways of minimizing the tool’s data collection burden to hospitals and patients. The EDT uses patient surveys complimented by medical record review to collect information on patients deemed to have the highest risk of frequent ED use. “While we support AHRQ’s proposed pilot test of the EDT, we also strongly urge the agency to use the pilot to address issues that may hinder the wider implementation of the tool in the future,” wrote Nancy Foster, AHA vice president of quality and patient safety policy. “Specifically, the agency should minimize the data collection burden of the EDT to hospitals and patients by coordinating EDT patient surveys with the existing Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys, and by limiting the number of patient survey questions in the tool. Additionally, AHRQ must ensure that the tool can collect information on a wide range of patients, such as non-English speakers, and patients lacking home addresses.”
CMS testifies at hearing on federal health insurance exchange   10/29/2013
The House Ways and Means Committee today held a hearing on the federal health insurance exchange launched Oct. 1 at www.healthcare.gov. “The Affordable Care Act has already provided new benefits and protections to Americans with health insurance, and we are committed to improving the experience for consumers using HealthCare.gov so that Americans can easily access the quality, affordable health coverage they need,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified. “By enlisting additional technical help, aggressively monitoring errors, testing to prevent new issues from cropping up, and regularly deploying fixes to the site, we are working to ensure consumers’ interaction with HealthCare.gov is a positive one, and that the Affordable Care Act fully delivers on its promise.” She said the administration expects to make additional site enrollment metrics available in mid-November. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to testify tomorrow at a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on the issue.
CMS announces Medicare premiums and deductibles for CY 2014   10/29/2013
The Medicare Part A deductible – for inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility and home health services – will increase by $32 in calendar year 2014, to $1,216, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced yesterday. The daily coinsurance amounts will be $304 for days 61-90 of hospitalization in a benefit period; $608 for lifetime reserve days; and $152 for days 21-100 of extended care services in a skilled nursing facility in a benefit period. The monthly Part A premium, paid by just 1% of beneficiaries who have fewer than 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment, will decline by $9 or $15 in CY 2014 (to $234 or $426, respectively), depending how long they had Medicare-covered employment. The base Part B monthly premium and annual deductible – for physician and hospital outpatient services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment and other items – will be unchanged for CY 2014 at $104.90 and $147, respectively. The base Part B premium is adjusted upward for higher income beneficiaries.
CMS finalizes rule for community mental health centers   10/29/2013
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday issued a final rule establishing Medicare conditions of participation for community mental health centers effective Oct. 29, 2014. CMHCs are recognized as Medicare providers for partial hospitalization services, a broad range of mental health services to improve or maintain the individual’s condition and prevent relapse or hospitalization. According to CMS, the rule delineates client rights and safety protections, and promotes continuity of care by emphasizing the need for communication with other service providers regarding client needs at the time of discharge or transfer. Under the new conditions of participation, all clients will have a treatment team and active treatment plan, and must be provided with an initial evaluation and comprehensive assessment. Among other requirements, CMHCs must establish a quality assessment and performance improvement program. CMS will survey the centers for compliance with health and safety requirements at least once every five years.
Colorado hospitals' Medicaid campaign receives communications award   10/29/2013
The Colorado Hospital Association last week won top prize in the public affairs category at the 2013 Gold Leaf Awards, a statewide health care communications competition, for its campaign to expand Medicaid eligibility to 160,000 low-income uninsured Coloradans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The campaign, produced with support from an AHA grant, featured animated videos showing the importance of the legislation to hospitals and families. It played a key role in the recent passage of state legislation expanding Medicaid eligibility to 133% of the federal poverty level.