'Qualified health plans' sold on exchanges not 'federal health care programs'   10/30/2013
The Department of Health and Human Services today issued guidance concluding that it does not consider qualified health plans and other programs related to federal health exchanges, state health exchanges and certain other programs to be federal health care programs. “This conclusion was based upon a careful review of the definition of ‘federal health care program’ and an assessment of the various aspects of each program under Title I of the Affordable Care Act and consultation with the Department of Justice,” the agency said in a letter to Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA). Because the federal anti-kickback statute only applies to federal health care programs, it will not apply to qualified health plans and, as a result, will not be a barrier for hospitals or health systems that wish to subsidize premiums for health plans purchased on the exchanges for individuals in need of assistance. AHA members can find more about the issue in a recent AHA Legal Advisory.  
Joint Commission reports 77% increase in 'top performer' hospitals   10/30/2013
The Joint Commission today recognized 1,099 hospitals for outstanding performance on key quality indicators in 2012, up from 620 hospitals in 2011. The indicators, called accountability measures, incorporate evidence-based processes that are linked to improved outcomes. “More than half of Joint Commission-accredited hospitals have reached or have nearly reached ‘Top Performer’ distinction, showing that we are approaching a time in which consistent excellence in hospital performance on these important quality measures is the new normal,” said Joint Commission President and CEO Mark Chassin, M.D. “This means patients are getting better care thanks to the shared commitment by hospitals to using data and proven quality improvement methods to always do the right thing and improve quality and safety.”
Senate committee approves Children's Hospitals GME reauthorization bill   10/30/2013
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today approved the Children's Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act (S. 1557), legislation that would reauthorize the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program through fiscal year 2018. The program provides funding to freestanding children's hospitals for direct and indirect expenses associated with operating their medical residency programs. A House-passed version of the bill (H.R. 297) would reauthorize the program through FY 2017. The AHA supports reauthorization of the CHGME program. 
HHS working to fix Health Insurance Marketplace, Sebelius says   10/30/2013
The federal health insurance exchange at healthcare.gov can now process up to 17,000 account registrations per hour and users are getting fewer errors and time-out messages as they move through the application process, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the House Energy & Commerce Committee today. She said the department has a plan in place to address key outstanding issues with the website, which launched Oct. 1 to allow uninsured individuals and families to purchase health insurance coverage effective Jan. 1. “By the end of November, we’re committed that the vast majority of users will be able to review their options, shop for plans and enroll in coverage without the problems way too many have been experiencing,” Sebelius said.
Hospital prices rise 0.1% in September   10/30/2013
Overall hospital prices increased 0.1% in September, and were 1.5% higher than a year ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday. Prices for the subgroup of general medical and surgical hospitals increased 0.1%, and were 1.6% higher than in September 2012, according to the BLS' Producer Price Indices, which measure average changes in selling prices received by domestic producers for their output. For hospitals, this translates into actual or expected reimbursement for a sample of treatments or services. The PPI for hospitals measure changes in actual or expected reimbursement received for services across the full range of payer types. This includes the negotiated contract rate from the payer plus any portion expected to be paid by the patient.