Health care employment, prices and spending low   11/15/2013
Health care added 15,000 jobs in October, down from the 24-month average of 21,000 but up from a loss of 2,500 in September, according to the latest economic indicators from Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. The September decline, resulting from a downward revision to August and September figures, was the first in over a decade. Hospitals added 2,200 jobs in October, also up from September but nearly half the 24-month average of 4,000. So far this year hospitals are averaging about 1,000 new jobs per month, down from 6,000 in the first 10 months of 2012, according to the center. Health care prices in September were 1% higher than a year ago, close to the historically low growth recorded in August. Year-over-year hospital prices held at 1.5% growth, the lowest rate since December 1998. National health spending was 4.0% higher than a year ago, close to the slow 3.9% rate observed for nearly five years.
President to nominate Boston physician as surgeon general   11/15/2013
President Obama yesterday announced he intends to nominate for U.S. surgeon general Vivek Hallegere Murthy, M.D., a hospitalist attending physician and instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School. Murthy also is co-founder and president of Doctors for America; a member of the surgeon general’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health; and co-founder and chairman of TrialNetworks. Regina Benjamin, M.D., stepped down as surgeon general in July after four years in the post.
ED visits involving PCP climb 400% over six years   11/15/2013
Hospital emergency department visits related to phencyclidine, an illegal hallucinogen known as PCP or “angel dust,” increased more than 400% between 2005 and 2011, to 75,538, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In 2011, more than two-thirds of these visits were by males and nearly half were by patients aged 25-34. PCP first emerged in the late 1960s and is most often smoked with marijuana or tobacco. Known to cause hallucinations similar to Ecstasy and LSD, the drug also can cause violent and suicidal behavior. Severe symptoms of use include irregular breathing, seizures and coma. “This report is a wake-up call that this dangerous drug may be making a comeback in communities throughout the nation,” said Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. The report is based on findings from the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a public health surveillance system. 
OIG recommends increased monitoring of hospital outlier payments   11/15/2013
Some hospitals received a higher proportion of Medicare inpatient prospective payment system reimbursements from outlier payments than others during calendar years 2008-2011, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. Specifically, outlier payments to 158 hospitals averaged 12.8% of their Medicare IPPS reimbursements, compared to an average of 2.2% for all other hospitals. “In some cases, high charges could be the result of high costs because hospitals attract a disproportionate share of exceptionally costly patients or apply costly technologies and treatments,” OIG said. “Still, the routine receipt of outlier payments for certain MS-DRGs [Medical Severity Diagnostic Related Groups] at high-outlier hospitals raises concerns about why charges for similar patient-care cases vary substantially across hospitals.” The report recommends that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services instruct its contractors to increase monitoring of outlier payments; include information about the distribution of outlier payments with other publicly reported hospital data; and examine whether MS-DRGs associated with high rates of outlier payments warrant coding changes or other adjustments. In the report, CMS agreed with the recommendations. Commenting on the report, AHA said, “Medicare outlier payments are necessary to protect hospitals from significant financial losses resulting from patient-care cases that are extraordinarily costly. We appreciate the OIG’s efforts on this issue and believe that CMS has and continues to address the recommendations made by the OIG.”
Tool tracks health insurance enrollment by marketplaces   11/15/2013
A new Web tool from the Kaiser Family Foundation tracks enrollment reports for health insurance marketplaces in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The tool currently reflects activity through Nov. 2 for the 36 states relying on the federally facilitated marketplace, as well as more recent data for some of the other states.
Reminder: AHA members-only webinar on Medicaid presumptive eligibility   11/15/2013
Tune in Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time for an AHA members-only webinar on hospital-based Medicaid presumptive eligibility and enrollment. Medicaid officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will present the latest information on presumptive eligibility determination, a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision that allows hospitals to temporarily enroll patients in Medicaid coverage at the point of service. To register for the 60-minute webinar, click here.