HHS launches website with resources to prevent tobacco use    11/16/2012
The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday launched BeTobaccoFree.gov, a website providing one-stop access to the latest tobacco-related information. The website includes federal and state laws and policies, health statistics and evidenced-based methods on how to quit. In related news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday reported that 30 of America's 50 largest cities now have laws prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas of private workplaces, restaurants and bars. Only one city had this type of law in 2000. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration yesterday released a report that showed cigarette smoking rates among youths aged 12-17 fell significantly from 2002-2010 in 41 states. 
HHS extends deadline for exchange decisions   11/16/2012
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday announced a delay until Dec. 14 in the deadline for states to declare whether they will build their own health insurance exchanges. Late last week, HHS extended to Dec. 14 the deadline for states to submit a blueprint for their state-based health insurance exchange but said states still had to make their intent known by Friday, Nov. 16. In addition, HHS extended to Feb. 15, 2013, the deadline for states to submit plans to the agency if they elect to participate in a partnership exchange with the federal government. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires states to establish exchanges to facilitate the purchase of qualified health plans in the individual and small group markets beginning in 2014. For states that do not create an exchange, HHS will create and operate a federally facilitated exchange.
CMS announces Medicare premiums and deductibles for 2013   11/16/2012
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today announced the 2013 Medicare premiums and deductibles for beneficiaries. Under Medicare Part A, which pays for inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, hospice and home health care services, the 2013 monthly premium will be $441 for those aged and disabled who are not otherwise eligible. The inpatient hospital deductible will be $1,184, while the daily coinsurance amounts for will be: $296 for days 61-90 of hospitalization in a benefit period; $592 for lifetime reserve days; and $148 for days 21-100 of extended care services in a skilled nursing facility in a benefit period. The standard base monthly Part B premium rate for enrollees will be $104.90 but is adjusted upward for higher income beneficiaries, while the Part B deductible for 2013 is $147.00.
AHA urges IRS to update rules hampering efforts to transform care   11/16/2012
The AHA yesterday urged the Internal Revenue Service to update private-use rules for health care facilities financed with tax-exempt bonds that are hampering arrangements between hospitals and physicians to reduce costs and improve the quality of care. In a letter to the agency, AHA called for changes to certain requirements under IRS Revenue Procedure 97-13 that present hurdles to arrangements such as accountable care organizations, bundled payments and other financial and quality incentives. The current rules "present a barrier to hospital and medical foundation use of particular arrangements that are encouraged by the ACA, such as accountable care organizations, bundled payments and other shared savings programs," AHA Senior Vice President and General Counsel Melinda Hatton wrote. "Furthermore, hospitals face significant penalties right now under the law's readmission reduction and value-based purchasing programs. Rev. Proc. 97-13 prevents the types of arrangements that can effectively align incentives among physicians, hospitals and other health care service providers to meet the goals of these two policies."
Reminder: Nov. 30 deadline to register and attest for 'meaningful use'   11/16/2012
Hospitals that seek to receive a Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program payment for fiscal year 2012 have until Nov. 30 to complete their online registration and attestation through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' website. To receive an incentive payment, a hospital must use certified EHR technology, meet the meaningful use criteria and submit the required quality measurement data generated by certified EHR technology to CMS. If a hospital is attesting to meaningful use for the first time, it must report on a continuous 90-day period that ended on or before Sept. 30. If a hospital is attesting to meaningful use for the second time, the reporting period covers all of FY 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012). Given the complexities of the process, AHA encourages all hospitals to register now, and those attesting for FY 2012 to do so well in advance of the Nov. 30 deadline. Hospitals should check with their state Medicaid programs on requirements related to the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.
CDC: African-American women more likely to die from breast cancer   11/16/2012
African-American women have the highest death rates from breast cancer of all racial and ethnic groups and are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released this week. The report said the same percentage of African-American women and white women received breast cancer screenings, but black women reported delays in follow-up care and treatments. "Although we are making progress reducing deaths from breast cancer, we have much work to do to reduce preventable deaths, particularly among African-American women," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D. "Only when every woman  receives adequate screening, timely follow-up, and high-quality treatment, will the full benefit of breast cancer screening be achieved."