HHS releases proposed ACA-related insurance rules   11/20/2012
The Department of Health and Human Services today released three proposed rules and other guidance related to many of the insurance provisions contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The essential health benefits rule spells out the administration's proposed core set of mandatory covered health benefits, and provides guidance on benefits required by the ACA that are not typically found in current employer benefit plans, as well as a standard method for computing the actuarial value of each health plan for consumer comparison purposes. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also issued a letter to state Medicaid directors on the coordination of the essential health benefits rule and the Medicaid program. In addition, a health insurance market proposed rule would codify an ACA provision prohibiting insurers from discriminating against individuals because of a pre-existing or chronic condition, among other changes. A third rule, released with the departments of Labor and Treasury, focuses on implementing and expanding employer use of incentives under their wellness programs while protecting consumers from unfair underwriting practices that could reduce benefits based on health status. HHS also issued a notice recognizing the National Committee for Quality Assurance and URAC as accrediting entities for qualified health plan certification, as well as a proposed rule for the process to be used for applications by other accrediting bodies. The proposed rule also provides a timetable for accreditation of QHPs. HHS officials said additional guidance on the federally facilitated insurance exchange will be released soon.
Senate committee queries states about compounding pharmacies   11/20/2012
Leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee yesterday queried state boards of pharmacy about their oversight of compounding pharmacies as part of its investigation of a fungal meningitis outbreak associated with injectable epidural steroid medication recalled by the New England Compounding Center on Sept. 26. Among other questions, the letters ask the agencies to provide information by Dec. 7 on their requirements for compounding pharmacies and physicians, and any previous complaints or disciplinary actions against NECC in their state. "Today's letters will assist the committee as it determines what changes need to be made to ensure that compounded drugs are safe and available for patients and hospitals who need them," wrote Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY).
Task force recommends HIV screening for all Americans aged 15-65   11/20/2012
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force today issued a draft recommendation calling for clinicians to screen all people aged 15 to 65 for HIV infection, including pregnant women, as well as younger and older people at increased risk for infection. The panel assigned an "A" grade to the recommendation, which means all copays and deductibles for the screenings would be waived under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The independent panel said the recommendation is aimed at helping infected people begin treatment earlier to reduce their risk for AIDS and spreading the infection. It will accept comments on the draft recommendation through Dec. 17. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1.2 million U.S. residents are infected with HIV, up to one-quarter of whom do not know it.
Arizona CEO receives AHA Shirley Ann Munroe award   11/20/2012
The AHA today awarded its 2012 Shirley Ann Munroe Leadership Award to James Bleicher, M.D., president and CEO of Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood, AZ. The award recognizes small or rural hospital leaders who have improved health care delivery in their communities through innovative and progressive efforts. Under Bleicher's leadership, VVMC became involved in numerous efforts to collaborate with community physicians, school districts and a large academic center to share ideas and research and improve access for vulnerable, underserved groups. Three award finalists also were honored for their significant community service achievements: Bryan Slaba, CEO of Wagner (SD) Community Memorial Hospital - Avera; Harold Krueger Jr., CEO of Chadron (NE) Community Hospital & Healthcare Services; and Dennis Franks, CEO of Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute, KS. For more on the honorees, see the AHA news release.