AHA shares priorities and concerns with lame-duck Congress   12/04/2012
The AHA today sent U.S. representatives and senators a letter highlighting its priorities and concerns as Congress works on end-of-the-year priorities and fiscal challenges facing the nation. AHA concerns include proposals to reduce payments for evaluation and management services provided in hospital outpatient departments, and reductions under consideration by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission that would broaden this concept to additional, as yet unspecified services. Other concerns include proposals for additional across-the-board cuts to Medicare inpatient hospital rates through the use of retrospective coding adjustments for fiscal year 2010; for reductions in payments to hospitals for assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries (bad debt); and for reductions to Medicaid assessments. The letter also advocates for the extension of critical Medicare provisions for small or rural hospitals, and urges Congress to ensure that Medicare is included in any delay of the Budget Control Act sequester. "Hospitals' ability to maintain the kind of access to care their patients and communities expect is threatened by repeated ratcheting of payments for Medicare and Medicaid hospital services," the letter notes. "Additional cuts to Medicare and Medicaid funding for hospital services would mean longer wait times for care; fewer doctors, nurses and other caregivers; and less patient access to the latest treatments and technology."
AHA urges MedPAC to detail site-neutral payment proposal, impact   12/04/2012
The AHA yesterday urged the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to refrain from proposing an expansion of its "site neutral" payment policy for hospital outpatient departments until a thorough public analysis and debate of the proposal's impact on hospitals has occurred. MedPAC in March recommended cutting payment for 10 evaluation and management services, and is considering expanding the policy to an additional 71 payment categories. "Commissioners and those affected by the policy do not know which services would have payments cut, and consequently cannot fully understand the impact such a reduction would have on access to services," AHA said in a letter to the commission, which is scheduled to meet Dec. 6 and 7. Overall, MedPAC analysis shows "that the cuts to these services would decrease Medicare outpatient patients by 2.8%, or $1 billion per year," the letter notes. "When combined with the E/M cuts already recommended by the commission, the site neutral payment policies would impose deep cuts of $2 billion per year on routine outpatient services that are integral to the service mission of hospitals. Together, they would reduce Medicare outpatient payments by 5.5%, and reduce hospitals' Medicare outpatient margins from a negative 9.6% in 2010 to a negative 16%, all else being equal."
HRET honored for 'commitment to excellence'   12/04/2012
The Health Research & Educational Trust will receive the 2012 Bronze Award for Commitment to Excellence from Illinois Performance Excellence for its efforts to adopt continuous improvement principles that follow the Malcolm Baldrige National Criteria for Performance Excellence. "I couldn't be more proud of our staff, and today's announcement reflects the incredible work they are doing," said Maulik Joshi, HRET president and senior vice president of the AHA. "A quality journey is never done, but this acts as a marker for where we will go as we fulfill our mission to transform health care through research and education." HRET will receive the honor at a March 22 ceremony in Naperville. Applicants for the award included Illinois business, education, government, health care and not-for-profit organizations.