Poll: 7 in 10 voters oppose payment cuts to hospital services   12/05/2012
Seven in 10 voters oppose payment cuts to hospitals for services provided to Medicare and Medicaid patients, which they say would reduce access to health services for seniors, according to a poll by Public Opinion Strategies released today by the AHA. The poll shows that opposition to hospital payment cuts is strong across the political spectrum and in every age group. It also found that 71% of voters who say federal spending/the deficit is one of the most important problems facing the country reject cuts to hospitals. "Today's research reinforces our message to lawmakers:  Oppose hospital cuts; protect patient care," said AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack. In addition, the poll showed that a majority of voters would not choose to equalize payment rates for services provided in hospitals and physician offices, but would keep the current system, which pays hospitals higher rates because of their additional standby and teaching roles, sicker patient population and greater regulatory requirements. To view complete survey results and methodology, visit www.aha.org/content/12/12-methodology.pdf.
Senate Finance Committee urged to extend rural hospital provisions   12/05/2012
Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), along with 29 other Senators, yesterday urged the Senate Finance Committee to include in upcoming Medicare physician payment legislation an AHA-supported measure (S. 2620) that would extend by one year the Medicare Dependent Hospital and Low-Volume Hospital programs for rural hospitals. "Rural hospitals deliver health care to more than 60 million Americans and are the health and economic backbone for communities across our nation," the senators said in a letter to Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT). "These small, hardworking hospitals are often the sole source of comprehensive health care in their area, and are typically the largest employer, and economic engine, in the communities they serve. Yet, rural hospitals face a wide array of financial difficulties and operational challenges under the current Medicare Prospective Payment System. S. 2620 will ensure another year of support for these critical providers."
IRS issues final rule implementing medical device excise tax   12/05/2012
The Internal Revenue Service today released a final rule implementing a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision that imposes on certain medical devices made after 2012 an excise tax equal to 2.3% of their sales price. In comments submitted on the proposed rule, the AHA, Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management and others urged the IRS to explicitly prohibit device companies from passing the tax on to customers, and to clarify that hospitals and other health care providers who package and sterilize devices for use in surgery kits should not be treated as device manufacturers or importers under the rule. The final rule does not address AHA's recommendation that manufacturers certify that the tax has not been passed on to customers, but provides that current rules apply in determining the sales price of items. The final rule also states that a kit produced by a hospital or medical institution for its own use would not be a taxable medical device.
AHA testifies on proposed IRS rule for charitable hospitals   12/05/2012
At an Internal Revenue Service hearing today, an AHA witness highlighted four concerns with the agency's proposed rule implementing requirements for tax-exempt hospitals under Section 501(r) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. "The AHA and its members support Congress' goals in enacting Section 501(r), and hospitals are committed to meeting its requirements," said Andreanna Ksidakis, vice president, Office of the General Counsel at Sutter Health in Sacremento, CA. "The AHA's comment letter and my remarks reflect input from hospitals across the country of all sizes, types and locations, including a member advisory group I had the privilege of leading in 2011 that represented over 300 hospitals. The message we uniformly heard was: one size does not fit all; do not interrupt what's working; and focus on transparency and disclosure to the community." The AHA recommended that: the definition of "reasonable efforts" be changed to eliminate the overly prescriptive requirements; the effective date of the final regulations coincide with implementation of other key features of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; enforcement guidance be issued prior to finalizing the regulations; and the final rule accommodate the unique circumstances of government hospitals that are 501(c)(3) organizations.
AHA survey shows continued increase in RAC activity   12/05/2012
The number of Recovery Audit Contractor claim denials has increased by 23% relative to last quarter, according to the most recent results of the AHA's RACTrac survey. Medical necessity denials represent the top reason Medicare RACs have denied claims since first-quarter 2010, according to 2,307 hospitals responding to the survey; however, 61% of medical necessity denials were for claims where the RAC claimed treatment was provided in the wrong setting, not because the care was medically unnecessary. Survey respondents are currently appealing more than 40% of all RAC denials with a success rate of 74%. Hospital representatives are invited to attend a free Dec. 19 webinar on the survey results and how to participate in the free web-based survey, which helps hospitals monitor the impact of RACs and advocate for needed changes to the program. For more information, visit www.aha.org/RACTrac.