HHS releases guidance on Medicaid expansion, exchanges   12/10/2012
States will not be eligible to receive federal matching funds unless they fully implement the Medicaid expansion to 133% of the federal poverty level, as called for under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services announced today. The new guidance includes answers to 39 frequently asked questions raised by governors, state legislators and others on the Medicaid expansion, health insurance exchanges, and other market reforms. HHS states that the ACA "does not provide for a phased-in or partial expansion. As such, we will not consider partial expansions for populations eligible for the 100% matching rate in 2014 through 2016." However, HHS will consider demonstration proposals from states that elect not to expand "to the extent that [the proposal] furthers the purposes of the program, subject to the regular federal matching rate." HHS also notes that it no longer supports the blended Medicaid FMAP proposed in the presidents' fiscal year 2013 budget. "The Supreme Court decision has made the higher matching rates available in the [ACA] for the new groups covered even more important to incentivize states to expand Medicaid coverage," HHS states. "The Administration is focused on implementing the [ACA] and providing assistance to states in their efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to these new groups."
HHS grants conditional approval to six state insurance exchanges   12/10/2012
The Department of Health and Human Services has granted conditional approval to six state plans to establish health insurance exchanges: Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon and Washington, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today. "We will make many more announcements like this in the weeks and months to come and expect that the majority of states will play an active role operating their Exchanges," Sebelius said. States that choose to run their own exchanges must submit a blueprint for their exchange to HHS by Dec. 14, and those opting for a partnership exchange must submit a blueprint by Feb. 15, 2013.
VA seeks comments on new non-VA provider networks   12/10/2012
The Department of Veterans Affairs encourages hospitals and other interested parties to submit comments regarding a new VA program that will allow non-VA facilities to provide medical-surgical care to VA patients through five regional provider networks, according to a notice issued Friday. The Patient-Centered Community Care program is modeled on Project HERO (Healthcare Effectiveness through Resource Optimization), a pilot program launched in 2008. Veterans would continue to go to a VA health clinic or medical facility for primary care needs, but could get follow-up specialty care at a hospital or other non-VA facility that participates in the network. The department plans to release information by January on how hospitals and others can apply to administer one of the networks.
AHA comments on article related to hospital-employed physicians   12/10/2012
In a letter today to the editor of the New York Times, the AHA commented on a Nov. 30 article in the newspaper related to hospital employment of physicians. "Better care coordination are not buzzwords for America's hospitals," wrote AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. "Delivering coordinated care reflects a journey that hospitals have been navigating for quite some time in an effort to improve quality for patients. Your article doesn't recognize the forces that are pushing hospitals and physicians to come together: expectations by employers, insurers and government at all levels for more coordinated, efficient health care. Meeting those expectations requires building a continuum of care to replace the fragmented system of health care. Physician practices are an essential part of that continuum. Such acquisitions are policed by two federal and numerous state antitrust authorities. Ultimately, patients receive significant benefits when caregivers work together to provide more coordinated, more efficient and higher quality care."
Health spending growth continues to decline   12/10/2012
National health spending grew by 3.5% between October 2011 and October 2012, down from 3.7% in September and the sixth consecutive month below 4%, according to the latest economic indicators from Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. Health care prices grew an average 2.1% over the 12-month period, the lowest reading since January 1999. The health care sector added 20,000 jobs in November, including 8,300 hospital jobs, the center notes.