Hospital leaders urge Congress to reject cuts, protect patient care   12/11/2012
More than 100 hospital leaders united today on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to protect hospital patients' access to care in any agreements aimed at averting the fiscal cliff. "Only you can bring home what it's going to mean in your community if Congress makes further cuts to hospital payments," AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock told participants in the AHA Advocacy Day, who were briefed in Washington and via webcast before sharing with lawmakers their priorities for the lame-duck session. These include extending certain Medicare provisions for small or rural hospitals; opposing Medicare payment cuts for hospital outpatient evaluation and management services and inpatient coding; and rejecting cuts to Medicaid state provider assessments and for low-income Medicare beneficiaries (bad debt).
Report examines trends increasing Medicare patient severity   12/11/2012
The Medicare population is becoming older and sicker, contributing to an increase in patient acuity and use of health care services, according to an AHA TrendWatch report released today. The report examines the dramatic rise in chronic disease, obesity and complex conditions such as end-stage renal disease in recent years; how patients are living longer due to advances in medicine and improved use of health care services; and the higher intensity care required of this older and sicker Medicare population. "Chronic disease is rising among Medicare patients," the report concludes. "That's why it's not surprising that the new patient classification system (MS-DRGs) - designed to account for complications and comorbidities and their associated resource use - shows a rise in patient case mix over time relative to the old system. Policy makers should carefully consider the trends of increasing acuity in the Medicare patient population as they seek changes to payment policy."
GAO urges changes to CMS program integrity efforts   12/11/2012
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should eliminate duplication and inefficiencies in the National Medicaid Audit Program, and strengthen its use of prepayment edits to prevent improper payments in the Medicare program, the Government Accountability Office said in separate reports released yesterday. GAO recommends that the Medicaid program merge review and audit contractor functions; use comprehensive reviews to better target audits; ensure reliable reporting of state program integrity recoveries; discontinue annual state assessments; and reevaluate and publish its return-on-investment methodology. The agency also recommends seven actions to strengthen CMS' use of prepayment edits to prevent improper payments in the Medicare program, with a focus on eliminating inconsistency across contractors and improving the use of automated edits. In comments to GAO, the Department of Health and Human Services said it generally agreed with the Medicare recommendations, and that CMS is revising its Medicaid integrity plan for fiscal years 2013 to 2017 to address duplication and inefficiencies. AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack said, "Hospitals suffer the burden and costs of duplicative and unnecessary reviews. These GAO reports reinforce hospitals' call for the agency to streamline and improve the work of its contractors."
Report recommends using electronic tools to engage patients in care   12/11/2012
The Bipartisan Policy Center yesterday released recommendations to build awareness of benefits of electronic tools for patient engagement among health care providers. Among other actions, the report recommends developing and disseminating standards, strategies and best practices to encourage their development and use. "Increasing the use of electronic tools, which are so prevalent in other aspects of American life, can significantly bolster patient engagement efforts across health care - resulting in lower costs, better outcomes, and improvements in the experience of care for patients and their families," said Janet Marchibroda, chair of the BPC Health IT Initiative.
New AHA trustee named   12/11/2012
The AHA Board of Trustees today named to a two-year vacancy on the board Bruce Bailey, president and CEO of Georgetown (SC) Hospital System. Bailey also was named chairman of AHA Regional Policy Board 4. He currently serves on the South Carolina Hospital Association Board of Directors, which he chaired from 2007 to 2008. "I'm honored to join the AHA Board at such an important time of challenge and change in health care," Bailey said. "Improving care and lowering costs are top priorities for our hospitals, patients and communities and I'm looking forward to addressing these issues on behalf of hospitals across the nation."