IPPS Rule Give Big Boost to Hospitals in Two States

Last week’s final FY2012 IPPS rule from CMS has many state hospital associations fuming while at least two state groups have reason to grin.  At issue is a relatively obscure section of the Affordable Care Act that made adjustments to the Medicare wage index formula that resulted in Massachusettes hospitals getting an additional $275 million in reimbursements and New Jersey receiving about $54 million.  Most other states lost since the wage index formula is budget neutral.  Click here to get the story.

Hospitalists Have Higher Re-Admit Rates

A new study suggest that hospitalists are adding to the cost of Medicare in large part because their patients have a higher rate of readmissions.  Click here to read more.

Budget Deal Could Cut Affordable Care Act

How will last week’s budget deficit deal impact health care reform?  It’s being analyzed and debated across Washington these days.  There are a number of Affordable Care Act provisions that appear likely to be impacted if Congress is unable to reach another deal by the end of the year (as many suspect.)  Click here to read one new analysis.  Click here to read another than identifies 15 difference ACA provisions that could be changed under the across-the-board cuts.

No Increase for Medicare Drug Premiums

Medicare average prescription drug premiums will not increase in 2012. The announcement last week from HHS comes as more people with Medicare are receiving discounts on prescription drug costs and no-cost preventive services. New data indicates that 17 million people with Medicare have received free preventive services this year while 900,000 Medicare beneficiaries who hit the prescription drug donut hole have received a 50 percent discount on their prescription drugs.  Click here for a state-by-state look at seniors receiving free services.

Pharmacies Fight Big Merger

The possible merger between Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions is getting some hefty pushback from pharmacies.  Two groups representing pharmacies sent a letter last week to the FTC opposing the merger.  Click here to read the letter.

Grassley Wants Enforcement of Doc Conflict Rules

Senate health care watchdog Charles Grassley (R-IA) is urging the Obama Administration not to back off on its requirements to enforce conflict of interest rules between physcians and drug, device and biologic industries.  Grassley says he’s hearing there may be an effort to weaken those rules.  Read his letter to OMB here.

EHR, Meaningful Use Update

About $400 million has been issued to about 77,000 EHR providers under the federal government’s meaningful use system, according to CMS data in July.  To see more details on the progress of the program, click here.  CMS is hold another national conference call on the EHR program August 18.  Click here for details.

GAO Investigates States’ Insurance Rate Reviews

The GAO is out with a new report on states’ oversight of health insurance premium rates.  Some state surveys were detailed and some were very limited.  Click here to read GAO’s summary.

Childrens’ Health Plans Limited

17 states still don’t have kids-only health insurance options, according to a new report from the U.S. Senate HELP Committee.  Ranking member, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) urged the Administration to take immediate action to reverse the trend.  Click here for more.

CDC Critical of Hospital’s Breastfeeding Support

Breastfeeding protects against childhood obesity, yet less than 4 percent of U.S. hospitals provide the full range of support mothers need to be able to breastfeed.  This from the Centers for Disease Control last week.  Read more here.  Is another mandatory regulation in the works?

FDA to Lower User Fees for Devices

The FDA will drop user fees for medical device companies by about 7 percent across the board in 2012, the agency announced last week.  The annual user fee for medical device companies will be $2,029 in 2012, compared to $2,179 in 2011. Any company wishing to market a medical device in the United States must pay the fee, regardless of size.  Click here for more.

CMS:  New Compare Tools Released

CMS announced last week a new tool for patients and caregivers and other enhanced initiatives today to empower consumers to make informed choices about their health care, and to help improve the quality of care in hospitals, nursing homes, physician offices, and other health care settings. The steps announced include:


  • A Quality Care Finder to provide consumers with one online destination to access all of Medicare’s Compare tools — comparison information on hospitals, nursing homes and plans: www.Medicare.gov/QualityCareFinder.
  • An updated Hospital Compare website, which now includes data about how well hospitals protect outpatients from surgical infections and whether hospitals care for outpatients who are treated for  suspected heart attacks with proven therapies that reduce death:  www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov
  • An enhanced Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) program under which QIOs provide technical assistance and resources to health care providers across the country to assist them in changing how care is delivered in hospitals, nursing homes, physician offices, and across care settings.

HIV Incident Remains Relatively Unchanged: CDC

A new study based on data from the CDC says the incidence of HIV in the United States remained relatively stable between 2006 and 2009 with about 50,000 cases.  Click here to see the report.

Kid’s Psych Problems Worsen:  New Study

From 1996 to 2007, the rate of psychiatric hospital discharges rose by more than 80 percent for 5-13-year-olds and by 42 percent for older teens.  It is an alarming trend, according to a new study.  Click here.