Supercommittee Work Begins; Cuts Under Consideration Detailed

The supercommittee begins its work in earnest this week on finding at least $1.5 trillion in new cuts and/or revenues.  The Obama Administration may be looking for an additional 1/2 trillion dollars or more, to pay for the new jobs initiative.  A good portion of those dollars could come from health care.  There’s an ongoing debate in Washington as to whether the automatic 2 percent sequestration is better for health interests or the work of the supercommittee.  The sequestration only takes effect if congress is unable to pass legislation meeting its $1.5 trillion deficit reduction requirement.  Medicaid and Social Security are exempt from sequestration reductions.  Many health interests believe this is the lesser of two evils.

The AHA issued a report last week saying sequestration cuts in Medicare would result in a loss of 194,000 health care jobs.  The AHA and other health groups are pushing the supercommittee to increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67.  Health interests hope the supercommittee will produce legislation that would meet the deficit target without further significant health care cuts.

Possible Health Cuts Detailed

The supercommittee is taking a close look at a variety of payment changes and cuts.  Click here to review many of the policy options under consideration.  To review a spreadsheet summary of cuts, click here.

Hospital, Insurer Mergers Under Attack

Hospital and insurance company mergers were under attack last week in a House subcommittee hearing.  Chairman Wally Herger (R-CA) didn’t identify specific mergers, but several of the witnesses concluded that these mergers were driving up the cost of care.  Click here to review the accusations from one mostly-employer based organization.

$700 Million in Grants to Community Health Centers Announced

Community Health Centers got a boost from CMS last week with an announcement making $700 million available to existing centers for expansion projects.  This announcement has two funding opportunities: one will provide $600 million to existing health centers across the country for longer-term projects to expand their facilities, hire more employees and serve more patients. The second emphasizes shorter-term projects and will provide approximately $100 million to existing health centers to address immediate facility needs. Click here for details.

New HHS Guidance Announced About Hospital Patients’ Rights

HHS last week announced new guidance to support enforcement of rules that protect hospital patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner. The guidance also supports enforcement of the right of patients to designate the person of their choice, including a same-sex partner, to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated.  Click here to review the letter CMS sent to state enforcement agencies.

Fraud Crackdown Nets Docs, Nurses, Others

A health care fraud crackdown has resulted in the arrest of doctors, nurses and other health professionals in Miami, Houston, Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Dallas, Detroit and Chicago.  In all, 91 individuals bilked Medicare for about $295 million.  Click here for details.


DaVita Must Sell 29 Outpatient Clinics:  FTC

The dialysis services company DaVita, must sell 29 outpatient dialysis clinics to resolve anti-competitive effects of its proposed $689 million acquisition of a rival, according to a proposed FTC consent order.  The transaction involves DaVita’s acquisition of CDSI I Holding Co., also known as DSI. The draft complaint alleged that consumers would be harmed by the concentration. The proposed settlement would preserve competition in 22 geographic markets.  DaVita, based in Denver, is the second largest provider of outpatient dialysis services in the United States. It operates 1,612 outpatient dialysis clinics in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Click here to review the proposed consent order.

Affordable Care Act Helps 1.3 Million Get Rx Discounts

CMS is touting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act with a report out saying 1.3 million people with Medicare are now receiving discounts on prescription drugs and 18.9 million are receiving preventive care.  Click here for more.


CMS Hosting ACO Learning Conference

CMS is hosting the second of four Accelerated Development Learning Sessions this year in San Francisco on September 15 and 16. Registration is free and open for teams of between two and four senior leaders from healthcare delivery organizations interested in forming an ACO or from an existing ACO.  Click here for registration details.

CMS Seeking Input on Basic Health Plan Option

CMS last week said it is seeking input on the development of standards for the basic health plan option created under the health reform law.  The basic health plan option allows states to enter into contracts with insurers to offer health plans to those with incomes between 133 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level, rather than having them purchase coverage through the insurance exchanges. The state then receives from the federal government 95 percent of the amount of premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions that would have accrued to the enrollees.  Click here to review the request for information.

New Long-Term Care Scorecard Published

Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Maine are performing best at providing services and support for the elderly and people with disabilities, though they still have room to improve, says a new scorecard developed by AARP, the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation — and released last week.  Click here to see the report.