Oct. 31, 2011

Dems, GOP Offer Deficit Reduction Plans

Democrats and Republicans on the deficit reduction supercommittee last week put forth their first major proposals to reduce the federal deficit.  Both plans included deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.  Each plan was rejected by the other party.  The committee has until November 23 to vote for a deficit reduction plan and send it to the House and Senate for final action before December 23.  If this effort fails, an automatic 2 percent across-the-board cut takes effect in January 2013 – with exemptions for Medicaid and Social Security.

The GOP plan would slice $585 billion from health programs and increase Medicare premiums by $200 billion, according to published reports.  It trims deficit spending by $2.2 trillion over 10 years by generating $350 billion in interest savings; increasing revenues by $640 billion, including the $200 billion in higher Medicare premiums; and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.  The spending reductions include $300 billion from Medicare, $185 billion from Medicaid and $100 billion from other health-related programs.  A few days earlier, Democrats offered a plan with Medicare and Medicaid cuts totaling about $500 billion.  Click here for a brief analysis of the Democratic plan.

Free ACO Webinar Scheduled for Thursday

The new Accountable Care Organization regulations are likely to entice more than 100 health systems and other health care organizations to sign up, according to projections from CMS.  Strategic Health Care and Squire Sanders law firm are conducting a complimentary webinar Thursday, November 3 at 2 p.m. EDT.  To sign up, click here.   If you’re still trying to figure out the basic differences between the proposal ACO rule released earlier this year and the final ACO rule released last week, a great side-by-side 3-page summary can be found here.

Medicare Costs for Seniors Dropping in 2012

Beginning next year, Part A premiums are going up $1 a month and deductibles are increasing $24.  The standard Part B monthly premium is dropping by $15.50 a month.  Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to be 4 percent lower on average next year.  A complete summary can be seen here.

FQHCs to Get $42 Million to Better Coordination and Quality

HHS announced last week that it will spend $42 million over three years on FQHCs to improve patient care.  500 FQHCs are expected to participate.  The demonstration will be conducted from November 1, 2011 through October 31, 2014. Participating health centers will be paid a monthly fee for each eligible person with Medicare that receives primary care services. Click here for details.  Click here  for more technical information.

States Cutting Hospital Medicaid Stays

State continue reducing Medicaid benefits and many are cutting the number of days beneficiaries can stay in a hospital during the year.  USA Today has two stories on the issue.  Click here and here.

Health Reform Discourages Marriage:  New House GOP Report

Complying with the Affordable Care Act penalizes married couples and could discourage marriage.  This is according to a report out last week from the House Oversight Committee that reviews the likely impact of certain aspects of the act.  Click here to see the 22-page report.

New Report Details Consulting Payments to Orthopedic Surgeons

The average consulting payment to an orthopedic surgeon last year by three of the five reporting device makers was $233,108, according to a study released last week in the Archive of Internal Medicine.  The study’s objective was to use data made available by a  Department of Justice  lawsuit to describe the extent of orthopedic surgeons’ financial relationships with implant manufacturers.  Click here for more.

Medical School Applicants At All Time High

First-time applicants to medical school reached an all-time high in 2011, increasing by 2.6 percent over last year to 32,654 students, according to new data released today by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Total applicants rose by 2.8 percent to 43,919, with gains across most major racial and ethnic groups for a second year in a row. Click here for more information.

House Members Request No Cuts to Imaging Payments

Ten members of Congress last week urged the members of the deficit reduction supercommittee to avoid making further cuts to Medicare imaging payments.  Click here to see if your member of Congress signed the letter.

Medicaid Managed Care for LTC Services Questioned

Many states are embracing Medicaid managed care for long term care services as a way to contain costs.  But, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, there doesn’t seem to be enough information available to draw that conclusion – at least not yet.  Click here for the 20-page report.

FTC Says Rx Pay-for-Delay Hurts Consumers; Pharma Disagrees

The Federal Trade Commission is stepping up its attack on the legal practice of brand name drug companies paying their generic competitors to keep their products out of the market.  The FTC is urging Congress to change the law that allows the pay-for-delay transactions.  Click here for the 2-page summary from the FTC.  Click here for the FTC’s more comprehensive 15-page report.  The Generic Pharmaceutical Association disagrees.  Click here for its response.

CDC Launches Anti-Infection Initiative for Cancer Patients

Each year more than one million patients receive cancer treatment in an outpatient oncology clinic. According to the CDC, despite advances in oncology care, infections from both community and health care settings remain a major cause of hospitalization and death among cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. So, the CDC has launched a new program to prevent cancer patients from infections.  Click here for details.

New Patient Monitoring Wire App Announced

AT&T and Washington, D.C. area hospitals last week unveiled a custom application called CodeHeart to allow doctors to examine patients in an emergency using real-time video and audio.  Click here to read more.

Facilities in Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina Get $4.5 Million in Grants for Patient Research

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality last week awarded three-year grants totaling $4.5 million to support research in three centers that will focus on improving clinical preventive services and practices such as screening, counseling and use of preventive medications for patients. The project will be led by three universities and includes a separate award for coordination and evaluation of the research. Click here for details.

New Policy Recommendations Encourage Continuous Insurance Enrollment

How to keep people enrolled in health insurance plans without interruption is the topic of a policy paper issued last week from the Labor Research Center at the University of California.  Click here for a copy of the very interesting 28-page report.