Dec. 28, 2011
Congress Passes 2-Month Doc Fix, Medicare Extenders
It’s not a lengthy extension, but it is the best they could do for now AND have the votes to pass it. There were NO changes to the health care provisions in the final bill from what the Senate had passed two weeks ago.
Medicare Physician Payment: Provides for a 0 percent update in reimbursement levels for January and February 2012. Provides that the payment update shall not be considered when calculating the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) reimbursement levels in future periods.
Extenders: Extends for two months a series of Medicare and health-related provisions, all of which would expire at the end of the calendar year unless otherwise noted:
- Section 508 hospital reclassifications;
- Geographic floor for work;
- Therapy caps exception process;
- Technical component of certain physician pathology services;
- Reimbursement raises for ambulance services;
- Mental health reimbursements (5% increase);
- Outpatient hold harmless provision;
- Minimum payment for bone mass measurement;
- Qualifying Individual (QI) program, assistance to low-income seniors in paying Medicare premiums; and
- Transitional Medical Assistance, which provides Medicaid benefits for low-income families transitioning from welfare to work.
Click here to see a summary of the Senate passed bill. Changes made in the final version were minor modifications to the way in which businesses would calculate the payroll tax payments. Click here for the full 33-page text of the final version passed by Congress. Click here if you want to see the final Congressional Budget Office score.
CMS Announces Independence at Home Demonstration
Up to 10,000 Medicare patients with chronic conditions will now be able to get most of the care they need at home under a new demonstration announced last week by CMS. The new Independence at Home Demonstration greatly expands the scope of in-home services Medicare beneficiaries can receive. The demo will provide chronically ill patients with a complete range of primary care services. Applications are due February 6. Click here for details.
32 Pioneer ACOs Announced by CMS
32 health systems have signed agreements with CMS to become Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations, as defined by the federal government. The announcement was made in Washington last week with representatives from CMS and each of the new ACOs. Click here to see the list of Pioneer ACOs. Click here for the CMS announcement.
Growing Numbers of Americans Have Difficulty Paying Medical Bill: New Study
More than one in five Americans are in families that had problems paying medical bills in 2010 — some of them were insured — according to a new study released last week. This is about the same level as 2007, when the economy was healthier. The share of Americans reporting problems rose to 20.9 percent in 2010, up from 15.1 percent in 2003. Clickhere to see the report.
Nurses Want Public Posting, Evaluation of Staffing Plans
The American Nurses Association last week expressed its support for revisions to the CMS’ Medicare and Medicaid Conditions of Participation for hospitals. In addition to advocating proposals that would expand the roles of advanced practice registered nurses, the group has backed the public posting and annual evaluation of staffing plans that base the appropriate number of nurses per unit on patients’ needs. Click here for details.
Study Supports Children with Medical Home
According to a new study, researchers found children with a medical homemade fewer trips to the emergency department and had fewer sick visits with the doctor. Click here to see a media summary. Click here to see the study.
Supreme Court Schedules Health Care Law Arguments for March
The Supreme Court announced last week that it will use an unprecedented week’s worth of argument time in late March to decide the constitutionality of the nation’s historic health care overhaul before the 2012 presidential elections. Clickhere for a good Washington Post article on the issue.
New Survey: Most Docs Are Stressed Daily
Almost 90 percent of physicians feel stressed everyday, according to a new survey. Almost 40% cited administrative demands as a key stress point, while 33% named long hours and 26% said schedules and expectations. Click here to see the story.