Jan. 03, 2012

States Get Nearly $300 Million For Increasing Children’s Health Enrollment

More than $296 million was awarded to 23 states for ensuring more children have health coverage, HHS announced last week.  The performance bonus payments are funded under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by President Obama in 2009.  To qualify for these bonus payments, states must surpass a specified Medicaid enrollment target. They also must adopt procedures that improve access to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), making it easier for eligible children to enroll and retain coverage.  An HHS issue brief notes that this increase has been entirely due to greater enrollment in public programs such as Medicaid and CHIP.  Maryland gets the most money, $28 million, followed by Virginia and Colorado – each at about $26 million.  Click here to see if your state got a bonus.

Patients Rush to Use 2011 Health Care Benefits

Many hospitals across the country staffed up during the holidays to take advantage of the holiday rush by patients to use their 2011 health benefits.  Click here to see the LA Times story.

Court Stops Provider Cuts to California Hospitals and Pharmacies

A federal district court last week issued preliminary injunctions effectively barring California’s Department of Health Care Services from implementing 10 percent rate cuts to nursing facilities within hospitals and to pharmacies that participate in the Medi-Cal program.  Click here to read the court order.

Infant Infections Could Cause Formula Recall

The FDA, CDC and state health departments continue to investigate four recent cases of Cronobacter infection in infants in four states: Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  There is currently no evidence that indicates theCronobacter infections in these infants are related.  Based on test results to date, there is no need for a recall of infant formula and parents may continue to use powdered infant formula, following the manufacturer’s directions on the printed label.  Click here for more information.

Crowded EDs a Problems for Kids With Fractured Legs, Arms

Children with long bone fractures were 4% to 47% less likely to be given timely care and 3% to 17% less likely to get effective care at emergency departments with crowding at the 90th percentile, compared with those at the 10th percentile, according to a study released last week in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.  Click here for the abstract or to order the study.

Senators Battle Hospitalizations Caused by Adverse Drug Reactions

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) last week requested that HHS convene a joint task force with other agencies to help identify patients at risk for adverse drug reactions.  The request was sparked by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that two-thirds of hospitalizations related to drug reactions stem from four common drug medications: warfarin, insulin, oral anti-platelet agents and oral hypoglycemic agents. Click here for the story.

2012 Budget Creates New Health Technology Development Agency

In a move to re-engineer the process of translating scientific discoveries into new drugs, diagnostics, and devices, the National Institutes of Health has established the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The action was made possible by the FY2012 spending bill with a budget of $575 million.  The Center will serve as the nation’s hub for catalyzing innovations in translational science. Working closely with partners in the regulatory, academic, nonprofit, and private sectors, the agency will strive to identify and overcome hurdles that slow the development of effective treatments and cures.  Click here for the NIH press release.

New Summary:  FY2012 vs. FY2011 Federal Health Care Budget

There were a number of significant changes in the federal health care budgets in several major agencies.  Strategic Health Care’s staff put together a summary of the FY2012 budget with a comparison to FY2011.  Click here.

New York May Require Bachelor’s for All New RNs

A bill to require new RNs to earn a bachelor’s degree in 10 years has bipartisan support in New York, and it could come up for debate in January. No state currently requires BSN degrees for RNs, an idea backed by the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 Future of Nursing report.  Click here to read the story.

OIG Seeking Recommendations for Changes to Anti-Kickback Statute

The HHS Office of the Inspector General last week issued a notice soliciting proposals and recommendations for developing new and modifying existing safe harbor provisions under the Federal anti-kickback statute as well as developing new OIG Special Fraud Alerts. Public comments must be delivered no later than 5 p.m. on February 27, 2012.  Click here to read the Federal Register notice.

Consumer Driven Health Plans Continue Increasing

A new Employee Benefit Research Institute survey finds continued growth in consumer-driven health plans: In 2011, 7 percent of the population was enrolled in a CDHP, up from 5 percent in 2010. Enrollment in HDHPs increased from 14 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2011. The 7 percent of the population with a CDHP represents 8.4 million adults ages 21–64 with private insurance, while the 16 percent with a HDHP represents 19.3 million people. Among the 19.3 million individuals with an HDHP, 38 percent (or 7.3 million) reported that they were eligible for a health savings account (HSA) but did not have such an account. Overall, 15.8 million adults ages 21–64 with private insurance, representing 13.1 percent of that market, were either in a CDHP or were in an HDHP that was eligible for an HSA but had not opened the account. When their children are counted, about 21 million individuals with private insurance, representing about 12 percent of the market, were either in a CDHP or an HSA-eligible plan.  Click here for the 28-page survey.  Click here for the news media report.

Consumer Driven Plans are High in Indianapolis Area; Health System Competition Strong

According to a new report from the Center for Studying Health System Change, consumer-driven health plans are growing faster in Indianapolis than in many other markets around the country. Competition among the major hospital systems continues to spur “suburbanization” of hospitals and outpatient facilities and greater hospital-physician alignment. The safety net remains relatively stable, with several strong, multi-site organizations serving low-income and uninsured patients, including Wishard Health Services, which won public approval of a bond issue for a new hospital. Click here to review the 9-page summary on the Indianapolis market.