Community and Rural Health Centers to Get $728 Million

HHS last week announced funding of more than $728 million to support 398 renovation and construction projects, boosting community health centers’ ability to care for additional patients and creating jobs. According to a new report, the health care law has supported 190 construction and renovation projects at health centers and the creation of 67 new health center sites across the country, and will support more than 485 new health center construction and renovation projects and the creation of 245 new community health center sites over the next two years.  Click here to see what capital projects have been funded in your state.  Click herefor the state-by-state list of improvement projects.

Medicare Fraud Effort Charges 107 with $452 Million in False Billings

HHS and DOJ announced last week that a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven cities has resulted in charges against 107 individuals, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $452 million in false billing.  Those seven cities: Miami, Baton Rouge, Houston, Los Angeles, Detroit, Tampa and Chicago.  Click here for details.

Senators Seeks Solutions from Health Care Community to Stop Fraud

Have ideas about how to stop health care fraud?  Six members of the Senate Finance Committee last week announced a bipartisan effort to begin soliciting ideas from interested stakeholders in the health care community regarding effective solutions to improve federal efforts to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Joining Hatch and Baucus in the effort are:  Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Tom Carper (D-Del.). You have until June 29 to submit your ideas. Click herefor more.

Medical School Enrollment Going Up:  AAMC Has New Stats

First-year medical school enrollment in 2016–2017 is projected to reach 21,376, according to a new report last week from the Association of American Medical Colleges. This projection represents a 29.6% increase above first-year enrollment in 2002–2003 and comes close to reaching the 30% targeted increase by 2015 the AAMC called for in 2006. Of the projected 2002–2016 growth, 58% will be at the 125 medical schools that were accredited as of 2002. New schools since 2002 will experience 25% of the growth, and the balance (17%) will come from schools that are currently in LCME applicant- or candidate-school standing. Click herefor the report.

Moody’s Cautious on Hospital Revenue Growth

Preliminary financial medians for US not-for-profit hospitals and health systems for fiscal year 2011 indicate the likelihood of low revenue growth for the year and tend to confirm the negative outlook for the sector held by Moody’s Investors Service. Click hereto see Moody’s brief report.

House GOP Intensifies Affordable Care Act Investigation

Member of the House GOP are digging deeper into the deal between drug makers and the White House that brought Big Pharma on board with the Affordable Care Act. Pfizer, Merck, Amgen, Abbott, and AstraZeneca have all been asked for more documents from the Energy and Commerce Committee. Click here for the story.

Oregon Gets $1.9 Billion for First Medicaid ACO

In what’s being called the nations first statewide Medicaid ACO, the governor of Oregon and CMS last week inked a preliminary agreement that will pump $1.9 billion into the new plan that may save $11 billion over the next decade. Click here or here for more.

Government’s ACO Program Has June 15 Deadline

June 15 is the deadline to file a notice-of-intent if you want to participate in the government’s Medicare Shared Savings Program (Accountable Care Organization) starting January 2013. The final application to CMMI isn’t due until August of this year. Click here for a summary of Strategic Health Care services — in collaboration with other health policy experts — designed to produce a selected application. Click herefor a good article on the 8 biggest mistakes an ACO can make.

TODAY is the Deadline for Program Targeting Hospital Readmits from Nursing Homes

CMS has extended until 3 p.m. EDT today the notice-of-intent requirement for its initiative to reduce avoidable hospitalizations among nursing facility residents. The notice is non-binding but is required in order to submit an application. Click herefor more about the program.

IOM Urges FDA to Strengthen Oversight of Approved Drugs

The Institute of Medicine says the FDA should develop a comprehensive and publicly accessible risk-benefit profile and management plan for all approved drugs, according to a report released last week. But the agency has no intention of putting that central plank of the IOM study into practice anytime soon. Click herefor more

PA Hospitals Could Take Multi-Billion-Dollar Hit in New State Budget

Medicaid payments to Pennsylvania hospitals would fall $5.28 billion below costs by 2015 under budget and payment policy changes proposed by the state, according to the state’s hospital association. In fiscal year 2011, Medicaid paid Pennsylvania hospitals $542 million less than the cost of care. For fiscal years 2013 through 2015, the shortfall exceeds $1 billion annually and peaks at $1.454 billion in 2015, according to the association. Click herefor a summary chart.

Conservative Think Tank Says Medicaid Reform Must Go Further

The conservative Heritage Foundation last week issued recommendations that take Medicaid beyond a block grant program. Their recommendations are important because many congressional conservatives look to Heritage for policy ideas. Among the recommendations: repeal the Affordable Care Act; restrict state Medicaid spending; and mainstream the non-disabled out of Medicaid into premium support plans. Click hereto see the report.

Providers Say Stage 2 Should Be Eased; GAO Says It Should Be Toughened

Proposed Stage 2 Meaningful Use regulations are being challenged by a number of organizations. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) says healthcare organizations need more time to better prepare for the federal regulations. (Click here for their comment letter.) CHIME said eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals should be allowed to demonstrate Meaningful Use during a continuous 90-day EHR reporting period for their first payment year in Stage 2, which is what was used in Stage 1. Click here for AHA’s comments. The GAO says the requirements should be strengthened in a report out last week (click here.)

U.S. Not Doing Well on the Early Birth Front: March of Dimes

The U.S. was 131st in the world for premature birth rate, according to a report released last week by the March of Dimes Foundation, the World Health Organization and other groups. In the U.S., the preterm birth rate is 12 per 100 live births, and nearly 500,000 babies are born before 37 weeks annually. Around the world, more than a million babies die from preterm complications each year. Click herefor details and a helpful interactive map.

CMS OKs New Heart Valve Reimbursement

CMS last week announced it will now cover transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for Medicare patients under certain conditions. Click herefor more.

Facebook Launches Organ Donation Drive

Facebook is now offering its followers the opportunity to sign up for organ donation in a move announced last week. In the 24 hours after the announcement, more than 100,000 people chose the Organ Donor status update; 22,000 of them followed the link to their state registries. The nonprofit Donate Life followed activity in 22 states, in which 6,000 people went all the way. The normal daily sign-up figure for those 22 states: a poky 400. In California alone (daily average: 73), 3,900 signed up. Currently, there are more than 114,000 listings on the transplant waiting list. Click here for more information from the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations.

Hep C Killing More Baby Boomers

According to the CDC, the number of baby boomers dying from a “silent epidemic” of hepatitis C infections is increasing so rapidly that federal officials are planning a new nationwide push for widespread testing. Three in four of the estimated 3.2 million people who have chronic hepatitis C — and a similar proportion of those who die from the disease — are baby boomers. Deaths from the virus nearly doubled between 1999 and 2007 to more than 15,000, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Click herefor the story.

Hospital Observation Costs High: USA Today

Medicare patients held for hospital observation face high drugs costs, according to a story last week in USA Today. Click here.