CMS Webinar Today On New Innovation Awards

CMS will host an informational webinar today, May 28, at 1 p.m. ET for potential applicants in round two of the Health Care Innovation Awards, which will provide about $900 million in funding to test new payment and service delivery models. All applicants for round two must submit by June 28 a non-binding letter of intent to apply. For a detailed summary, click here. To register for the 90-minute webinar, click here. If you are planning to prepare the application in-house, why not consider using our experts to review your work. Email me at Paul.Lee@shcare.net to schedule a conference call with our team to discuss.


State Insurance Exchanges Show Consumers Encouraging Signs on Premiums 

States with their own health insurance exchanges (marketplaces) are now starting to roll out their initial results, including premium costs to consumers, and the results, seem promising from a consumer perspective. California has 13 plans on its exchange and premiums came in lower than expected. Click here for details. Colorado’s 17 plans offered widely varying premiums, but consumer groups were encouraged. Click here for the latest details.

  • Click here for the latest rates on the Oregon exchange.
  • Click here for the latest on rates in Washington State.
  • Click here for the latest on rates in Vermont.
  • Click here for Maryland.


Democrats, GOP Trade Charges on Insurance Premiums

House Republicans are out with a report saying premiums will be skyrocketing under Obamacare. Click here for their report, which includes their estimate for most states.  Democrats strongly disagreed with the GOP’s findings. Click here for their report.


Milliman Says Family Insurance Costs Now Over $22,000

The typical cost to cover a family of four with health insurance now exceeds $22,000, including the amount paid in insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, according to the latest Milliman Medical Index for 2013. This year’s increase was only 6.3%, having dropped steadily from the 7.8% increase it calculated for the year-over-year increase in 2010. But the total dollar increase is about $1,300. Click here for the Milliman report.


Administration to Start Obamacare Campaign in June; Latest on Medicaid Expansions 

Beginning next month, the Obama Administration and its supporters will begin a nationwide campaign to encourage Americans to take advantage of their health insurance options. But some of those options, particularly for the poorest, will be unavailable in nearly half the states that have refused to expand their Medicaid programs as allowed under federal law. Click here for the NY Times report. Click here to see the latest interactive map on where each state stands on Medicaid expansion.


Sebelius’ Private Fundraising for Obamacare Draws More Fire

The Administration’s efforts to raise private funds to help get the word out about the Affordable Care Act has raised such a partisan furor that many potential donors may be backing away, according to press reports last week. Click here. Six top House Republicans sent letters to leading health insurers last week asking for detailed information about the effort by HHS Secretary Sebelius to raise private funds. Click here to read the letter sent to AHIP. Insurers are feeling particularly pressured, according to press reports, click here.


Maryland Could Be Model for Controlling Hospital Costs

In what could be a look into the future at the extent government will control health care spending, the state of Maryland is considering whether to regulate how much hospitals can actually spend. Maryland has been able to somewhat control hospital prices for several decades, but now some state officials want to go further. Click here for the story.


Most Doctors, Hospitals Getting EHR Incentive Payments: CMS

More than half of all doctors and other eligible providers have received Medicare or Medicaid incentive payments for adopting or meaningfully using electronic health records (EHRs), according to an announcement last week from HHS. The department has met and exceeded its goal for 50% of doctor offices and 80% of eligible hospitals to have EHRs by the end of 2013. Approximately 80% of all eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals in the U.S. have received an incentive payment for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using an EHR. Click here for details.


CLASBI Can Profit Hospitals: Study

Hospital acquired bloodstream infections can mean big profits for hospitals, according to a new study. Johns Hopkins University researchers examined a small cohort of patients who acquired central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) in the ICU and found that hospitals are paid nearly nine times what they would have received for providing care if the patient had not been infected. Private insurers pay hospitals about $400,000 per case of CLABSI. Click here for the study.


Male Radiologists Average 20% More Pay than Women Counterparts

Male radiologists make an average of 20% more than female radiologists in the U.S., according to a new salary survey out last week. While the salary advantage for men is in line with the U.S. average for all professions, it could reinforce the perception that radiology is an unfriendly career choice for women. Also included is salary information on radiology administrators and techs. Click here.


Finance Committee Release Dozens of New Health Policy Options

The Senate Finance Committee issued a report last week with several dozen recommended options to change the tax code that would impact health care in the United States.  Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have launched a process for the committee to begin developing a proposal to reform America’s tax code. Included in the health care options: repeal certain tax incentives for employer-provided health benefits; allow a deduction for the purchase of health insurance in the individual market up to the average cost for health insurance; replace the medical device fee with a fee on the medical device industry structured similarly to the pharmaceutical and health insurance fees. Click here to read all the options.


House GOP Bill Attacks Massachusetts Wage Index “Boondoggle”

Nine House Republicans last week introduced legislation that would reverse a wage index change that resulted in Massachusetts hospitals receiving about $257 million in higher Medicare payments while hospitals in other states lost about $471 million. Click here for the details.


Government’s Mental Health Agency Comes Under Fire

The federal government’s top mental health services agency (SAMHSA) came in for some tough criticism last week by the chairman of the Energy & Commerce investigative subcommittee. Rep. Tim Murphy  (R-PA) said too many of SAMHSA’s grants “are directed to advancing services rooted in unproven social theory and feel-good fads, rather than science.” Click here for more details.


Hospital CIOs: “Delay Stage 2 Meaningful Use”

A majority of hospital CIOs recently polled by healthsystemCIO.com called the Meaningful Use program flawed and said Stage 2 should be extended by one year. Overall, more than 76% of respondents to the survey said they would like to see an extension. About 8% of CIOs said they don’t believe a one year extension would be long enough. Click here to see the survey.


Compounding Pharmacies Are Troubled: PIRG Report; Bill Moves Forward

The contaminated drug that caused last fall’s fungal meningitis outbreak and killed 55 people is just the tip of the iceberg of an industry-wide problem, according to a new U.S. PIRG report. The meningitis outbreak was simply the latest and deadliest in a long line of errors and risky practices by compounding pharmacies. Click here for the report. Meantime, the Senate HELP Committee passed a comprehensive compounding pharmacy reform bill. Click here for the details. It is unclear whether the House will pass similar legislation.


Economist: Don’t Get Too Excited Over Health Spending Slowdown

A well known health economist is warning against too much optimism over the idea that the recent slowdown in health spending is here to stay. The historically tight tie between the growth of the gross domestic product and health spending suggests that the slowdown is more likely tied to the recession than to other changes that might point to a longer-term bending of the menacing cost curve, according to Stanford economist Victor Fuchs. Click here for his article in the New England Journal of Medicine.


1.5 % of ED Patients Transferred to Another Hospital

According to a new government report, in 2009, there were an estimated 128,885,040 emergency department encounters. Most ED encounters (82.8%) resulted in treatment and release (routine discharge), but 15.7% were admitted to the same hospital. Approximately 1.5% of ED encounters resulted in transfer to another short-term acute care hospital. Click here for the study.


Study: More Seniors in Poverty Than Previously Thought

More seniors are in poverty than previously thought, according to a report out last week.  The Census Bureau has reported that poverty rates among the elderly (those ages 65 and older) are higher under the supplemental poverty measure (15%) than under the official poverty measure (9%), which is due in large part to the fact that the former deducts health expenses from income. Click here for a state-by-state breakdown.