Bush aide: No cuts in propopsal
President Bush's health policy adviser said he was unaware of any Medicare provider payment cuts in the White House budget proposal for 2003. "I haven't seen any specific proposals for any specific firm (Balanced Budget Act of 1997) extenders in any budget documents that I've seen," said Mark McClellan, a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. The BBA legislation reduced Medicare provider payments by $115 billion from 1998 to 2002. McClellan denied published reports that said Bush's budget, to be released Feb. 4, would contain reimbursement cuts for hospitals, physicians and other providers-a development the industry fears in light of the struggling economy.
Healthcare disparities decline
The U.S. reduced the disparity in healthcare status for minorities from 1990 to 1998, with 15 of 17 health indicators improving for the majority of groups studied, according to a new HHS report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All minority groups achieved improvements in 10 indicators, including prenatal care, infant mortality and motor vehicle crashes. American Indians and Alaska Natives, however, lagged behind other minority groups in reductions in suicide rate, total death rate and death rates for stroke, lung cancer and breast cancer. The government's Healthy People 2010 campaign aims to eliminate health disparities among population groups.
NCQA can accredit Medicare HMOs
The National Committee for Quality Assurance, Washington, has been granted "deeming" authority for Medicare HMOs, meaning health plans will satisfy Medicare+Choice quality standards if they have NCQA accreditation. Deeming authority keeps the NCQA a step ahead of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, which are trying to expand their accreditation of HMOs and have applications for deeming authority pending with Medicare.
GE to buy MedicaLogic
The medical information technology division of General Electric Co. has agreed to acquire the assets of MedicaLogic, a Hillsboro, Ore.-based vendor of electronic medical records, for $20 million in cash. The acquisition will enable GE Medical Systems Information Technologies to expand its medical-record technology beyond the hospital, officials said. At the same time, the parent company of MedicaLogic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a move intended to let MedicaLogic resolve through the bankruptcy process any liabilities that remain after the acquisition. Founded in 1985, MedicaLogic attracted keen interest from investors in the late 1990s, raising $100 million in private funds and an additional $108 million in an initial public offering in late 1999. Its market worth was nearly $900 million when it acquired Medscape, an online medical information portal company, for stock valued at $870 million. The Medscape business was unloaded in early January to competitor WebMD for $10 million in cash.
UPMC expanding HMO
At a time when other health plans are bailing out of Medicare, UPMC Health Plan, Pittsburgh, a subsidiary of 17-hospital UPMC Health System, said it is expanding its Medicare HMO's service area to cover a potential 440,000 new members. Despite the expansion, officials have acknowledged that that they are considering a sale or merger of UPMC Health Plan, which has a total of 368,000 members across all of its products. The Medicare HMO, called UPMC for Life, was launched in 2001 in seven Western Pennsylvania counties and has 2,675 members.