NIH outlines research 'road map'
* Community healthcare providers would be more active in medical research under a five-year, $2.1 billion plan the National Institutes of Health announced last week to speed the transition of medical advances from the laboratory to the bedside. In a "road map" for medical research, the NIH outlined several strategic initiatives, which it said would be implemented beginning in 2004. The initiatives include the designation of a public-private sector liaison to expand government-industry partnerships and the creation of new partnerships among academic researchers, community physicians and patients. The NIH will set aside $130 million to fund the initiatives in 2004, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said.
Inspector general unveils plan
* HHS' inspector general's office plans to examine CMS oversight of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, issue new "safe harbor" exemptions to the antikickback law and revise guidance for hospital compliance programs, according to the office's 2004 workplan, released last week. Other areas of scrutiny include billing for deceased Medicare beneficiaries, coronary artery stents and emergency room diagnostic services. The office also will review how hospitals spend some $6 billion in inpatient capital payments received from Medicare annually.
CMS corrects wage index
* The CMS last week issued a correction to the 2004 wage index used in adjusting hospital Medicare payments for local labor markets. The agency said the correction would result in a lower national average hourly wage rate and higher wage indexes. The new regulation was slated to be published in the Oct. 6 Federal Register and became effective Oct. 1. Meanwhile, President Bush signed into law a bill that will equalize the base payment rate for urban and rural hospitals through March 31, 2004. A similar law enacted earlier this year expired last week.