The Senate Finance Committee is "looking into" whether not-for-profit organizations merit their tax-exempt status, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) confirmed. Baucus, the committee's ranking minority member, declined to provide further details. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) announced in March that his committee would conduct a similar examination, focused on whether not-for-profits behave differently enough in the marketplace to justify preferential tax treatment. Baucus responded to a Modern Healthcare question while promoting a new campaign against fraudulent health insurance plans. The television and online campaign, launched by America's Health Insurance Plans, warns consumers to be cautious when selecting health coverage.
Some ERs see high uninsured
More than one-third of U.S. emergency rooms, 36.1%, serve a disproportionately high number of Medicaid or uninsured patients, and the burden isn't necessarily offset by public funding, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Less than half of the high safety-net burden ERs received disproportionate-share payments, the CDC said, based on a 2000 federal survey and reports of Medicaid disproportionate-share payments. Typically the ERs either treated a high number of Medicaid patients or a high number of uninsured and less often the two combined. High-burden ERs were more likely to be in southern states and more likely to be in areas with fewer primary-care physicians than other areas. They also saw a higher proportion of nonurgent or emergent cases than other ERs, the CDC said.
Hospitals volunteer, keep
The number of hospitals registered to participate in the National Voluntary Hospital Reporting Initiative jumped 25% since February, when the CMS last reported registration figures. The initiative was launched in December 2002 to provide hospital performance information to the public. Currently, 3,449 hospitals out of the nearly 4,000 hospitals paid under Medicare's prospective payment system are registered to report data, up from 2,727 in February. Of those, 1,952 hospitals have registered to report data on at least one of 10 measures in three clinical areas-heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia-and 647 will report data on at least one measure in each clinical area. Under the Medicare reform law, hospitals that begin reporting quality data by July 1 will receive a full-inflation update in 2005, while others will receive an update 0.4 percentage points below inflation.