A congressional caucus devoted to the technological modernization of the healthcare industry is forming on Capitol Hill, in the latest sign of the rising visibility of healthcare information technology in Washington. The bipartisan organization, calling itself the 21st Century Health Care Caucus, is chaired by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.). A health aide to Kennedy said a letter was distributed to members of Congress and about 12 have expressed interest in joining so far. In a related development, a think tank headed by Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, announced it would make advancement of healthcare IT its top priority.
CMS proposes payment increase
Home health providers would receive a 2.5% increase in their Medicare payments in 2005 under a proposed rule the CMS issued. The CMS also proposed modifications to how payment updates are calculated, including better tracking of price changes affecting home health agencies and a more accurate reflection of the mix of goods and services agencies buy to provide care. Bill Dombi, a spokesman for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, said the group is pleased by a provision that would expand the number of cases that qualify for outlier payments, which compensate providers for high-cost patients. Home health agencies moved to a prospective payment system in 2001. The proposed regulation is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 2 with 60 days of public comment to follow. A final rule will be issued later this year.
Tenet sells Barcelona hospital
Tenet Healthcare Corp., Santa Barbara, Calif., said it has sold its only overseas hospital, Centro Medico Teknon in Barcelona, Spain, for $50 million in cash and $31 million in assumed debt. The buyer, BC Partners, is a United Kingdom-based company that advises the investment funds that own General Healthcare Group, which owns or operates 60 hospitals across Europe. Tenet had owned and operated the Barcelona hospital for 10 years.
New York hospital fined
The New York Health Department fined Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center Hospital $18,000 for falsely reporting patient information in its heart transplant program. The state accused the 576-bed academic medical center of exaggerating the seriousness of patient conditions to move transplant candidates higher on the transplant waiting list. The hospital suspended its heart transplant program in October 2003 after an audit uncovered "serious concerns" by the United Network for Organ Sharing, the agency that maintains the nation's organ-transplant waiting list. It also suspended two physicians leading the transplant program. Before the hospital can reopen the heart transplant program it must submit a plan of correction and pass state on-site compliance surveys.