A bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives introduced legislation to expand healthcare coverage of children under federal entitlement programs. Under the bill, states that implement certain policies to streamline enrollment would get an increase on their federal matching rate for childrens coverage in the State Childrens Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. In addition, children who qualify for other programs such as food stamps and school lunches would automatically be deemed eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP. The legislation would cost approximately $60 billion over five years.
Universal Health Services, King of Prussia, Pa., said its two-hospital South Texas Health System, based in McAllen, was served with a criminal subpoena by federal authorities. The criminal investigation is related to an ongoing civil investigation of potential False Claims Act violations at the system; that investigation was launched in November 2005. The investigations cover the systems physician relationships since Jan. 1, 1999, Universal said. The civil subpoena was issued by HHS inspector generals office, but the company did not say what law enforcement authority issued the criminal subpoena. The U.S. attorneys office in Houston also was involved in the civil investigation and indicated to Universal in 2005 that authorities were interested in physician employment agreements and potential solicitations of patient referrals from physicians, the company said. South Texas Health System has struggled in recent years because of competition from a physician-owned specialty hospital nearby.
Temple University Health System in Philadelphia will eliminate more than 500 positionsmore than 6% of its workforce of 8,000as part of a comprehensive financial remediation plan. Of the 500 positions, 350 employees will lose their jobs; the remaining 150 positions are vacancies, officials said in a news release. The layoffs include program closures that will occur over time, including the maternal-child health program at 198-bed Jeanes Hospital, the adult day-care program at 185-bed Northeastern Hospital and the health systems school of nursing on its Episcopal campus. In a memo to Temple employees, Temple Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Chip Marshall said expenses must be reduced by as much as $40 million in all areas of the three-hospital health system.
Legislation seeking to improve healthcare data collection, bolster competition for Medicare quality improvement contracts and assist rural healthcare providers was introduced by U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas). Burgess said in a news release that the bill, called the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization Modernization Act of 2007, would give Medicare quality improvement organizations, or QIOs, more flexibility within their CMS contracts and allow them to be more responsive to beneficiary complaints. The bill follows several recommendations set forth by the Institute of Medicine in a March 2006 report. The bill is supported by the American Health Quality Association, which represents the nations 53 Medicare QIOs.
The Delmarva Foundation for medical care, a quality improvement organization under the CMS, will join other QIOs in Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin in a regional collaborative aimed at tracking how well physicians are doing their jobs. Called the Better Quality Information to Improve Care for Medicare Beneficiaries, the collaborative will also allow Medicare to post physician performance information that allows seniors to better select their providers. Delmarva joins the Indiana Health information Exchange, Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, Minnesota Community Measurement and the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality in the project.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance will add PPOs to its list of healthcare payers required to report on specific quality metrics to achieve NCQA certification, the not-for-profit organization announced. Under the plan, the NCQA will use the same set of standards, clinical measures and patient-experience ratings with PPOs that it uses to evaluate HMOs and point-of-service plans. PPOs will be required to report clinical quality results using NCQAs Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set measures, and patient-satisfaction scores using the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems measures developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, an arm of HHS.
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