The Senate approved a $122 billion emergency spending bill that includes a tucked-away provision placing a two-year moratorium on a proposed Medicaid rule. In January, the CMS proposed a rule that more narrowly defines the criteria for a public hospital and creates cost limits for public health providers. The CMS said the rule would help Medicaid save $4 billion over five years. But interest groups and members of Congress decried the rule, which the CMS could have implemented without congressional approval. The provision, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and the spending bill itself, approved March 29, are tenuous at best. President Bush said he would veto the spending bill, which largely would be used to fund the Iraq war, because it sets a March 2008 pullout date for U.S. troops.
The U.S. House by a vote of 216-210 approved a $2.9 trillion budget resolution for fiscal 2008 that proposes to fund the State Childrens Health Insurance Program up to $50 billion above its baseline over five years. The Senate previously approved the same funding level for the program, but that bill contains a provision to cover at least $35 billion of these funds by increasing the tobacco-products user-fee rate. The House and Senate will confer on their respective budget resolutions sometime after the spring recess. Congressional Democrats have estimated that $50 billion would cover the 6 million currently enrolled in the program and cover an additional 6 million children, who are eligible but not enrolled, over a 10-year period. SCHIP will expire in October unless it is reauthorized. The House Energy and Commerce and Senate Finance panels will be the committees of jurisdiction to make changes to the program.
The California Department of Health Services awarded 10 counties a total of $540 million in new federal funding to test innovative approaches to providing quality healthcare to uninsured residents while reining in costs. The funding, which will be made available over three years, is the result of an agreement Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger struck with the Bush administration two years ago that imposed new controls on services in exchange for more federal support. The grants are designed to aid 180,000 low-income adults, most with chronic conditions, who do not qualify for coverage under existing government programs such as Medi-Cal or Healthy Families. Federal rules disqualify illegal immigrants. The allocations are subject to federal approval.
The California Health Facilities Financing Authority approved a record $958 million revenue bond application by Sutter Health, Sacramento, after requiring the healthcare system to contribute $8.5 million to nonaffiliated clinics and rural hospitals in the state. The action marks the first time the state bond authority has required a hospital borrower to make specific financial commitments guaranteeing that at least some of the savings realized from the issuance of tax-exempt debt are passed on to consumers. Sutters proposal had been stalled since December 2006, as the authority debated ways for the public to benefit from the deal. The 1979 law that established the agency contains a provision stating that some or all of the savings generated from tax-exempt financing must be passed through to the public, but it does not specify how or how much of the savings should be passed through. Under the agreement, Sutter will grant $4 million over six years to support electronic health technology at rural hospitals outside its network. It will also donate $750,000 a year to community clinics in Northern California.
West Tennessee Healthcare, Jackson, said it has chosen a replacement for the retiring Jim Moss, who has been the six-hospital systems president and chief executive officer since 1986. Richard Parks, 52, will join the system on July 5. Parks has been CEO of 581-bed Cape Fear Valley Health System, Fayetteville, N.C., since 2000. Moss, who will turn 60 in July, will stay on as president emeritus for three to six months after Parks starts work at West Tennessee Healthcare. Then Moss will retire.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, said it hired William Owen Jr. as its president. Owen, 51, is chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, and also vice president for health affairs at the University of Tennessee. Previously, Owen worked as a clinical and academic staff physician for 12 years with Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston. He replaces Interim President Bruce Vladeck, who started at the university in March 2006 and will stay until Owen starts on July 1. Vladeck, a former HCFA administrator, joined the university after federal authorities accused the university of providing kickbacks to cardiologists to boost heart surgery volume at the universitys 488-bed hospital to levels acceptable to state regulators. The university entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorneys office in Newark that set up a federal monitor of the university.
Chuck OBrien, who retired in December 2006 after more than three years as chairman of the Detroit Medical Center, died March 29, the system said in a statement. The Detroit native was 66. Early in his tenure as chairman, OBrien oversaw cost-cutting, reorganization of the governing board and a CEO search, according to the system. He took the helm at a troubling time in DMCs history ... when others would traditionally walk away, said Michael Duggan, the systems president and CEO.
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