The CMS said it has identified a number of errors in its proposed fiscal 2008 hospital inpatient prospective payment system, or IPPS, and as a result, has revised the relative weights of its DRGs. Because of the changes, the CMS said that the IPPS standardized payment amounts will increase by 18 cents. Also, the proposed outlier threshold will decrease by $85 to $22,940. The agency said it plans to publish corrections in the Federal Register. The proposed IPPS, issued in April, drastically revamps the current payment system. Under terms of the proposal, the CMS would create 745 new severity-adjusted DRGs to replace the 538 existing ones.
Congress approved a fiscal 2008 budget blueprint that funds the State Childrens Health Insurance Program at $50 billion above its current baseline funding over five years while establishing 23 reserve funds, which lawmakers can use as placeholders for funding once budgetary offsets from other areas are agreed upon. The reserve funds are essentially empty coffers for which lawmakers must decide how much money to provide and where those dollars will come from under the so-called paygo rules. The budget makes room for SCHIP, provider payments on the hospital and physician fronts, health information technology and Medicare quality-improvement initiatives. The budget, which is nonbinding, also gives the Veterans Affairs Department $43.1 billion for discretionary programs, with the lions share going toward medical care.
Baptist Health South Florida, Coral Gables, named Javier Hernandez-Lichtl, 47, chief executive officer for 324-bed South Miami Hospital. Hernandez-Lichtl, chief administrative officer and executive vice president of the five-hospital system since 2003, will take the post mid-June. He succeeds Wayne Brackin, 48, who has been named Baptist Healths chief operating officer and executive vice president, a newly created position, said Martha Martin, a spokeswoman for the system. Brackins appointment is also effective mid-June. Hernandez-Lichtl yearned to return to the hospital setting to be closer to patients, physicians and our clinical staff, his first passion, said Brian Keeley, Baptist Healths president and CEO, in a news release.
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, reintroduced the MediKids Health Insurance Act, a bill that would provide healthcare coverage to all U.S. children. Stark has sponsored a version of the bill in each Congress going back at least a decade. The legislation would provide safety net coverage for children who may see a lapse in their health insurance. The bill allows parents the option of enrolling their children in private plans or government programs such as Medicaid or SCHIP. But if a lapse in other coverage does occur, then MediKids would kick in automatically. Federal data show that there are about 9 million children among the uninsured. Under the bill, every child would be automatically enrolled in MediKids at birth and remain eligible until they are 23. Congress would initially fund the program, though the tax laws would eventually have to be amended to provide long-term funding.
Medical organizations are recommending that Congress repeal Medicares sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula and replace it with a system that reflects increases in physicians practice costs. In a proposal shared with lawmakers, the American Medical Association and 86 other medical organizations recommended that Congress enact legislation that would repeal the SGR and ensure that physicians are reimbursed like other providers, such as hospitals and nursing homes, whose formulas are based on practice costs. If an immediate repeal isnt possible, Congress should establish a transition period to eliminate the formula and ensure positive updates to physicians until the repeal takes effect, the groups urged. The SGR ties annual expenditure targets to the economy and has called for negative payment updates over the past several years. Physicians in 2008 face a 10% payment cut under the current SGR formula.
The Health Information Technology Act of 2007, a bill that would establish a five-year, $4 billion competitive grant program to help healthcare providers pay for health IT and services, was introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). At least 20% of the grant pool would be available to rural areas or regions where there is a shortage of healthcare professionals, according to a news release. The bill also calls for notifying patients if their health records have been inappropriately disclosed; accelerating the depreciation of health IT software and equipment for tax purposes; and increasing Medicare payments to providers who use health IT. Supporters include the AFL-CIO, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Physicians, Ascension Health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Michigan State Medical Society, National Association of Childrens Hospitals, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Business Group on Health, National Rural Health Association and Trinity Health.
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