HHS Proposes More Flexibility in Electronic Health Records Rules


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued draft proposed rules on May 20, 2014 to offer greater flexibility under requirements governing Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments to promote the meaningful use of electronic health records. [More]


HHS Finalizes 2015 Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Requirements


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), released draft final rules on May 19, 2014 on the Medicare Advantage (Part C) and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefits (Part D) programs for 2015. The final rules require as a condition of payment beginning June 1, 2015 that prescribers either enroll in Medicare or attest in an affidavit that they have voluntarily opted out. [More]

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Children’s Bureau Announces Changes to Delivery of Training and Technical Assistance to State and Tribes


In late April 2014, Children’s Bureau Associate Commissioner JooYeun Chang announced a major shift in how the Bureau would be providing training and technical assistance (TA) to states and tribes. In describing the changes to occur, Commissioner Chang indicated that the nature and scope of TA requests have evolved in recent years to include Child and Family Service Reviews and Program Improvement Plans, the expansion of work with tribes, and increased responsibilities of courts. Historically, training and TA were provided by a network of organizations that were awarded worked via competitive bids. [More]

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DHHS Offers Hardship Exemption from Tax Penalty to Certain Individuals


On May 2, 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued new guidance, entitled “Special Enrollment Periods and Hardship Exemptions for Persons Meeting Certain Criteria.” Under section 5000A of the Internal Revenue Code, beginning January 2014, nonexempt individuals who do not have minimum essential (health care) coverage (MEC) or who are not otherwise exempt are required to make a shared responsibility payment with their federal income tax returns. Section 5000A(e)(5) of the Code authorizes the Secretary of DHHS to determine hardship exemptions. [More]

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HHS Releases Report on Improvements in Hospital Care


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report on May 7, 2014 showing nationwide reductions in hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) and hospital readmission rates. The report indicates that HACs (adverse drug reactions, infections, injuries, and other incidents harming patients while they are in hospitals) fell 9 percent, from 145 per 1,000 discharges in 2010 to 133 per 1,000 discharges in 2012. HHS estimates that this reduction prevented 560,000 incidents, avoided 15,000 deaths, and saved $4.1 billion. [More]

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CMS Proposes Updates to Medicare Payment Rules for Hospitals


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published proposed rules in the May 15, 2014 Federal Register on Medicare payments under the prospective payment systems (PPS) for acute care hospitals and long-term care hospitals (LTCHs). The proposed rules will apply to discharges on or after October 1, 2014. CMS is also proposing to update rate-of-increase limits for certain hospitals excluded from the PPS that are paid based on reasonable costs. [More]


Uninsured Rate Drops to 13.4 Percent


A survey issued by Gallup-Healthways on May 5, 2014 shows that the percentage of U.S. adults age 18 or older without health coverage in April 2014 was 13.4 percent (+/- 1.0 percentage point at a 95 percent confidence level). Prior Gallup surveys using the same methodology showed 18.0 percent without health coverage in the 2013 third quarter and 17.1 percent without health coverage in the 2013 fourth quarter, when Exchange open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began. [More]

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Credit Reports More Accessible to Child Welfare Agencies


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced on May 1, 2014 that efforts are being put in place to ensure that child welfare caseworkers can use the credit bureaus to identify errors that might exist on a credit report for children in foster care. This requirement for every youth to obtain a credit report was included in the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (Public Law (P.L.) 112-34, which was effective in October 1, 2011. [More]


$1 Million Appropriation Too Much for Aging Out Youth


Eight months after the Adoption Incentive program and Family Connection grants authorization expired, Congress still has not acted on reauthorization due to the $1 million cost associated with new provisions. In H.R 4058, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities in Foster Care Act, there is a requirement for child welfare agencies to provide a Social Security card, birth certificate, health information, and, in some cases, a bank account for youth leaving foster care with no family. [More]


New Study Measures Importance of Health Coverage


The Annals of Internal Medicine, a distinguished publication of the American College of Physicians, issued a study on May 5, 2014 showing that Massachusetts health care reform was associated with a statistically significant reduction in all-cause mortality (- 2.9 percent, p = 0.003, equivalent to a decrease of 8.2 deaths/100,000 adults) and an even more robust reduction in mortality from causes amenable to health care interventions such as infections, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and kidney disease (- 4.5 percent, p < 0.001). [More]