Groups supporting bill to reduce medical errors

Filed under: Health Care |

AARP, the Business Roundtable and the Service Employees Industry Union, which together represent more than 50 million people, are endorsing legislation that would transition the paper-based health care system to secure electronic medical records.

The “Wired for Health Care Quality Act,” introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and ranking minority member Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), would spur adoption of a nationwide interoperable health information technology system.

“Health IT is about bringing safety and efficiency to our health care system,” said AARP CEO Bill Novelli. “People seeking treatment have enough to worry about; if we can alleviate the fear that an error will occur, we need to try to do that.”

Health care costs are the top concern of American businesses, inhibiting job creation and stifling global competition, said John J. Castellani, Business Roundtable president.

“With a projected $165 billion in annual savings, a national health IT infrastructure can certainly help ameliorate this situation, putting affordable, quality health care within reach for Americans,” he said.

HIT could improve patient safety, reduce administrative costs and allow caregivers to spend more time with patients, said SEIU President Andy Stern.

For more information about the groups’ Divided We Fail efforts, visit www.dividedwefail.org.

State makes it easier to apply for CHP+

It is now easier for families to apply for Colorado public health insurance programs, Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+).

The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has revised the application families use to apply for Medicaid and CHP+, and has translated it into Spanish. It is available at www.chcpf.state.co.us or by calling (800) 359-1991.

To begin the process of insuring the 180,000 low-income Colorado children who lack health insurance by 2010, Gov. Bill Ritter signed SB07-211 in May. The bill eliminates the need for citizenship and identity documentation for children and pregnant women for the CHP+ program.

For more information, visit www.chcpf.colorado.state.co.us.

Denver hospitals create new partnership

Denver Health Medical Center, a level one trauma center, and Exempla Lutheran Medical Center, a level three trauma center have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance the quality of trauma care and reduce patient transfer times between facilities.

The hospitals have developed a protocol for the transfer of trauma patients; the availability of physician consultations in trauma surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics and hand surgery; and the transfer of non-trauma neurosurgery patients.

CMS revises doctor payments

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says that it will pay about $58.9 billion to 900,000 physicians and other health care professionals during 2008 as part of a proposed rule that would revise payment rates and policies under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.

“This proposed rule builds on the changes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services made last year to pay more appropriately for practice expenses and to transform Medicare into an active purchaser of higher quality services, rather than just paying for procedures” said acting CMS Administrator Leslie V. Norwalk.

Provisions in the proposal include:

  • Updating the Geographic Practice Cost Indices to reflect more recent data.
  • Revising physician payment localities.
  • Using the Physician Assistance and Quality Initiative Fund, which provides $1.35 billion for physician payment and quality improvement initiatives, to extend voluntary quality reporting bonus payments into 2008.
  • Requiring that people who provide physical and occupational therapy services to Medicare patients meet licensing, registration or certification requirements in the state in which they practice, and that they complete an approved educational program for the services they are furnishing. The proposal also would change the time frames for certifying a plan of care.
  • Updating regulations governing payment of services furnished in Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facilities to reflect payment under the MPFS.
  • Adding neurobehavioral status exams to the list of telemedicine services eligible for Medicare payment.
  • Adding ophthalmologic imaging procedures to the list of procedures that would be subject to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 provision that caps payment for the technical component of imaging procedures at the payment amount under the hospital outpatient prospective payment system.
  • Modifying the requirements under the competitive acquisition program for Part B drugs for verifying that a drug ordered by a physician has been administered.
  • Requiring the reporting of hemoglobin or hematocrit data on claims for drugs used to treat anemia secondary to anticancer treatment.
  • Modifying a number of physician self-referral provisions to close loopholes that have made the Medicare program vulnerable to abuse.

For more information, visit www.cms.hhs.gov/center/physician.asp.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.