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Archive for September, 2009

$27.8 Million in Recovery Act Funds Granted

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded $27.8 million in grants to assist health centers in implementing electronic health records and other health information technology. The grants are part of $2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that will be used to expand services to low-income and uninsured individuals through its health center program. Eighteen grants totaling more than $22.6 million will support EHR implementation.  Grants totaling more than $2.6 million will help four grantees implement a variety of HIT innovations, including the creation of health information exchanges among different providers and the incorporation of HIT at dental delivery sites. Another five grants totaling over $2.5 million will help health centers devise plans to use existing EHRs to improve patient health outcomes.

 For more information, visit http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2009pres/09/20090929a.html

CDC Awards $4.37 million to Improve Public Health Informatics

Friday, September 25th, 2009

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced and awarded $4.37 million in grants to enhance health care information management and to improve the detection of and response to emerging public health threats. The grants will fund four new Centers of Excellence in Public Health Informatics at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Indiana University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah.

 The overall purpose of the center of excellence initiative is to discover strategies and tools that increase the ability of health departments, physicians and other health care providers to promote health and prevent diseases, injuries or disabilities. These centers will support the CDC national priorities.  A common emphasis will be translation of results into measurable public health impacts

For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/r090925.htm?s_cid=mediarel_r090925

FDA to Evaluate Premarket Approval Process

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced that it has commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to study the premarket notification program used to review and clear certain medical devices marketed in the United States. The IOM study will examine the premarket notification program, also called the 510(k) process, for medical devices. While the IOM study is underway, the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) will convene its own internal working group to evaluate and improve the consistency of FDA decision making in the 510(k) process.

 The IOM study will look at two questions:

  • Does the current 510(k) process optimally protect patients and promote innovation in support of public health?
  • If not, what legislative, regulatory, or administrative changes are recommended to achieve the goals of the 510(k) process?

As part of the review, the IOM will hold two public workshops over the next nine months. A final report with conclusions and recommendations is due in March 2011.

The announcement can be found at http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm183497.htm

New Guidance Issued on Medicare Mailings

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Medicare called on Medicare-contracted health insurance and prescription drug plans to suspend potentially misleading mailings to beneficiaries about health care and insurance reform. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently asked Humana, Inc. to end similar mailings. Humana has agreed to do so.

A press release can be viewed here.

Revised IPPS System Fact Sheet Released

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The revised Acute Care Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System Fact Sheet (September 2009), which provides general information about the Acute Care Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) including information about the basis for IPPS payment, IPPS payment rates, and how IPPS payment rates are set, is available in downloadable format from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Medicare Learning Network at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/MLNProducts/downloads/AcutePaymtSysfctsht.pdf .

$33 Million in ARRA Funds Released to Train Health Professionals

Friday, September 11th, 2009

On September 11, Health and Human Secretary (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced awards totaling $33 million to expand the training of health care professionals.  The funds are part of the $500 million allotted to HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to address workforce shortages under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The grants include $19.3 million in scholarships for disadvantaged students; $4.9 million for programs to support underrepresented minority students and faculty; $3 million for public health traineeships; $2.6 million for nursing workforce diversity projects; $2.5 million to expand health career opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds; and $810,925 for public health dental residency programs.

 The press release can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2009pres/09/20090911b.html

46.3 Million Americans Uninsured

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

According to a report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008, an estimated 46.3 million Americans, 15.4% of the population, did not have health insurance. This is 600,000 more than was reported in 2007. Private health coverage declined by 1 million people. However, public coverage rose by 4.4 million.

 For further details, visit http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/hlthins/hlthin08.html

Center for Transforming Healthcare Launched by Joint Commission

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

On September 10, the Joint Commission announced the launch of the Center for Transforming Healthcare, which will team with hospitals to develop methods to find the causes of and put and end to dangerous and potentially deadly breakdowns in patient care. The Center initially will target strategies to improve hand washing, followed by a project to improve patient hand-off communications. Initially there are eight leading hospitals and health systems that have volunteered to participate in the initial project.

For more information about the Center, go to http://www.centerfortransforminghealthcare.org/news/display.aspx?newsid=6&print=y

President Addresses Congress on Health Care Reform

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

On September 9, President Obama addressed Congress and the nation on the issue of Health Care Reform.  His message was that reform is key to the nation’s economic future and the financial health of Americans and stressed key provisions needed, such as inclusion of a public plan option to compete with private health insurers. 

 The president stressed plans should meet three principles

  • making the system more secure and stable for those with health insurance
  • providing coverage for the uninsured
  • slowing health care cost growth

 Also, he stated that the cost of reform must not add to the federal deficit.

 The president stated that he supports a requirement that individuals have coverage and that all but the smallest businesses be required to provide it.  Costs of the reform are estimated at about $900 billion over 10 years, which can be paid for by eliminating fraud and abuse from the Medicare and Medicaid programs and by increasing the efficiency of those programs.

President Obama acknowledged there is a great deal of disagreement about the ways to reform the health care system, but said lawmakers need to act on the issue this year to help reduce the nation’s future federal debt, to help Americans cope with financial distress brought about by lack of affordable health care, and to slow rising health care costs.

The president also sought to dispel what he termed “bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost,” stating that reform legislation will not provide coverage to illegal immigrants, will not allow the federal government to take over health care, and will not empower federal panels to make life and death decisions for the nation’s seniors.

The president said four of five congressional committees have completed work on reform bills, while the fifth, the Senate Finance Committee, will mark up legislation the week of September 21.

Obama said legislation should reform the private health insurance market by, for example, requiring plans to cover individuals regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.

In addition, the president defended the inclusion of a public option in reform legislation because Americans have a right to choose the best health care plan for their needs.  “Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies,” the president said. “Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.”

The president did not rule out other ways in which to provide competition for private plans, such as cooperatives.  The Finance Committee plan is expected to contain a provision establishing cooperatives.

Obama also sought to address the concerns that some felt that the plans could impact seniors through the reduction in Medicare spending by as much as $500 billion over 10 years. 

For further information, go to www.whitehouse.gov

IOM Publishes Recommendations for Respiratory Protection

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

On September 3, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a report that recommends that health care workers exposed to patients with suspected or confirmed H1N1 flu wear N95 respirators. The IOM report endorses current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for respiratory protection against the H1N1 virus, but cautions against relying on any single strategy to control infection. Requested by the CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the report examines the efficacy of various types of personal respiratory protection.

 The IOM report can be found at http://www.iom.edu/CMS/3740/71769/72967.aspx