25 States Awarded Grants Totaling $190 Million For Strategic Substance Abuse & Mental Health Strategic Prevention Planning

July 26, 2009

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Friday (July 24, 2009) announced 25 grants totaling up to $190 million over five years to implement the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grants to advance community-based programs for substance abuse prevention to recipients in Alaska, Arizona, District of Columbia, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virgin Islands. Each state grantee will receive up to $2.135 million per year for five years.  SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention will administer the grants.  

The SAMHSA grants are built on a community-based risk and protective factors approach to prevention by addressing issues like family conflict, low school readiness, and poor social skills that increase the risk for delinquency and violence.  These grants are intended to assist programs in providing leadership, technical support and monitoring to their communities. 

Recipients are to use the grant funds will be used to implement a five-step planning process known to support positive youth development, reduce risk-taking behaviors, build on assets, and prevent problem behaviors.  The five steps are: (1) conduct needs assessments; (2) build state and local capacity; (3) develop a comprehensive strategic plan; (4) implement evidence-based prevention policies, programs and practices; and (5) monitor and evaluate program effectiveness, sustaining what has worked well.    SAMHSA says the success of the grants will be indicated by specific measurable outcomes, among them:  abstinence from drug use and alcohol abuse, reduction in substance abuse-related crime, attainment of employment or enrollment in school, increased stability in family and living conditions, increased access to services, and increased social connectedness.   For more information, see here.

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with EMR or other health care technology, privacy or other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270-2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner.

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here or e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 


Blue Dog Democrats Hold Key Voice On House Democrats Proposed Health Care Reform Plan; Contact Numbers Here

July 20, 2009

Health care providers and others concerned about the  “American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009” health care reform proposal introduced by the House Democratic Leadership should target their input on the Democrats in Congress most likely to listen to those concerns. In the House of Representatives, these members likely are the “Blue Dog Democrats” in the House.  Read about Blue Dog Democrats here.    

The fiscal conservatism of Blue Dog Democrats makes them more likely to listen to concerns about the cost and other concerns relating to the health care reform bills touted by the Democrat Leadership in the House and Senate.  In fact, many Blue Dog Democrats already are speaking out about their concerns about the cost and other aspects of the Bill. 

Contact from voters and contributors in their districts and others could make a major difference in the ability that the House Democrat Leadership needs to pass their Bill.  Immediately contacting these members and getting others – particularly voters and contributors in the districts that elect these members – is one of the most important steps that concerned Americans can do to position their concerns to be heard.   

For most concerned voters, telephone or fax contact is the best means to convey these messages.  To minimize spam, most members only accept e-mail submitted through their website links.  Security concerns can delay receipt of written correspondence for weeks.

For persons interested in making their voices heard and sharing information with others who wish to do the same, the following contact information may be of interest:

The number of the Capital Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

The Blue Dog Leadership Team and there telephone and fax numbers are:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration, Telephone: 202.225.2801 , Fax: 202.225.5823

Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy,Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-6866

Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-3944

Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip, Telephone:  202-225-6401, Fax: (202) 226-6422

The Blue Dog Members and their telephone numbers are :

Altmire, Jason (PA-04),(202)225-2565

Arcuri, Mike (NY-24), (202)225-3665

Baca, Joe (CA-43),(202)225-6161

Barrow, John (GA-12), (202) 225-2823

Berry, Marion (AR-01), (202) 225-4076

Bishop, Sanford (GA-02), (202) 225-3631

Boren, Dan (OK-02), (202) 225-2701

Boswell, Leonard (IA-03), (202) 225-3806

Boyd, Allen (FL-02), (202) 225-5235

Bright, Bobby (AL-02), (202) 225-2901

Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18), (202) 225-6131

Carney, Christopher (PA-10), (202) 225-3731

Chandler, Ben (KY-06), (202) 225-4706

Childers, Travis (MS-01), (202) 225-4306

Cooper, Jim  (TN 5th), (202) 225-4311

Costa, Jim  (CA 20th), (202) 225-3341

Cuellar, Henry  (TX 28th), (202)  225-1640

Dahlkemper, Kathleen A. (PA 3rd), (202) 225-5406

Davis, Lincoln (TN 4th),(202) 225-6831

Donnelly, Joe  (IN 2nd), (202) 225-3915

Ellsworth, Brad  (IN 8th), (202) 225-4636

Giffords, Gabrielle  (AZ 8th), (202) 225-2542

Gordon, Bart  (TN 6th), (202) 225-4231

Griffith, Parker  (AL 5th), (202) 225-4801

Harman, Jane  (CA 36th), (202) 225-8220

Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie  (SD At Large), (202) 225-2801

Hill, Baron P.  (IN 9th), (202) 225-5315

Holden, Tim  (PA 17th), (202) 225-5546

Kratovil, Frank Jr. (MD 1st), (202) 225-5311

McIntyre, Mike  (NC 7th), (202) 225-2731

Marshall, Jim  (GA 8th), (202) 225-6531

Matheson, Jim  (UT 2nd), (202) 225-3011

Melancon, Charlie  (LA 3rd), (202) 225-4031

Michaud, Michael H. (ME 2nd), (202) 225-6306

Minnick, Walt  (ID 1st), (202) 225-6611

Mitchell, Harry E.  (AZ 5th), (202) 225-2190

Moore, Dennis  (KS 3rd), (202) 225-2865

Murphy, Patrick J.  (PA 8th), (202) 225-4276

Nye, Glenn C.  (VA 2nd), (202) 225-4215

Peterson, Collin C.  (MN 7th), (202) 225-2165

Pomeroy, Earl  (ND At Large), (202) 225-2611

Ross, Mike  (AR 4th), (202)  225-3772

Salazar, John T.  (CO 3rd), (202) 225-4761
Sanchez, Loretta  (CA 47th), (202) 225-2965

Schiff, Adam B.  (CA 29th), (202) 225-4176
Scott, David  (GA 13th), (202) 225-2939

Shuler, Heath  (NC 11th), (202) 225-6401

Space, Zachary T. (OH 18th), (202) 225-6265

Tanner, John S.  (TN 8th), (202) 225-4714

Taylor, Gene  (MS 4th), (202) 225-5772

Thompson, Mike  (CA 1st), (202) 225-3311

Wilson, Charles (OH-06), (202) 225-5705

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


August 31 Deadline To Comment On CMS Proposed Changes To Hospital, ASC Payment Rules

July 20, 2009

August 31, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. E.S.T is the deadline to comment on the “Proposed Changes to the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and CY 2010 Payment Rates; Proposed Changes to the Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment System and CY 2010 Payment” rules published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in the Federal Register today (July 20, 2009). 

The Proposed Rule would revise the Medicare hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS) to implement applicable statutory requirements that CMS proposes to apply to services furnished on or after January 1, 2010.  It also would update the revised Medicare ambulatory surgical center (ASC) payment system to implement applicable statutory requirements and changes arising from our continuing experience with this system. If also sets for the applicable relative payment weights and amounts for services furnished in ASCs, specific HCPCS codes to which these proposed changes would apply, and other pertinent rate setting information for the CY 2010 ASC payment system.

To review the proposed rule and for instructions about how to submit comments, see here.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers to evaluate and comment on health care industry reimbursement and other health industry legislation and regulations, as well as a diverse range of other health care reimbursement, and other legal and operational risk concerns. She also writes and speaks extensively on these issues.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance investigating the adequacy of your current compliance efforts, with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


Contact House Blue Dog Democrats About Health Care Reform Bill Concerns

July 17, 2009

Individuals concerned about the  “American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009” health care reform proposal introduced by the House Democratic Leadership earlier this week should target their input on the Democrats in Congress most likely to listen to those concerns. In the House of Representatives, these members likely are the “Blue Dog Democrats” in the House.  Read about Blue Dog Democrats here.    

The fiscal conservatism of Blue Dog Democrats makes them more likely to listen to concerns about the cost and other concerns relating to the health care reform bills touted by the Democrat Leadership in the House and Senate.  In fact, many Blue Dog Democrats already are speaking out about their concerns about the cost and other aspects of the Bill. 

Contact from voters and contributors in their districts and others could make a major difference in the ability that the House Democrat Leadership needs to pass their Bill.  Immediately contacting these members and getting others – particularly voters and contributors in the districts that elect these members – is one of the most important steps that concerned Americans can do to position their concerns to be heard.   

For most concerned voters, telephone or fax contact is the best means to convey these messages.  To minimize spam, most members only accept e-mail submitted through their website links.  Security concerns can delay receipt of written correspondence for weeks.

For persons interested in making their voices heard and sharing information with others who wish to do the same, the following contact information may be of interest:

The number of the Capital Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

The Blue Dog Leadership Team and there telephone and fax numbers are:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration

Telephone: 202.225.2801 , Fax: 202.225.5823

Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy

Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-6866

Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications

Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-3944

Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip

Telephone:  202-225-6401, Fax: (202) 226-6422

The Blue Dog Members and their telephone numbers are :

Altmire, Jason (PA-04),(202)225-2565

Arcuri, Mike (NY-24), (202)225-3665

Baca, Joe (CA-43),(202)225-6161

Barrow, John (GA-12), (202) 225-2823

Berry, Marion (AR-01), (202) 225-4076

Bishop, Sanford (GA-02), (202) 225-3631

Boren, Dan (OK-02), (202) 225-2701

Boswell, Leonard (IA-03), (202) 225-3806

Boyd, Allen (FL-02), (202) 225-5235

Bright, Bobby (AL-02), (202) 225-2901

Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18), (202) 225-6131

Carney, Christopher (PA-10), (202) 225-3731

Chandler, Ben (KY-06), (202) 225-4706

Childers, Travis (MS-01), (202) 225-4306

Cooper, Jim  (TN 5th), (202) 225-4311

Costa, Jim  (CA 20th), (202) 225-3341

Cuellar, Henry  (TX 28th), (202)  225-1640

Dahlkemper, Kathleen A. (PA 3rd), (202) 225-5406

Davis, Lincoln (TN 4th),(202) 225-6831

Donnelly, Joe  (IN 2nd), (202) 225-3915

Ellsworth, Brad  (IN 8th), (202) 225-4636

Giffords, Gabrielle  (AZ 8th), (202) 225-2542

Gordon, Bart  (TN 6th), (202) 225-4231

Griffith, Parker  (AL 5th), (202) 225-4801

Harman, Jane  (CA 36th), (202) 225-8220

Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie  (SD At Large), (202) 225-2801

Hill, Baron P.  (IN 9th), (202) 225-5315

Holden, Tim  (PA 17th), (202) 225-5546

Kratovil, Frank Jr. (MD 1st), (202) 225-5311

McIntyre, Mike  (NC 7th), (202) 225-2731

Marshall, Jim  (GA 8th), (202) 225-6531

Matheson, Jim  (UT 2nd), (202) 225-3011

Melancon, Charlie  (LA 3rd), (202) 225-4031

Michaud, Michael H. (ME 2nd), (202) 225-6306

Minnick, Walt  (ID 1st), (202) 225-6611

Mitchell, Harry E.  (AZ 5th), (202) 225-2190

Moore, Dennis  (KS 3rd), (202) 225-2865

Murphy, Patrick J.  (PA 8th), (202) 225-4276

Nye, Glenn C.  (VA 2nd), (202) 225-4215

Peterson, Collin C.  (MN 7th), (202) 225-2165

Pomeroy, Earl  (ND At Large), (202) 225-2611

Ross, Mike  (AR 4th), (202)  225-3772

Salazar, John T.  (CO 3rd), (202) 225-4761
Sanchez, Loretta  (CA 47th), (202) 225-2965

Schiff, Adam B.  (CA 29th), (202) 225-4176
Scott, David  (GA 13th), (202) 225-2939

Shuler, Heath  (NC 11th), (202) 225-6401

Space, Zachary T. (OH 18th), (202) 225-6265

Tanner, John S.  (TN 8th), (202) 225-4714

Taylor, Gene  (MS 4th), (202) 225-5772

Thompson, Mike  (CA 1st), (202) 225-3311

Wilson, Charles (OH-06), (202) 225-5705

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


August 14 Comment Deadline On Newly Proposed Rules To Implement Medicaid Eligibility Quality Control & Payment Error Rate Measurement Provisions of CHIP Reauthorization Ac

July 15, 2009

August 14, 2009 is the deadline to submit comments on to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on proposed rules to implement the Medicaid Eligibility Quality Control (MEQC) and Payment Error Rate Measurement (PERM) programs provisions from the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) (Pub. L. 111-3) published in today’s (July 15, 2009) Federal Register. The Proposed Regulations also would codify several procedural aspects of the process for estimating improper payments in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The Proposed Regulations also would codify several procedural aspects of the process for estimating improper payments in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Interested persons may review a copy of the regulation on the Internet here

To be assured consideration by CMS, CMS must receive comments no later than 5 p.m. on August 14, 2009 in accordance with the instructions published along with the proposed regulations.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers to evaluate and comment on health care industry reimbursement and other health industry legislation and regulations, as well as a diverse range of other health care reimbursement, and other legal and operational risk concerns. She also writes and speaks extensively on these issues.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance investigating the adequacy of your current compliance efforts, with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


House Democrats Introduce the “American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009″

July 15, 2009

House Democrats introduced their proposal for health care reform this afternoon (July 14, 2009), the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (the “House Bill”).  Introduced under the sponsorship of three key House committees — Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor — the 1018 page House Bill details the sweeping and comprehensive health care reforms touted by House Democrat Leaders..  A copy of the House Bill as introduced may be reviewed here

The House Bill proposes sweeping reforms built around the establishment of a public plan option while technically continuing to permit private plans to operate but in a federally regulated form allowing for little meaningful plan design control to private payers, health care providers or the individuals choosing among the plan options.   The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the coverage side of the bill will cost $1 trillion and cover 97 percent of the legal population within 10 years.

The following is a brief overview of certain key provisions of the House Bill drawn mostly from a series of high level summaries released by House Democrats along with the House Bill.  Long on politically comforting phrasing and short on details, you can read these summaries here.

Public Plan Option.  The House Bill proposes the establishment of a public health insurance option that would compete with allowable private plans, both of which would be subject to sweeping federal controls.  Democrat House co-sponsors represent the House Bill:

  • Provides a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers within the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • The public health insurance option would be made available in the new Health Insurance Exchange (Exchange) along with private health insurance plans that comply with the design dictates established in the House Bill.
  • The public health insurance option and private plan options meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms
  • The public option’s premiums would be established for the local market areas designated by the Exchange.
  • Individuals with affordability credits could choose among the private carriers and the public option.
  • Require that the public health plan and private health plan options and private options each must be financially self-sustaining
  • Promote primary care, encourage coordinated care and shared accountability, and improve quality.
  • Institute new payment structures and incentives to promote these critical reforms.
  • Specify health care provider participation in the plans will be voluntary; Medicare providers are presumed to be participating unless they opt out.
  • Provides for provider reimbursements for services from the plans initially will be established using “rates similar to those used in Medicare with greater flexibility to vary payments.
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has announced plans to proceed immediately on mark up on the House Bill with the intention to of scheduling a vote on the House Bill by the end of July. Assuming that House leaders adhere to this schedule, the planned timetable leaves little opportunity for critical evaluation and input by members of Congress or the public who may have questions or concerns about the proposed legislation. Prompt and coordinated action is required for individuals with concerns about any of the proposed reforms.

Federal Mandates Health Plan Benefits.  In order to achieve affordable, quality health care for all, the House Bill would impose federal standards regulating the benefits that the public health plan and private health plans would be required and permitted to offer.  Under these provisions, the House Bill would:

  • Establish a standardized benefit package that covers essential health services.
  • Vest the power in the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the coverage that would be included in this mandated standardize benefit package.
  • Eliminate cost-sharing for preventive care (including well baby and well child care)
  • Impose caps annual out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families.
  • Create a new independent Benefits Advisory to recommend to the Secretary and update the core package of benefits.
  • Provide for the public health plan option to offer four tiers of benefit packages from which consumers can choose to best meet their health care needs. Each allowable plan would be required to provide the dictated core benefits.
    • The Basic Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits and cost sharing protections;
    • The Enhanced Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Basic plan;
    • The Premium Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Enhanced plan; and
    • The Premium Plus Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits, the more generous cost sharing protections of the Premium plan, and additional covered benefits (e.g., oral health coverage for adults, gym membership, etc.) that will vary per plan. In this category, insurers must disclose the separate cost of the additional benefits so consumers know what they’re paying for and can choose among plans accordingly.

The House Bill empowers the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the federally dictated, required core set of benefits provides coverage with input from a newly created Benefits Advisory Commission.  These core benefits are intended to include inpatient hospital services, outpatient hospital services, physician services, equipment and supplies incident to physician services, preventive services, maternity services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services, well baby and well child visits and oral health, vision, and hearing services for children and mental health and substance abuse services.  However, the particular, terms and scope of these benefits is left to HHS to define.

Health Insurance Exchange.  The House Bill also calls for the establishment of a “Health Insurance Exchange” meeting federal mandates through which low income individuals initially, and certain small businesses would be offered the option to purchase health care coverage through federally mandated purchasing groups.  In the first year, the House Bill provides for the Health Insurance Exchange to accept those without health insurance, those who are buying health insurance on their own, and small businesses with fewer than 10 people. In the second year, the Health Insurance Exchange could accept small businesses with fewer than 20 people. After that, “larger employers as permitted by the Commissioner.” In other words, expansion is discretionary, not mandated.

Affordability & Subsidies.  The House Bill provides sliding-scale affordability credits for individuals and families with incomes above the Medicaid thresholds but below 400% of poverty and imposes a cap on total out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families covered under the plans regardless of income.  In addition, the House Bill would broaden Medicaid coverage to include individuals and families with incomes below 133% of poverty.

Effective 2013, sliding scale affordability credits would be provided provided to individuals and families between 133% to 400% of poverty. That means the credits phase out completely for an individual with $43,320 in income and a family of four with $88,200 in income (2009).

The sliding scale credits limit individual family spending on premiums for the essential benefit package to no more than 1.5% of income for those with the lowest income and phasing up to no more than 11% of income for those at 400% of poverty.

The affordability credits also subsidize cost sharing on a sliding scale basis, phasing out at 400% of poverty, ensuring that covered benefits are accessible.

The Health Insurance Exchange would administer the affordability credits in relationship with other federal and state entities, such as local Social Security offices and Medicaid agencies.

The essential benefit package, and all other benefit options, limit exposure to catastrophic costs with a cap on total out of pocket spending for covered benefits. Special provisions would apply to Medicaid. 

Effective 2013, individuals with family income at or below 133% of poverty ($14,400 for an individual in 2009) are eligible for Medicaid. State Medicaid programs would continue to cover those individuals with incomes above 133% of poverty, using the eligibility rules states now have in place.

Paying The Tab.  House Democrats propose to finance approximately half of the estimated $1 trillion bill for their proposed reforms through projected $500 billion or so in savings from Medicare and Medicaid achieved by a variety of reimbursement and benefit cutbacks and other reforms. The rest of the financing would come from a combination of revenue expections from employer and individual mandates (an estimated $200 billion over 10 years) and a surtax on the richest 1.5 percent of Americans. The surtax is 1 percent on income between $350,000 and $500,000; 1.5 percent on income between $500,000 and $1,000,000; and 5.4 percent in income above $1,000,000. The House Bill permits the amount of this surtax to vary if the bill is less or more expensive than initially anticipated.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update in real time here, joining the LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group, and/or subscribing to receive e-mail distributions of some of these updates by sharing your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject  here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


CMS Expands, Revises Hospital Compare Website Mortality, Readmission Data On 4000+ U.S. Hospitals As Part of Continuing Emphasis on Health Care Quality Improvement

July 14, 2009

Effort Seeks To Use Consumer Market Pressure To Pressure Hospital Quality Improvement, Cost Savings

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week (July 9, 2009) expanded the information included on the Hospital Compare Website, a CMS resource that reports how frequently patients return to a hospital after being discharged and other selected quality data.  

By sharing data through Hospital Compare, CMS seeks to pressure hospitals to improve quality by creating market pressure from consumers empowered with hospital quality data.  The initiative is one of many government and private efforts to promote quality and reduce costs by tapping the power of health care consumers.

According to CMS, Hospital Compare now provides “better” data on the previously posted mortality rates for individual hospitals, as well as new data on 30-day readmissions for heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia.  Previously, Hospital Compare had provided only mortality rates for these three conditions.

The Hospital Compare Web site will show a hospital’s mortality or readmissions rate is “Better than,” “No different from,” or “Worse than” the U.S. national rate. This data information includes each hospital’s risk-standardized mortality rate (RSMR), an estimate of the rate’s certainty (also known as the interval estimate), and the number of eligible cases for each hospital.  By posting hospital RSMRs, interval estimates, and the number of eligible cases, CMS is giving consumers and communities additional insight into the performance of their local hospitals in hopes that this will prompt all hospitals to work toward achieving the level of the top-performing hospitals in the country.

Reducing the rate of hospital readmissions to improve quality and achieve savings are key components of President Obama’s health care reform agenda.  Administration officials indicate that hospital readmissions are reducing the quality of health care while increasing hospital costs.  CMS officials hope posting of this expanded health care outcome data will help consumers make more informed health care choices.

According to CMS data, on average 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries who are discharged from a hospital today will re-enter the hospital within a month. Hospital Compare data show that for patients admitted to a hospital for heart attack treatment, 19.9 percent of them will return to the hospital within 30 days, 24.5 percent of patients admitted for heart failure will return to the hospital within 30 days, and 18.2 percent of patients admitted for pneumonia will return to the hospital within 30 days.  Both the mortality and the readmissions measures have been endorsed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) and are supported by the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA).  CMS says both sets of measures are risk-adjusted and take into account previous health problems to “level the playing field” among hospitals and to help ensure accuracy in performance reporting.

“Providing readmission rates by hospital will give consumers even better information with which to compare local providers,” said Charlene Frizzera, CMS Acting Administrator.  “Readmission rates will help consumers identify those providers in the community who are furnishing high-value healthcare with the best results.”

CMS has been tracking selected hospital outcomes data since 2007, when Hospital Compare debuted 30-day mortality rates for heart attack and heart failure. Thirty-day mortality rates for pneumonia were added to the Website in 2008.  Hospital Compare also includes 10 measures that capture patient satisfaction with hospital care, 25 process of care measures, and two children’s asthma care measures.  The site also features information about the number of selected elective hospital procedures provided to patients and what Medicare pays for those services.

According to CMS, public reporting of these and other measures is intended to empower patients and their families with information they need to engage their local hospitals and physicians in active discussions about quality of care.  CMS officials assert that all hospitals, regardless of their readmission and mortality rates, should use the data available in these free, detailed reports to find ways to continually improve the care they deliver.”

This year, CMS has changed the way it calculates the mortality data to provide even better information to consumers.  In 2007 and 2008, Medicare used only one year of claims data to compute mortality, while  the rates added to the Web site today encompass three full years of claims data (from July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2008).  Although this means that consumers cannot compare data from last year’s rate with this year’s rate, CMS officials believe the expanded data set should provide a clearer picture of how well hospitals are performing.

Using the three-year data method, CMS estimates that the national 30-day mortality rate for patients originally admitted for heart attack care is 16.6 percent.  For heart failure patients, the national 30-day mortality rate is 11.1 percent, and for pneumonia patients the national rate is 11.5 percent.

According to CMS, Hospital Compare readmissions and mortality measures are risk-adjusted measures and were developed by a team of clinical and statistical experts from Yale and Harvard Universities under the direction of CMS and are endorsed by the NQF. The model CMS uses to assess hospital readmissions and mortality rates is based on claims data and has been validated by models based on clinical data. It takes into account medical care received during the year prior to each patient’s hospital admission, as well as the number of admissions at each hospital. The model uses this information to adjust for differences in each hospital’s patient mix, so that hospitals that care for older, sicker patients are on a “level playing field” with those whose patients would be expected to be at less risk of dying within 30 days of admission.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and payers establish, administer health care quality assurance and other programs.  Former Chair of the American Bar Association Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer advises and represents health care payers and providers with a diverse array of quality assurance and other legal and operational risk management initiatives and writes and speaks extensively on these issues.  Her many publications and presentations on health care quality include “Making Gainsharing Work:  Contracting & Managing Physician Performance To Promote Quality, Manage Costs,“ “Payment (or Not) For Never Events,” “Practical Solutions for Achieving Clinical Quality & Financial Efficiency in an Evolving Health Care Arena,” “Building Your Patient Empowerment Toolkit,” “Selected Thoughts About Medical Judgment-Based Coverage Decisions Under ERISA-Covered Health Plans After Davila” and numerous other quality improvement workshops for medical societies, health care systems, and others. You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance investigating the adequacy of your current compliance efforts, with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

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©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.

 


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