Tag Archives: medicare

Look at how health quality measures have become a jungle

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

"Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna) - Google Art Project - edited" by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) - Levels adjusted from File:Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg, originally from Google Art Project.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.Some experts view the burgeoning number of quality measures as health care's Tower of Babel.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Tower of Babel (Vienna) – Google Art Project – edited.” Licensed under Public Domain.Some experts view the burgeoning number of quality measures as health care’s Tower of Babel.

Quality measures are good, right? We all want our doctors and hospitals to follow best practices and be held to them.

It’s not so simple.

Put aside for the moment whether the measure is accurate – we don’t always know or agree on what the best thing is in health care (Exhibit A: mammograms).

There’s another quality problem.

There too many quality measures. Oodles and oodles of quality measures. Continue reading

Is CMS doing bundled payment for hip and knee replacement all wrong?

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Earlier this month, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed a five-year bundled-payment test program for hip and knee replacement surgeries.

At the time, CMS said its Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CCJR) program would require 800 hospitals in 75 areas to test bundled payments for most of the 100,000 hip and knee surgeries that Medicare covers annually.

The proposal, which we covered here, would allow CMS to eliminate some of the widespread variation in costs and offer one more way for the Obama administration to squeeze out fee-for-service reimbursement by transforming payment from volume to value, CMS said. Continue reading

Get a jump on covering 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Bob Rosenblatt

Bob Rosenblatt

The 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid is July 30.

Over the years, these programs have evolved from basic safety nets to comprehensive care models designed to improve quality and offer affordable health care for millions. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, about 55 million Americans have Medicare this year and more than 70 million have Medicaid in any given month

Bob Rosenblatt, a veteran at reporting on issues around aging, has put together a tip sheet with background on the Medicare program and some things to consider as you plan coverage of the anniversary. It includes story ideas and useful links as well as contact information for sources.

Older same-sex couples gain financial protection in SCOTUS decision

Bob Rosenblatt

About Bob Rosenblatt

Bob Rosenblatt has been a journalist in Washington, D.C., for more than 30 years, with much of his career focused on aging. At the Los Angeles Times, he started the paper’s first beat on aging and launched a popular advice column on Medicare and health insurance.

Photo: Matt Popovich via Flickr

Photo: Matt Popovich via Flickr

In the wake of last month’s Supreme Court ruling on marriage, same-sex married couples in all 50 states should now qualify for financial protection against impoverishment under Medicaid if one of them goes into a nursing home.

Before the high court’s decision, spousal financial protection rules were unavailable to same-sex couples if their state of residence did not recognize their marriage. With a semi-private room in a nursing home costing $80,000 a year, many couples can easily wipe out all their assets without such protection. Continue reading

AHCJ releases Medicare provider payment data broken down by state

Jeff Porter

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the special projects director for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

Medicare pays doctors and other providers virtually everywhere in the United States, amounting to more than $70 billion in 2013 alone. The money goes for medical exams, X-rays, injections and a host of other treatments and procedures.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just released detailed payment data covering 2013. Until 2014, that information was kept secret for 35 years. That year, CMS released detailed payment data covering 2012. Now, health reporters can examine how those public funds have been spent over two years. Continue reading

Proposal would change how hospitals bill for services after acquiring physician groups

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by Truthout.org via flickr.

Photo by Truthout.org via flickr.

When health policy experts talk about ways to improve how Medicare and commercial health plans pay for care, they often recommend eliminating what’s called the site-of-service payment differential.

This differential allows hospitals to charge more than physicians can charge for doing the same service, in part because hospitals have more overhead.

For patients, the difference can affect whether a copayment is low if care is delivered in a doctor’s office or high if the service is done in a hospital. Continue reading

Change to Medicare will shift physicians into value-based payment

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 into law on Thursday afternoon, in what experts say could be the most significant change in Medicare’s 50-year history.

The law, part of a bipartisan deal to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that Congress had used to set physician payment rates under Medicare, shifts the 50-year-old program away from a fee-for-service model and moves physicians into value-based payment.

Earlier this week the U.S. Senate passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 by a vote of 92 to 8. Last month, the House passed its version of the bill by 392-37. Continue reading

As it considers SGR fix, Senate weighs fundamental shifts to Medicare

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

After voting to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula last week, the U.S. House of Representatives sent the measure to the U.S. Senate where the bill’s fate is uncertain. When the Senate recessed on Friday without considering the bill, H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, it pushed off a vote until mid-April.

The bill’s supporters were hoping for a Senate vote last week because, as Jennifer Haberkorn, of Politico Pro, and Mary Agnes Carey explained for Kaiser Health News, the Senate’s return date of April 13 leaves two weeks for those who like the bill and those who don’t to gather support and consider their options.

“Traditionally in Washington, the more time you have, the more opportunity there is for opposition to fester. That should be a concern in this case because it is two weeks before the Senate returns,” Haberkorn said. Continue reading

Medicare ‘doc fix,’ passed by House, shifts some costs to seniors

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2 on Thursday, a bill that would prevent an automatic cut of 21 percent in Medicare payments to physicians and would require seniors to pay more in the form of higher copayments and premiums. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 also would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years through 2017.

The vote was hailed as a step forward for physicians because it eliminates the formula Congress has used for many years to increase payments to physicians. That formula, called the sustainable growth rate (SGR), was renegotiated annually and usually at the last minute. It’s been replaced with an annual payment increase of 0.5 percent. The vote was 392 to 37, including 212 Republicans and 180 Democrats voting in favor, according to Govtrack.us.

The strong support from both Republicans and Democrats puts pressure on the U.S. Senate to approve the bill, before Congress adjourns on Friday, Paul Demko wrote in Modern Healthcare. Continue reading

HHS faces daunting challenge in moving away from fee-for-service payment

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Finally, we may be seeing the beginning of the end of fee-for-service payment.

In an announcement Monday, the federal Department of Health and Human Services set two goals for changing how Medicare will pay for care, making the most significant change in payment in its 50-year history. First, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said that next year, 30 percent of all payment to Medicare providers would be in alternative payment programs that reward hospitals and physicians for how well they care for patients rather than how much care they provide.

By 2018, 50 percent of payments would go into alternative payment programs, such as accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes and bundled payments, she wrote.

“In alternative payment models, providers are accountable for the quality and cost of care for the people and populations they serve, moving away from the old way of doing things, which amounted to, ‘the more you do, the more you get paid,’” Burwell added. Continue reading