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D.C. Report: eRx Incentive Changes, Budget Wish List, Public Health Funds

September 7, 2011
by Sharon Canner, Sr. Director of Advocacy Programs, CHIME
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CMS Announces eRx Incentive Changes to help Docs Avoid Penalties A final rule was issued this week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that makes changes to the Electronic Prescribing (eRx) Incentive Program. The changes align previous eRx prescribing measures with Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Payments by indicating that a qualified electronic prescribing system includes certified EHR technology as defined by Meaningful Use regulations. The final rule broadens “significant hardship” extension categories by allowing eligible professionals or group practices to avoid 2012 payment penalties if they can prove they registered for EHR Incentive Programs and have adopted certified EHR technology; have an inability to electronically prescribe due to local, state, or federal law or regulation; or insufficient opportunities to report the electronic prescribing measure. The changes also delay penalties by extending significant hardship exemption deadlines to Nov. 1, 2011. “Changes in the final rule will help doctors and other health care providers in their efforts to become successful e-prescribers, ultimately leading to fewer errors and better care for patients,” Patrick Conway, CMS Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Office of Clinical Standards & Quality, said in a blog post.

Super Committee Gets ‘Wish List’ from Fellow Legislators Congress is gearing up for a return from a month-long hiatus next week. And the Super Committee formed as part of the Budget Control Act sits atop the agenda. This week, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Representative Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) chimed in with a few healthcare-related suggestions for the Super Committee. In a town-hall meeting at the Bethesda, Md.-based National Institutes of Health, Sen. Cardin said the Super Committee should address the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula by repealing it. He cited the Bowles-Simpson strategy, which assumed the SGR’s $350 billion price tag in its baseline estimates, as a way the Super Committee could make the fix and still meet its goal of $1.2 trillion over ten years. "We have to start with a realistic budget baseline," he said.

On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Roe took the liberty of trumpeting a key initiative of his to the Super Committee – the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Rep. Roe sent a letter to Super Committee leaders Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) this week, saying that if IPAB was not defunded by the Super Committee it could cause havoc with the SGR. IPAB is a 15-member board created through the Affordable Care Act with the power to cut Medicare payments by making recommend cuts that take effect unless Congress votes to stop them. “If IPAB-mandated cuts make it economically impossible for physicians to treat Medicare beneficiaries, Congress will likely take similar action—at a significant cost,” Rep. Roe writes. H.R. 452 was introduced by Rep. Roe in January this year to repeal IPAB.

Public Health Workforce Gets $40M Shot-In-The-Arm U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the availability of over $40 million in grants to bolster the nation’s public health infrastructure and strengthen the public health workforce. Two initiatives funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will support new hires in public health as well as develop an information-sharing network of best practices, performance measurement strategies and the ability to maximize cohesion across state and community public health systems to improve coordinated services. For a list of state grantees, click here.

 

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