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Washington Debrief: Meaningful Use Payments Edge Across $10B Line in 2012

January 15, 2013
by Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME
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Edition 1, Volume 1 of CHIME’s new Washington Debrief.
Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME

Welcome to the first weekly newsletter of 2013 and Edition 1, Volume 1 of CHIME’s new Washington Debrief.  The weekly Washington Debrief is the first glimpse at an evolution within CHIME to transition CHIME Advocacy to CHIME Public Policy.  Please be on the lookout for several new educational and policy opportunities in the upcoming year.

Meaningful Use Payments Edge across $10B Line in 2012 According to officials at CMS, December was the single largest monthly payout of EHR incentives in the program’s history.  Roughly $1.2 billion went to eligible hospitals and eligible physicians in December, bringing the total estimated payout to $10.3 billion.  The bulk of the payments went to EHs, who received $1 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments.  EPs received $175 million in Medicare payments and $80 million in Medicaid payments.  In addition, some 2,000 eligible professionals filed claims for the EHR Incentive Payments program on January 2, 2013.  EPs have until February 28, 2013 to claim incentives in 2012.

FCC, HHS Target Telemedicine, Connectivity Through New Fund and Grants At an event in Oakland, CA, FCC Chairman Genachowski announced $400 million in funding annually to expand broadband access for providers across the country in an effort to better connect urban and rural healthcare facilities.  FCC hopes this added connectivity will allow access to health records across different care settings, medical specialists and telemedicine.  The Healthcare Connect Fund makes the FCC’s Rural Healthcare pilot program that launched in 2007 and includes 69 participants covering 42 states and targeted post-secondary educational institutions, community health centers, not-for-profit hospitals, rural health clinics, and more.  The program will become permanent as a result of the success of many of the pilot projects, officials said.

FCC will begin accepting applications in late summer 2013.  To find out more about the fund, read this Commission Document on the FCC website.

In related news, HHS announced $1.9 million for six new telehealth resource centersthis week. The funding comes in the form of grants under the Telehealth Resource Center Grant Program, which is distributed by HRSA.  Only non-profit entities are eligible to receive the grants in increments between $300,000 and $325,000 for the establishment of up to five Telehealth Resource Centers and one National TRC.  According to the grant announcement, applications are due February 25, 2013.

Over 100 New Groups Welcomed into the ACO Fold CMS announced this week the addition of over 100 new Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) bringing the total number of such care models to 259 nation-wide.  According to government officials as many as 4 million Americans will receive care under the Medicare Shared Savings model and they say the federal government could save up to $940 million over four years due to the coordinated nature of the program.  As part of the 106 new ACOs, 15 received designations as Advanced Payment Model ACOs, which are physician-based or rural providers who will be offered greater access to capital to invest in staff, electronic health record systems or other need infrastructure to improve care coordination, CMS Acting Principal Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum wrote in a blog posting.  Here’s a complete listing of the 106 new ACOs.

One-Year Doc Fix, Two-Month Sequestration Delay Part of Fiscal Cliff Deal Unless you were in a developing country over New Years (which 1/3 of the Public Policy team was) you knew Jan. 1, 2013 that Congress finally averted the Fiscal Cliff…kind of.  Two big items on the minds of most healthcare professionals included the scheduled Sustainable Growth Rate reductions and Medicare reimbursement declines due to sequestration.  Fortunately, the final deal included a one-year patch to the planned 26.5 percent reduction in Medicare physician reimbursement rates and froze reimbursement rates at current levels.  The "doc fix" would cost about $30 billion over 10 years and will be funded in part by cuts to Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals.  Specifically, hospitals will face a $10.5 billion reduction in Medicare payments over a decade for inpatient or overnight care through a downward adjustment in annual base payment increases, as well as an additional $4.2 billion cut to Medicaid disproportionate share payments over the next 10 years.  The legislation also delays by two months across-the-board cuts outlined in last year’s sequestration, including a 2% reduction to all Medicare reimbursement rates.

In short, set your alarms for the end of February to see what happens next.