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Senior CMS Official Set to Testify Before Congress on Progress under the ACA

February 28, 2013
by Mark Hagland
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Jonathan Blum will testify about progress made in diverse areas under the Affordable Care Act

On Thursday morning, Feb. 28, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Jonathan Blum, CMS Acting Principal Deputy Administrator and Director, was scheduled to testify on Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance regarding “the progress made building a high-quality, affordable healthcare system as a result of the Affordable Care Act ACA] reforms,” according to an announcement from CMS.

Among the key points that Blum was expected to make in his Finance Committee testimony, according to a fact sheet distributed by CMS:

> “According to the annual Report of National Health Expenditures, total U.S. health spending grew 3.9 percent in 2011. That’s the same rate of growth as in 2009 and 2010, and in all three years, spending grew more slowly than in any other year in the 51-year history of the report.”

> “This past year, we finalized several programs that tie Medicare reimbursement for hospitals to their readmission rates, when patients have to come back into the hospital within 30 days of being discharged. The 30-day, all-cause readmission rate is estimated to have dropped in the last half of 2012, to 17.8 percent, after averaging 19 percent for the past five years. This translates to about 70,000 fewer readmissions in 2012. Additionally, as part of a new Affordable Care Act initiative, clinicians at some hospitals have reduced their early elective deliveries to close to zero, meaning fewer at-risk newborns and fewer admissions to the NICU.”

> “In 2012, we debuted the Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model… Over 250 organizations are participating in the Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), serving approximately 4 million (eight percent of) Medicare beneficiaries. As existing ACOs choose to add providers and more organizations join the program, participation in ACOs is expected to grow. ACOs are estimated to save up to $940 million in the first four years.”

> “Medicare beneficiaries are shopping for coverage according to quality. The Affordable Care Act tied payment to private Medicare Advantage plans to the quality of coverage they offer. Since those payment changes have been in effect, more seniors are able to choose from a broader range of higher quality Medicare Advantage plans, and more seniors have enrolled in these higher quality plans as well. Since the healthcare law passed, enrollment has increased by 30 percent and premiums have fallen by 10 percent in Medicare Advantage.”



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