Americans hit the road this Labor Day

AAA Travel is estimating a 4.2 percent increase in travel over the coming Labor Day weekend.  The 34 million people expecting to travel over the holiday is the highest since the recession started in late 2007.  An improving economy, higher consumer confidence and marginally lower gas prices are all contributing to Americans desire to hit the road.

To ensure a safe arrival at your destination consider these safety tips:

  • Drive defensively — expect the unexpected.
  • Maintain a safe distance of one car length for every 10 mph between you and the car in front of you.
  • Be courteous, use turn signals and obey all laws.
  • Keep your options open — have a “what to do if I’m cut off” strategy.
  • Turn off mobile devices when driving — no cell phones or texting.

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HMS wishes you a relaxing and safe holiday weekend.

More cuts ahead for Home Health Providers, according to national experts

Representatives from 3 leading home health organizations are reporting that CMS’s proposed HHPPS rule would reduce Medicare Home Health funding by 3.5% each year from 2014 to 2017, resulting in a 14% cut in reimbursement, or $22 billion over ten years. This is on top of $72.5 billion in Medicare cuts already imposed by other legislative or regulatory changes.

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Congress Proposes Bid to Reverse Dialysis Cuts

In January, Congress ordered the Federal Government to reduce spending: $500 million a year in excessive drug payments are being sent to dialysis clinics throughout the nation. Eight months later, the same members of Congress who implemented these cuts are fighting to reverse them. The dialysis industry, dominated by two companies—DaVita Healthcare Partners of Denver and Fresenius, based in Germany—have both seen their bottom lines improve since 2011, when the federal government first started making excessive payments. Until 2011, the government paid clinics for each dosage of an anti-anemia drug, Epogen which led to government concerns about excessive usage. These concerns ultimately lead Congress to convert to a flat fee for dialysis. The single bundled payment for each patient visit was created in an effort to eliminate the incentive of prescribing too many doses of Epogen, which research showed to be harmful to patients. Congress noticed the use of the drug plunged, while DaVita and Fresenius earnings margins rose immensely, prompting it to order a cut in the drug fee.

The proposed cut of $29.52 per patient visit from the previously planned $246 reimbursement for next year would affect many of the more than 5,000 dialysis clinics in the United States.

For years, end-stage kidney disease has been covered by the federal government, costing more than $32.9 billion a year — mainly for dialysis services. Approximately 90 percent of dialysis patients rely on some amount of federal assistance. Officials at Health and Human Services will issue a final rule by November 1st.

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Women, Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

A study has found that women who consume fruits and vegetables regularly may reduce their risk for bladder cancer, which has an especially high recurrence rate. Researchers from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center took many variables into consideration and analyzed data over a 12.5 year period. Here is what Dr. Park and his team found:

  • Women with the highest yellow-orange vegetable intake had a 52% lower risk of developing invasive bladder cancer compared to women with the lowest consumption.
  • Women with the highest consumption of vitamins A, C, and E were the least likely to develop bladder cancer.
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption appeared to have no effect on male bladder cancer risk.

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Legislation to Eliminate Federal Funding for Lawmakers’ Health Benefits

A bill has been proposed that would eliminate federal funding of health care premiums for members of Congress, forcing lawmakers to use the new health insurance exchanges. This proposition, known as the No Obamacare Subsidies for Congress Act, will ensure lawmakers are treated as equals to others in the high-income tax bracket. This legislation will require members of Congress and their families to enter the insurance exchange, removing them from their current, yet lavish federal plan. Congressional staffers will also be subject to the same guidelines but based on income may be eligible to receive federal subsidies.

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Stay turned to HMS for more information as details continue to unfold

CDC Pushes Towards a Healthier Youth

As the school year approaches, nutrition and health policies are continuing to be implemented into school districts nationwide, according to a report released Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of school districts now have menus available, combined with caloric information and helpful tips about food safety and nutritious eating. Since 2000, the number of school districts that has made this information available has increased by 17.4 percentage points, to 52.7 in total.

Since 2000, school are also pushing for physical education programs to begin at an earlier age, resulting in an 11 percent increase (up to 93.6 percent) in the number of districts required to incorporate physical education programs.

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AMA Urges CMS to Rethink New Method of EFT Payment Method via ACH

Part of a growing trend, insurance companies are issuing plastic and virtual cards to practices rather than depositing funds directly into physician accounts. The American Medical Association (AMA) wants the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to rethink these methods of payment since physicians are getting less than the negotiated prices for services. These cards have the potential to cut physician pay by as much as 5% after transaction fees, as insurers casually leave behind traditional practices of EFT’s due to cash-back incentives. For health plans these cards are a revenue generator and for practices—a revenue drainer.

Click here to read, “What do I need to know about payer and patient credit cards?” published by the American Medical Association, 2012

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