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March 26, 2010 News Headlines

State Budget Negotiations Continue

The status of state budget negotiations in Albany remains in flux. At this writing, both houses of the State Legislature have indicated their plans to remain in Albany over the weekend to work toward a final 2010-2011budget agreement. By Monday, each house is expected to act on emergency spending bills issued by the Governor that will enable the state to pay its bills through April 11. Contact: Julia Donnaruma


U.S. Senate Stalls "Extenders" Bill with HANYS-Backed HIT Physician Fix; Reprieve from Medicare Physician Cut

The U.S. Senate will recess without having approved an “extenders” bill already passed by the House with strong bipartisan support. The “extenders” bill includes a 30-day exemption from the Medicare physician fee schedule reduction and a HANYS-backed health information technology (HIT) fix for physicians.

The HIT provision would allow physicians practicing in hospital-affiliated outpatient clinics and outpatient departments to be considered eligible for the electronic health record (EHR) incentive program established by the federal stimulus bill. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a proposed regulation that would prevent these physicians from being eligible for the EHR incentive program. HANYS and the American Hospital Association strongly support this legislative provision that will broaden the definition of eligible physicians.

A number of Republican Senators led by Tom Coburn (R-OK) have held up the legislation by insisting the cost of the measures be fully offset. The bill is currently considered “emergency spending” and exempt from pay-as-you-go requirements. When the Senate returns April 12 from its recess, it will likely pass a retroactive extension of benefits and a reprieve from the physician fee schedule cut for 30 days, along with a permanent expansion of the definition of eligible physician for the EHR incentive payment program. Contact: Susan Van Meter


UnitedHealthcare Abandons Advance Admission Notification Policy

UnitedHealthcare has announced it will not attempt to impose a 50% financial penalty on hospitals that fail to notify United of admissions within 24 hours. This brings to successful closure a nearly three-year challenge by HANYS, the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the Multi-State Managed Care Coalition, on which HANYS plays a leading role. The group challenged United to demonstrate that its admission notification policy truly advanced clinical care coordination and was something other than a new form of administrative denial. The group identified specific problems with the policy, many of which, to its credit, United addressed. United has continued to work with HANYS in the past months as new implementation dates approached and were further delayed. United will continue to expect all hospitals to provide notification within 24 hours of an admission. Currently, reimbursement reductions apply if notification is not received within 72 hours of a weekday admission, or for those admissions over a weekend or holiday where notice is not received by 5 p.m. the next business day. Contact: Jeffrey Gold