News in Brief: Week of Nov. 12-16

November 14, 2012 06:30 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

HHS Extends Deadline For State Insurance Exchanges

HHS is giving states more time to submit plans for establishing state-based health insurance exchanges by extending the submission deadline from Nov. 16 to Dec. 14.

Additionally, the deadline for a declaration letter and blueprint application for a state partnership exchange now is Feb. 15, 2013.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a Nov. 9 letter(capsules.kaiserhealthnews.org) to the nation's governors that she was extending the deadlines at the behest of some state governments.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires health insurance exchanges to be operating in each state by 2014. The exchanges are expected to cover as many as 12 million people by 2019. If states fail to establish exchanges, the federal government will step in and do so. By late September, only 19 states had started to establish an exchange or expressed their intention to do so in partnership with the federal government.

New Resources Available to Help Physicians Attain EHR Meaningful Use

CMS wants physicians to understand how they can benefit from the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. To help that process along, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently created charts outlining specifics on meaningful use (MU) stage one(www.healthit.gov) and MU stage two(www.healthit.gov).

In addition, an easy-to-navigate color-coded grid(www.healthit.gov) outlines core objectives and menu objectives for the implementation of MU stage one.

Also available is a table(www.cms.gov) that compares MU stage one and MU stage two core objectives and measures.

Physician Recruitment Report Shows Family Physicians in High Demand

The Association of Staff Physician Recruiters (ASPR) has released the results of its 2012 In-House Physician Recruitment Benchmarking Report. An executive summary(www.aspr.org) of the 2012 survey provides an overview of key findings that were based on confidential surveys submitted by in-house physician recruiters between December 2011 and April 2012.

According to that summary, family medicine topped the list of the most commonly searched specialty of the 67 categories tracked. The number two category was hospitalist, followed by nurse practitioner, physician assistant and internal medicine. The median time needed to fill positions for primary care physicians was 151 days compared to 125 days in last year's survey.

The ASPR is known as a leader in the field of physician recruitment and retention and is made up of more than 1,100 in-house physician recruitment professionals employed directly by hospitals, clinics, physician practices, academic medical centers and managed care organizations.

Employees Carry Larger Health Care Costs As a Result of Increasing Deductibles

The number and cost of deductibles has been steadily increasing among employer-sponsored health care plans during the past several years, thereby shifting more costs onto employees and creating greater financial barriers to care, according to a study(www.kff.org) recently released by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study found that the number of covered workers with a "general annual deductible is increasing both because of shifts in enrollment patterns among plan types as well as the increasing prevalence of deductibles within plan types." In the past six years, the percentage of employees enrolled in plans types that are less likely to require a deductible, such as a health maintenance organization, has decreased from 20 to 16 percent. Enrollment in high-deductible health plans with savings options has jumped from 4 to 19 percent.

The study points out that "since 2006, the average general annual deductible among covered workers who have a deductible for single coverage has increased for each plan type." For covered workers enrolled in a single plan requiring a deductible, the average general annual deductible is $1,097, an increase of 88 percent since 2006. There have been "significant annual increases" in the rate in four of the past five years, the study says.

CDC: Antibiotic Resistance A Serious Issue

As part of its 2012 Get Smart about Antibiotics Week campaign(www.cdc.gov), the CDC, along with the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) has issued a statement on antibiotic resistance(www.cddep.org) (2-page PDF) highlighting the threat such resistance poses and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use both nationally and globally.

The CDC collaborated with the AAFP, as well as members of the American College of Physicians, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American College of Emergency Physicians to develop principles of appropriate antibiotic use for adult respiratory tract infections(www.cdc.gov). The pediatric and adult guidelines provide a definition of appropriate prescribing and have been distributed to numerous state and local health departments, health plans, physician groups, and others.


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