News in Brief: Week of Nov. 28-Dec. 2

November 30, 2011 06:40 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Obama Administration Nominates Nurse to Succeed Berwick at CMS

The Obama administration has nominated Marilyn Tavenner, M.A., to replace CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D., who will step down from his post on Dec. 2.

Tavenner, who currently is the principal deputy administrator of CMS, is a former secretary of Virginia's Health and Human Services Agency, and former president of the Virginia Hospital Association. She also served as a board member of the American Hospital Association.

The White House said in a recent statement( that, "before entering government service, Ms. Tavenner spent nearly 35 years working with health care providers in significantly increasing levels of responsibility." According to the White House statement, this included "nearly 20 years in nursing, three years as a hospital CEO and 10 years in various senior executive level positions for the Hospital Corporation of America."

Tavenner has a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and a Master of Arts degree in health administration, both from the Virginia Commonwealth University.

System Facilitates Data-sharing Among Prescription Monitoring Programs

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, or NABP, has seen positive results following the nationwide launch on July 29 of a system designed to allow interoperability and interstate data-sharing among prescription monitoring programs, or PMPs.

Data sharing among states increases the likelihood of early detection of actions leading to prescription drug abuse, including a practice used by drug-seeking patients referred to as "doctor shopping."

Just 60 days after launching the program, dubbed the NABP PMP InterConnect(, the system processed 13,600 requests between Indiana, Ohio and Virginia. Authorized users waited an average of 15 seconds for a consolidated multistate prescription monitoring program report.

The NABP pays for all costs associated with the development and implementation of InterConnect. The NABP Foundation received a $1 million unrestricted grant from Purdue Pharma and is making those funds available to any state that requests financial assistance to modify its PMP software. As of October 10, 2011, the foundation had given $203,340 to state PMPs or their software vendors to allow those states to participate in InterConnect.

The NABP anticipates that in 2012, as many as 30 states will be using the InterConnect system.

Application Deadline for Federal Loan Repayment Program Is Dec. 14

Medical students have until Dec. 14 to complete applications ( the first round of the National Health Service Corps, or NHSC, Students to Service Loan Repayment Program.

The program provides loan repayment assistance to medical students in return for a commitment to provide primary health care services in eligible health professional shortage areas( of greatest need. The NHSC estimates that about 100 monetary awards will be given in this first application cycle.

According to information posted by HHS, the NHSC will pay as much as $120,000 for an initial three years of full-time clinical service and up to $120,000 for an initial six years of half-time clinical service.

If the number of applicants exceeds available funding, the NHSC will give preference to students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds or students deemed most likely to continue service in a health professional shortage area after the required service commitment has been fulfilled.

HHS Awards Money for State-based Insurance Exchanges

HHS has awarded( nearly $220 million in grants to help 13 states create health insurance exchanges.

The funds, made available through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, were awarded to Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont. HHS also released a listing of regulations concerning the exchanges( as state legislatures prepare to convene in January.

HHS awarded level-one grants to every state grantee except Rhode Island. Level-one grants provide one year of funding to states that already have made progress using their exchange planning grants, according to HHS. The agency has awarded a level-two grant, which provides multi-year funding to states further along in the planning process, to Rhode Island.

According to HHS, 49 states and the District of Columbia have received planning grants, and 13 states have passed legislation thus far to create insurance exchanges.

NCQA Launches ACO Accreditation Program

On Nov. 21, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, or NCQA, launched an accreditation program( for accountable care organizations, or ACOs. NCQA accreditation standards require ACOs to demonstrate that they are proficient in program operations, access and availability, primary care, case management, care coordination and transitions, patient rights and responsibilities, and performance reporting.

According to a Nov. 18 news release(, the NCQA accreditation program offers applicants three accreditation levels that serve to demonstrate an organization's readiness to participate in innovative payment models and value-based purchasing.

Organizations eligible to apply for NCQA ACO accreditation include providers in group practice arrangements, networks of individual practices, hospitals and their employed or contracted providers, and provider-health plan partnerships.

The NCQA has prepared a six-page brochure( with full details about its ACO accreditation program.