News in Brief: Week of May 7-11

May 09, 2012 05:45 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

HHS Proceeds With Programs to Provide Home-based Care

HHS( has issued new rules and regulations for programs that will make it easier for Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries to receive care and services in their homes and communities instead of hospitals and nursing homes.

The agency finalized the rule for Community First Choice(, a new state Medicaid plan option that gives participating states a 6 percent increase in federal Medicaid matching funds for providing community-based attendant services and supports to beneficiaries who would otherwise be confined to nursing homes, hospitals or other facilities.

HHS also announced the first 16 organizations that will participate in a new Independence at Home Demonstration(, which will align CMS with primary care practices who will provide a complete array of in-home primary care services.

The demonstration, which is set to begin June 1 and conclude May 31, 2015, will evaluate the effectiveness of providing in-home services to these patients from both cost and quality perspectives, HHS says. The program will allow as many as 10,000 Medicare patients with chronic conditions to receive most of their care at home.

Telemonitoring May Not Help Older Patients

According to a study( published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, telemonitoring does not appear to be efficacious in treating older patients.

The randomized controlled trial, which enrolled 205 participants with a mean age of 80.3 years, looked at adults older than 60 who were at high risk for rehospitalization and administered telemonitoring via daily biometrics, symptom reporting and videoconference.

"Among older patients, telemonitoring did not result in fewer hospitalizations or ED (emergency department) visits. Secondary outcomes demonstrated no significant differences between the telemonitoring group and the usual care group," the authors wrote in their conclusion.

U.S. Health Care System Spends More for Lesser Outcomes

The United States spends much more than other industrialized countries on health care, but the quality of health care in the United States varies and is not "notably superior" to less expensive systems in other industrialized countries, according to a new report( from The Commonwealth Fund.

The study found that the United States "has better-than-average cancer survival rates, and middling in-hospital mortality rates for heart attacks and stroke." But it has "the worst rates of presumably preventable deaths due to asthma and amputations due to diabetes compared with the other study countries," said the report.

The United States spent nearly $8,000 per person on health care services in 2009; Japan and New Zealand spent one-third of that amount, and Switzerland and Norway spent about two-thirds as much. Even when accounting for differences in national income, the United States still spent much more than the other countries, the study found.

HHS Creates New Agency Focused on Community Living

According to a statement( from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the department has combined the Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities into a single agency -- the Administration for Community Living( -- to increase access to community support and focus attention and resources on the needs of older Americans and people with disabilities.

"The Administration (for) Community Living will seek to enhance and improve the broad range of supports that individuals may need to live with respect and dignity as full members of their communities," Sebelius said in the statement. "These supports needs go well beyond health care and include the availability of appropriate housing, employment, education, meaningful relationships and social participation."