Guest post by Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy, Omnicell.
“Hope springs eternal” is a phrase from Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man: Epistle I, written in 1733. For some reason, right now hope is in full bloom in Washington, D.C. for physician groups, such as the American Medical Association and the Medical Group Management Association, which are pushing for passage of a permanent repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR), also known as a “doc fix,” prior to the congressional recess that will start in mid-December.
The points that are being made by physician groups are not new. There is the spectre of a 21.2 percent reduction in Medicare physician fees effective April 1, 2015, when the current doc fix expires, and nobody wants such a drastic reimbursement rate cut to occur. Also, because of moderating healthcare costs, the most recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of the cost of holding payment rates through 2024 at current levels is “only” $131 billion, near the low end of the CBO’s historical range. And last, earlier this year, a number of permanent SGR reform bills enjoyed bipartisan and bicameral support.
In spite of all these valid points, the case for fixing the SGR this calendar year, as opposed the first quarter of 2015, does not seem compelling or possible, due to both political and fiscal realities.
Politically, as the name implies, lame-duck congressional sessions are not known for legislative productivity. Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, commented, “I believe that the lame-duck session is going to be limited to measures that are either emergencies like Ebola or must do’s to keep the government open.” Similarly, Tom Scully, former CMS administrator under President George W. Bush, opined in Modern Healthcare that there is “1 in 10 million” chance of a permanent SGR repeal passing during the lame-duck session.
Results of the 2013 HIMSS Security Survey show that, despite progress toward hardened security and use of analytics, more work must be done to mitigate insider threat, such as the inappropriate access of data by employees. Although federal initiatives such as OCR audits, meaningful use and the HIPAA Omnibus Rule continue to encourage healthcare organizations to increase the budgets and resources dedicated to securing patient health data, in the previous 12 months, 19 percent of respondents reported a security breach and 12 percent of organizations have had at least one known case of medical identity theft reported by a patient.
The 2013 HIMSS Security Survey, supported by the Medical Group Management Association and underwritten by Experian Data Breach Resolution, profiles the data security experiences of 283 information technology (IT) and security professionals employed by U.S. hospitals and physician practices. The data from respondents suggests that the greatest perceived “threat motivator” is that of healthcare workers potentially snooping into the electronic health information of friends, neighbors, spouses or co-workers (i.e., inappropriate data access).
Recognizing inappropriate data access by insiders as an area for which organizations are at risk of a security breach, there has been increased use of several key technologies related to employee access to patient data, including user access control and audit logs of each access to patient health records. On a related note, although more than half of the survey’s respondents (51 percent) have increased their security budgets in the past year, 49 percent of these organizations are still spending 3 percent or less of their overall IT budget on security initiatives that will secure patient data. Continue Reading
MGMA president’s open letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from Susan Turney, MD, MS, FACMPE, FACP president and CEO, that is an important summation of the current meaningful use Stage 2 situation facing physicians and caregivers:
August 21, 2013
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius Secretary Department of Health and Human Services 200 Independence Ave., S.W.
Room 445-G Washington, DC 20201
RE: Stage 2 meaningful use EHR Incentive Program
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) writes today to share our concerns regarding the current meaningful use environment and diminished opportunity for physician practices to meet the requirements for Stage 2 of the program. If the appropriate steps are not taken, we believe physicians that have made significant investments in EHR technology and successfully completed Stage 1 requirements will be unfairly subject to negative Medicare payment adjustments. Accordingly, HHS should immediately institute an indefinite moratorium on penalties for physicians that successfully completed Stage 1 meaningful use requirements.