HHS Proposal Aims To Reduce Unnecessary Health Care Spending
On Monday, the Obama administration proposedÂ eliminating certain unnecessary and burdensome Medicare regulations, which it said would save hospitals and health care providers an estimated $676 million annually, or $3.4 billion over five years,Â ReutersÂ reports (Morgan,Â Reuters, 2/4).
About the Proposed Reforms
HHS officials said the proposed reforms would facilitate greater efficiency in the workplace without jeopardizing beneficiaries' safety, according toÂ The Hill's "RegWatch." For example, they would allow hospital workers and technicians to perform "tasks they are trained to do, without requiring the supervision or approval of a physician or other practitioner," the proposal states (Wilson, "RegWatch,"Â The Hill, 2/4).
In a news releaseÂ announcing the proposed reforms, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "We are committed to cutting the red tape for health care facilities," adding, "By eliminating outdated and overly burdensome requirements, hospitals and health care professionals can focus on treating patients."
One reform proposal would reduce "the burden on very small critical access hospitals, as well as rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers," by ending a requirement that physicians be on site once every two weeks, according to HHS (Reichard,Â CQ HealthBeat, 2/4).
The department said the provision was developed as an acknowledgement of some of the "geographic barriers and remoteness" of rural facilities and to recognize their efforts to improve and expand telemedicine, which allows physicians to provide low-cost care while maintaining high-quality levels (HHS release, 2/4).
Other proposed changes would allow registered dieticians to order diet plans without a physician's approval or supervision and would impose fewer requirements on ambulatory surgical centers to provide radiological services (CQ HealthBeat, 2/4).
In addition, the proposed reforms would allow hospitals' nuclear technicians to prepare radiopharmaceuticals, such as cancer treatments, without the supervision of a physician or pharmacist and would remove a "redundant data submission" requirement to transplant centers ("RegWatch,"Â The Hill, 2/4).
Hospital Groups Respond to Proposed Reforms
In a statementÂ released Monday, Federation of American Hospitals President Chip Kahn applauded the proposal, saying it "should help hospitals free up greater resources to devote to patient care."
Meanwhile, American Hospital Association President Richard Umbdenstock in a statement praised the proposed changes, saying "we especially applaud CMS for proposing to rescind the regulation that hospital governing boards must include a member of the medical staff" (CQ HealthBeat, 2/4).
However, Umbdenstock said he was disappointed that the proposals did not allow hospitals in multi-hospital systems to have single integrated medical staff structures. "Hospitals are delivering more coordinated, patient-centered care and (the administration) should not let antiquated organizational structures stand in the way," he said (Reuters, 2/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.