HHS launches website showing meaningful use progress

HHS launches website showing meaningful use progressWellPoint pulls out of ACO plans with MonarchAMA’s practice management center website gets a redesignControlling expenses keeps for-profit hospital balance sheets healthy

HHS launches website showing meaningful use progress

The Dept. of Health and Human Services launched a website where the public can see how meaningful use incentive money has been distributed across the country.

The website uses deidentified data to show how much money was paid out in each state. Detailed maps show the number of hospitals, critical access hospitals and individuals who received bonuses, and the amounts distributed in each category by both programs (Medicare or Medicaid).

The data also show how many individuals and organizations have registered for the incentive program.

The website will be updated monthly (www.cms.gov/EHRIncentivePrograms/56_DataAndReports.asp).

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WellPoint pulls out of ACO plans with Monarch

Anthem Blue Cross of California, a WellPoint subsidiary, has backed out of a planned accountable care organization with Irvine, Calif.-based independent practice association Monarch HealthCare. The decision came after UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum took over management of Monarch in 2011.

“In light of Monarch entering into a strategic relationship with a subsidiary of a competitor, we believe it is in the best interest of our company and our customers to terminate our ACO program with Monarch,” Anthem spokesman Darrel Ng said in a statement. He said Anthem still contracts with Monarch and has other planned ACOs.

In a statement, Monarch Executive Chair Jay Cohen, MD, said the group is moving ahead with its ACO plans with other health insurers. The group is one of five physician groups participating in an ACO pilot sponsored by the Brookings Institution and Dartmouth Institute Center for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. It also was one of 32 groups selected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to serve as a Medicare Pioneer ACO.

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AMA’s practice management center website gets a redesign

To better serve physicians in need of practice management resources, the American Medical Association launched a redesigned website on Jan. 11 for its Practice Management Center (www.ama-assn.org/go/pmc).

About 7,000 people visit this website monthly. “With that level of interest, it is critical to make sure the AMA’s tools are easy to find when physicians need them,” said AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD.

This website includes tools to help physicians choose a practice management system, establish fees and negotiate managed care contracts, as well as navigate health insurer rules and government regulations. Physicians also may sign up for emailed practice management alerts or the online community called the “paperless practice group.”

Most resources on the website are available to AMA members and nonmembers.

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Controlling expenses keeps for-profit hospital balance sheets healthy

Patient volumes remained soft at for-profit hospitals, but these institutions maintained financial wellness by keeping a lid on expenses, particularly those related to servicing debt, according to a report on the third quarter of 2011, issued Jan. 9 by Fitch Ratings.

“While companies’ capital structures are in good shape heading into 2012, the operating forecast is somewhat more concerning,” the report’s authors wrote.

Hospital admissions went down 1.2% on average in the third quarter of 2011 compared with the second quarter of that year. Report authors noted, however, that hospital companies took advantage of refinancing opportunities.

For example, Tenet Healthcare Corp. which operates 50 hospitals in 11 states, will save about $10 million in 2012 by refinancing $714 million in loans. Community Health Systems, which runs 133 hospitals in 29 states, most likely will save $9 million after refinancing $1 billion in unsecured notes.

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