WASHINGTON (Reuters) May 08 - U.S. hospital charges for the same procedure vary widely, in some cases by tens of thousands of dollars, even within a particular town or city, according to data the U.S. government released on Wednesday to boost consumer awareness.
In Denver, Colorado, for instance, treatment for heart failure ranges from $21,000 to $46,000 depending on the facility, according to the data on more than 3,000 hospitals that provide services through the government's Medicare program for the elderly and disabled. In Jackson, Mississippi, fees for the same treatment range from $9,000 to $51,000.
Hospital charges are viewed as a major reason U.S. healthcare costs are the highest in the world. Until now, consumers have not had access to such comprehensive price data that experts see as key to restraining healthcare inflation.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed increasing its reward for reporting Medicare fraud from a maximum $1000 to nearly $10 million in a bold move to encourage more seniors to tip off the government about crooked healthcare providers and suppliers.
The Obama administration has stepped up efforts to prosecute Medicare and Medicaid chicanery ranging from fictitious office visits to power wheelchairs for the able-bodied, and its campaign recovered a record $4.2 billion in fiscal 2012 as a result. However, only a tiny fraction of that amount represents fraudulent activity reported by tipsters through Medicare's Incentive Reward Program (IRP). Since its inception in 1998, through 2012, the program has recovered less than $3.5 million while paying out less than $16,000 in rewards, according to CMS.
CMS believes IRP could receive more leads on fraud — and garner far more in criminal fines, civil settlements, forfeitures, and other actions — if the bounty were higher. Right now, CMS offers a reward equal to 10% of fraud collections, but not to exceed $1000, to anyone who passes on information that leads to the recovery of ill-gotten Medicare payments. Under proposed regulations that CMS released on April 24, the reward would be 15% of the recovered amount up to $66 million, for a maximum reward of $9.9 million.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) Apr 25 - Republican leaders in the House of Representatives on Wednesday withdrew a bill that would change the Obama administration's healthcare law amid conservative concerns that the legislation was replacing one big government program with another.
The House cleared the way to debate the bill, which was designed to help Americans with pre-existing medical conditions while preventing the administration from using an alternate source of funding to implement its healthcare law.
But the "Helping Sick Americans Now" bill was pulled from the schedule before members could cast their votes, suggesting that Republican leaders did not have enough support from their own members. Democrats called the bill a political ploy by the Republicans.
For the first time, the government will make information about financial relationships between doctors, teaching hospitals and drug manufacturers publicly available.
To comply with a provision in the Affordable Care Act, drug and device manufacturers, along with group purchasing organizations, will have to disclose all of their payments and other compensation to physicians and teaching hospitals. Those who don’t comply could be fined.
The information will be gathered beginning in August and disclosed by Sept. 30, 2014 on a new website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The site is part of the National Physician Payment Transparency Program, an effort to bring the financial relationships to light.
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama's nominee to oversee Medicare and Medicaid won the backing of a Senate panel on Tuesday, clearing the way for a vote by the full Senate that could make Marilyn Tavenner the programs' first official administrator since 2006.
The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to endorse Tavenner as head of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The agency provides health coverage to some 100 million elderly, disabled and poor Americans and also oversees implementation of Obama's signature healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act.
There was no immediate word on when the Senate would vote on Tavenner's confirmation. The former nurse and hospital company executive has been running CMS as acting administrator since late 2011.
By Bill Berkrot
NEW YORK (Reuters) Apr 22 - As the clock ticks down to the start of a U.S. healthcare overhaul, companies from device makers to hospital chains have been surprised to see Americans make even fewer trips to the doctor's office.
Use of non-emergency medical services has been weak for several years in the wake of a deep recession, high joblessness and the steadily rising cost of care.
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) Apr 19 - President Barack Obama, moving swiftly after the U.S. Senate rejected a measure to expand background checks for gun buyers, acted on Friday to patch holes in the existing database dealers use to ensure they are not selling weapons to criminals or the mentally ill.
The Health and Human Services Department will issue a formal proposal on Friday to make sure the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act does not prevent states from reporting information to the background check system.
"While this background check system is the most efficient and effective way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals, it is only as effective as the information that is available to it," an administration official said.
(Reuters) - Amgen Inc has agreed to pay $24.9 million to settle allegations that it provided kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers to entice them to use its anemia drug Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) instead of a rival medicine, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.
The DOJ charged that the world's largest biotechnology company violated the False Claims Act through kickbacks paid to Omnicare Inc, Kindred Healthcare Inc and PharMerica Corp in exchange for switching Medicare and Medicaid patients to Aranesp to treat their anemia.
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) Apr 17 - A Democratic senator who helped craft President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law gave the administration "a failing grade" on Wednesday for its efforts to educate the public and small employers about sweeping changes due to take effect in eight months.
"I just see a huge train wreck," Senator Max Baucus of Montana told U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, an oversight panel that he chairs.
There was a buzz in The Hive yesterday.
That’s what TEDMED, a health care and medical technology summit, calls the chic tent of 50 health care innovators who gave hands-on tours of their mobile apps and medical technology. Some of the 1,800 conference attendees lined up Tuesday for a Smartphone Physical, or to add their ideas about health care on one of the brainstorming wall-sized blackboards.
The annual conference, part of the media and innovation company TED (of new-media favorite TED Talks) is being held this week at Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center For Performing Arts, and it features a range of speakers meant to stir imaginative solutions and conversations around health care. There are also TEDMED live events happening in 81 countries, with broadcasts reaching an estimated 200,000 people.