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Community Health Centers Expand Access to Quality Health Care

While insurance market reforms required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) get top billing, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that the nation’s network of Community Health Centers (CHC) will be a critical element in fulfilling reform’s promise.  Today more than 8,000 CHC’s are the source of primary health services for over 20 million people and are expected to reduce reliance on emergency rooms and providers that do not welcome Medicaid patients. Congress authorized more than $11 billion in funding to support 15,000 new centers expected to provide services for over 20 million new people starting in 2011.

Issue Area(s):

CostCoveragePolicy ImplementationQuality & Safety

Understanding the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program

Health Reform GPS, a joint project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the George Washington University Department of Health Policy, has posted an overview of the Medicare Prescription Drug Discount and Rebate Program, as well as a description of the aid made available to low-income Medicare beneficiaries by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The overview provides some background on the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit, the changes that were made by ACA, and the plan for implementing these reform benefits.

Click here to read the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit overview.

Click here to read an LA Times article regarding when seniors may expect to receive rebate checks as part of the reform benefit.

Issue Area(s):

CostDelivery System ReformsDrug and Device Cost ContainmentPolicy Implementation

Stimulus Dollars Aid to Community Health Centers: A First Look

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (AARA) provided more than two billion dollars to community health centers for improvement in capital,  expansion of personnel  and  adopting a Health Information Technology (HIT) system. While it has achieved the goal of directing temporary resources into community health centers and HIT, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has helped ensure these resources maintain required support enabling them to serve at-risk communities. To access a report by GWU School of Public Health detailing the Early Effects of ARRA Funding , Click here

Issue Area(s):

CostEconomic ImpactsVulnerable Populations

Panel Recommends Strengthening FDA Review Processes

In a new report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), researchers recommend that food safety officials utilize stricter scientific standards when using biomarker tests to settle food safety claims. Biomarkers, such as high cholesterol, are used to predict clinical outcomes, such as rate of heart attacks, to expedite safety review processes or when data is difficult to attain. The FDA’s current review practices utilize stricter standards for drugs and medical devices than they do for evaluation of foods and nutritional supplements, which the panel found can create quality control hazards. The IOM panel recommended a framework which the FDA can use to incorporate biomarker data into its reviews, but cautioned that the FDA must also apply the same rigor in its analysis that they use when reviewing pharmaceutical products.

Click here to read the panel’s full report and recommendations.

Issue Area(s):

Prevention & WellnessQuality & Safety

Wisconsin Taking Monumental Steps Toward Health System Transparency

Helping consumers make comparative evaluations of health care providers, as one does when buying a car, is an important step toward sustainable, affordable health system reform, though there is very little comparative data available. However, the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality, a collaboration of physician groups, hospitals, and health plans,  provides data on the cost and quality of care in Wisconsin. Collaborative members publically report quality and cost measures and share best practices to ensure a high quality, affordable health care system.

To see what information is available to Wisconsin residents, including detailed reports which help care seekers compare different providers on the bases of efficiency, effectiveness, and quality click here.

To read the Kaiser Health News story on this issue, click here.

To read an NCHC article which discusses this issue, click here.

Issue Area(s):

Consolidated Health Care Bills

Attached is a consolidation of both the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA) and the “Health Care, Education and Reconciliation Act” (HCERA). This is useful as the authors have updated the PPACA with revisions enacted by the HCERA. The original file can be found here.

Issue Area(s):

CDC Encourages States not to “Lighten Up” on Tobacco Regulation

In an effort to combat the millions of smoking related illnesses and deaths that occur each year, the CDC has released a new report which encourages states to implement strict anti-smoking regulations and anti-smoking education campaigns. Broken down to the state level, the report reviews present attempts to curb the rate of adult smoking and empower individuals to quit tobacco use. To read the full report, click here.

Issue Area(s):

Prevention & Wellness

Health Reform Advocates Push for Completion of Temporary Insurance Pool

AARP and the American Heart Association, both organizational members of National Coalition on Health Care joined with other health reform advocates to urge HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to ensure timely and effective rulemaking about the temporary high risk insurance pool. Designed for those who lack insurance due to a pre-existing condition, the high risk programs under the health reform legislation must be in place by June 21, 2010. The groups pressed HHS not only to meet the deadline but also for a transparent administrative process, uniform rules for eligibility, clearly defined rates and premium assistance for those who need it.  They also expressed concern about the states being able to meet related deadlines.  For the full text of the letter, click the link above.

Issue Area(s):

CostCoverageInsurancePolicy ImplementationSimplified AdministrationVulnerable Populations

Small Business Tax Credit Calculator

The Small Business Majority has released a tax credit calculator that estimates the tax credit a small business will receive for offering health insurance under health reform. Click here to access the calculator.

Issue Area(s):

Economic Impacts

CMS Develops Web Resource for Tracking Medicare Program Data

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has developed the “CMS Dashboard”, a web resource containing statistical data on Medicare reimbursement for inpatient hospital stays. This tool, which was created as part of the administration’s focus on greater transparency and open governance, can aid researchers and analysts observe trends in Medicare hospital reimbursements, including a breakdown of reimbursements by particular diagnoses, and could provide the foundation for future cost containment and quality improvement strategies. To access this new resource, click here.

Issue Area(s):

CostEconomic ImpactsPolicy ImplementationQuality & SafetyTrends

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