September 2, 2014


Higher Ed Groups Respond to Harkin's Draft Proposal

Dozens of higher education interest groups submitted comments last week on Senator Tom Harkin's, D-Iowa, draft proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The American Council on Education submitted a consensus letter, signed by 20 other higher education groups, that laid out provisions that garnered widespread support as well as concern. The group's letter praises efforts to expand and ease access to federal student aid. But it says that colleges and universities are opposed to proposals that would increase federal regulation and reporting requirements. (Inside Higher Ed - Sept. 2 2014)

CMS Offers Holiday Sale on Audit Appeals

In a pre-Labor Day weekend bid to lower its backlog of contentious payment disputes, the [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)] late Friday offered to pay hospitals 68% of all medical claims appealed by the service providers after having been rejected by outside auditors. Most of the claims rejected by recovery auditor contractors – so-called RACs – involved disputes over the validity of short inpatient stays, which the RACs say should have been billed at outpatient rates. The process puts the entire payment on hold. There is now a two-year backlog of hospital appeals before the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals. (Modern Healthcare - Aug. 30, 2014)

Open Payment Site Scheduled for More Downtime, Complaints Continue

The troubled Open Payment Act website is encountering a bit more turbulence. The [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] announced Thursday that it plans upcoming outages for the site and that downtime would be used for "scheduled maintenance upgrades." As a result, the review-and-dispute process for doctor data displayed on the site will be extended until Sept. 10, the agency said. That delay will push the corrections period to Sept. 25. The agency still says that the data will be released to the public Sept. 30. (Modern Healthcare - Aug. 28, 2014)

More Data to Be Withheld from Database of Physician Payments

A new problem has emerged with the federal government's Open Payments system, which is supposed to go live Sept. 30 and disclose payments to physicians by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Now, a source familiar with the matter tells ProPublica that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] won't disclose another batch of payments: research grants made by pharmaceutical companies to doctors through intermediaries, such as contract research organizations. In these cases, doctors apparently have not been given a chance to verify and dispute payments attributed to them, as required by law. (ProPublica - Aug. 28, 2014)

CMS Finalizes EHR Meaningful-Use Rule, Adds Some Flexibility

The [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)] late Friday finalized a rule allowing hospitals and eligible professionals more flexibility in how they meet meaningful-use requirements for the electronic health-record (EHR) incentive program. The agency had first proposed the idea in a May draft rule. Friday's final rule left the May proposal unchanged. The incentive program provides doctors and hospitals stimulus funding to implement electronic health records. The rule pushes back the beginning of the third stage of meaningful use for the first cohort of adopters until Jan. 1, 2017, as opposed to the old standard of Jan. 1, 2016.(Modern Healthcare - Aug. 29, 2014)

Feds Overhaul Servicing Contracts

The U.S. Department of Education on Friday announced changes to how it pays the companies that manage student loan payments, responding to growing criticism that its oversight of those companies is inadequate. Officials have renegotiated the government's contracts with the four main loan servicers, which together collect payments for tens of millions of federal student loan borrowers. The servicers will now also receive bonuses for reducing the delinquency rates of their borrowers. And borrower feedback will figure more prominently into the formula that dictates how many new accounts the servicers receive each quarter. (Inside Higher Ed - Sept. 2, 2014)

NSF and NIFA Award $25 Million in Grants for Study of Water Sustainability and Climate

To help find new answers to one of the most pressing problems of the millennium, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have made 26 awards totaling $25 million in their joint Water Sustainability and Climate (WSC) program. This year's awards are the third set in the program. The WSC program's goal is to understand and predict interactions among Earth's water system and climate change, land use (including agriculture, managed forests, and rangeland systems), our "built environment," and ecosystems around the world. (National Science Foundation - Aug. 29, 2014)


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