Judge Strikes Down Federal Pay Raise For Some Home Caregivers
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon says the new rules conflict with federal law. Also in news affecting seniors, the Justice Department files a complaint against Onmicare Inc., alleging the pharmacy services provider received kickbacks from a drug maker.
The Associated Press:
Judge Strikes Down Wage Boost For Some Home Workers
A federal judge on Monday struck down Labor Department regulations that would have meant higher pay for some home health care workers. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said part of the rules approved last year conflict with federal law that has long exempted third-party providers of in-home care for the elderly and disabled from complying with minimum wage and overtime laws. (Hananel, 12/22)
Justice Dept. Alleges Omnicare Received Kickbacks From Abbott Labs
The U.S. Justice Department has filed a complaint against Omnicare Inc, alleging that the largest U.S. provider of pharmacy services to the elderly received millions of dollars in kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories. Omnicare received the kickbacks for recommending Abbott's prescription drug, Depakote, for epilepsy in dementia patients in nursing homes it serviced, the department alleged in a statement on Monday. Omnicare allegedly disguised the kickbacks from Abbott as "grants" and "educational funding," the department said. (12/22)
Also, federal officials are planning changes to help seniors in private Medicare Advantage plans who lose their doctor when the plan's network changes.
Kaiser Health News:
Seniors' Wait For A Medicare Appeal Is Cut In Half
The federal office responsible for appeals for Medicare coverage has cut in half the waiting time for beneficiaries who are requesting a hearing before a judge. The progress follows an announcement last January that officials were going to work through a crushing backlog by moving beneficiaries to the front of the line and suspending hearings on cases from hospitals, doctors and other providers for at least two years. (Jaffe, 12/23)
Kaiser Health News:
Can I Keep My Marketplace Plan When I'm Enrolled In Medicare?
KHN's consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers readers' questions about enrolling in Medicare, (Andrews, 12/23)
In addition, Modern Healthcare reports on an expansion of a Medicare program for hospitals, doctors and other providers.
89 ACOs Will Join Medicare Shared Savings Program In January
One of Medicare's largest attempts to overhaul how hospitals and doctors are paid will expand in January even as federal officials acknowledge the need to modify the program to sustain the interest. The Medicare Shared Savings Program—a broad test of accountable care launched in 2012 under the health reform law—will add another 89 organizations in January. The additions will bring the total number of organizations in the program to 405 and help boost the number of Medicare enrollees who get care from doctors in ACOs to 7.2 million from 4.9 million. Sean Cavanaugh, director of the CMS' Center for Medicare, said in an interview that he viewed the growth as a sign of healthcare providers' interest in new incentives for quality and efficiency. ACOs already in the program have also added more doctors. (Evans, 12/22)
Meanwhile, more news outlets reported on Medicare penalties that hospitals face.
Georgia Health News:
Feds Punish 29 Ga. Hospitals Over Harm To Patients
The federal government is cutting payments to 29 Georgia hospitals for high levels of infections and patient injuries in the facilities. The new Medicare crackdown on hospital-acquired infections and preventable injuries is similar to the existing federal penalties on excessive readmissions of patients within 30 days after discharge. (Miller, 12/22)
The Des Moines Register:
UI Hospitals Penalized Up To $1M For Infections
The University of Iowa Hospitals will lose up to $1 million in Medicare money because of relatively poor infection-control scores. The UI is one of three Iowa hospitals facing such penalties from the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. The others are Skiff Medical Center in Newton and Trinity Hospital in Bettendorf. Medicare, the giant federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, has started docking payments to hospitals that fail to prevent patients from being infected with dangerous bacteria. The agency announced last week that 721 U.S. hospitals face such penalties this fiscal year. (Leys, 12/22)