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CMS unveils cyber-help to assist providers
Medicare officials are hoping a more effective web site will assist health care providers in getting the information they need to better serve beneficiaries. An expanded and improved site has been unveiled by officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Physicians and other practitioners will find most of the information they are seeking by clicking on the Professionals tab at the top of the CMS page, according to officials.
"We want doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to know that valuable, updated Medicare information is available to them at a single, easy-to-find web site," said CMS administrator Tom Scully. "These web pages also remain open to any beneficiary, family member, or others who want to be more knowledgeable about specific areas of the Medicare program." Eventually, CMS will create individual web pages specific to all Medicare providers.
Pages currently under development include one dedicated to durable medical equipment, a CMS spokesman says. Additional pages under construction include sites for ambulatory surgical centers, federally qualified health centers, hospice, rural health, and skilled nursing facilities, the spokesman added. Individualized pages contain links to information related to specialized areas, such as federal regulations and notices, program memorandums, training and educational activities, and answers to frequently asked questions.
New pages now available include the following, all having the common directory www.cms.hhs.gov/:
Nursing group offers hospice grant
The American Association of Critical Care Nursing (AACN) is offering a one-time grant titled "Initiating Hospice Care in Critical Care." The deadline for proposals is Feb. 15, 2004. The grant’s purpose is studying end-of-life or palliative care outcomes. While reviewers will allow a broader range of topics, special consideration will be given to projects that focus on implementing palliative or hospice care in the intensive care unit.
Other topics may include:
Eligible projects may focus on patients of any age, patient education, staff development, outcomes evaluation, and small clinical research studies. Funds may be used to cover direct project expenses, small equipment, or supplies such as computer software but not salaries or institutional overhead.
Applicants must be current members of AACN. Principal investigators currently funded by AACN are ineligible for this grant during the lifetime of their original project or grant. For further information contact AACN at (800) 899-2226 or email@example.com.
NHS spends £50M more on terminal cancer care
Allocation of an additional £50 million across the United Kingdom to improve care for terminal cancer patients has been made by a national partnership group that included representatives from the National Health Service (NHS) and voluntary organizations. The funding represents an increase of about 40% in NHS funding for specialist cancer care above 2000 levels for such care.
The expanded funds will go to:
• a support and training program in palliative care for nurses caring for patients in the community, community hospitals, and care homes;
"This money will make a real difference for patients," said Eve Richardson, chief executive of the National Council for Hospice and Specialist Palliative Care Services. "The National Council has been delighted with the collaborative approach taken by the Department of Health in working with the council and its voluntary sector and NHS partners in the allocation of these funds."
Richard Hillier, MD, consultant at St. Joseph’s Hospice in London, said the £50 million "is unprecedented and, to me, undreamed of. Targeted funding to bring good palliative care to all patients and families who need it, wherever they are, and to support hospices is precisely what is wanted."
The national partnership group, under the chairmanship of National Cancer Director Mike Richards, includes representatives from the NHS at all levels and from a wide range of voluntary sector organizations. Those include, in addition to Richardson’s and Hillier’s organizations, the Independent Hospice Representative Committee; Help the Hospices; Macmillan Cancer Relief; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Trinity Hospice London; St. Catherine’s Specialist Palliative Care Center; West Sussex, Torbay and South Devon Hospice; and Compton Hospice, Wolverhampton.
CMS begins effort to stop wheelchair benefit abuse
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an initiative to curb abuse of the Medicare program by unscrupulous providers of power wheelchairs and other power mobility products who prey on Medicare beneficiaries.
At the same time, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) said it is investigating the proliferation of durable medical equipment (DME) fraud cases involving inflated billings to Medicare, charges for equipment and supplies not delivered, and the falsification of documents to qualify beneficiaries for wheelchairs and other equipment that they often did not need.
"Spending on power wheelchairs has increased nearly 450% over the last 4 years, an unprecedented growth in this benefit," said CMS administrator Tom Scully. "While many of these wheelchairs are provided by ethical suppliers and go to beneficiaries in need, we know that a great number of unscrupulous suppliers are promising free wheelchairs to beneficiaries who don’t need them. We are taking immediate action to stop these scams."
Acting Principal Deputy Inspector General Dara Corrigan warned Medicare beneficiaries to be suspicious of offers of "free" scooters and other enticements from unscrupulous suppliers.
CMS plans to start its nationwide clean-up campaign in Texas, where recent reports from the CMS Dallas Regional Office and a Houston newspaper have highlighted the growing and very serious financial threat that improper spending on wheelchairs poses to the Medicare program. In Harris County, TX, alone, Medicare paid for more than 31,000 power wheelchairs in 2002, compared to a little more than 3,000 power wheelchairs in 2001. HHS agencies will work with the Department of Justice in attacking the problem.
Agencies not prepared for HIPAA transaction rules
As of May 2003, only 43% of home health agencies responding to the Alexandria, VA-based American Association for Homecare’s (AAHomecare) 2003 Financial Performance Survey Report indicated they were in compliance for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) deadline for electronic transactions. The annual survey of financial and management practices of home care companies is based on data from the previous year’s operations. This is the 14th Survey Report released by AAHomecare and features new sections on HIPAA IT compliance and delivery and clinical personnel efficiencies.
Key findings in the survey this year include:
The entire study, including additional profit statistics and a wide range of industry financial data, can be purchased at the AAHomecare web site (www.aahomecare.org) or by calling Allison Barton-Kramer at (703) 535-1883. The cost is $250 for AAHomecare members, $500 for non-members.