Healthcare Roundup: Dems' Public Plan Deal Falls Apart, CCHIT Moves on, ONC Unveils Extension Centers, and More

Last Updated Sep 3, 2009 5:21 PM EDT

Lame Blue Dogs Leading the Blind Dems - According to the Wall Street Journal, a deal struck in July between the liberal and "Blue Dog" Democratic factions over how much to pay doctors in the proposed public plan has fallen apart. The Blue Dogs want the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate rates with physicians, while the liberals want to stick them with Medicare rates, as the current House legislation reads. If the government did negotiate rates, with whom would it bargain? The AMA, which represents only about a third of physicians? And even if HHS and AMA struck a deal, why would physicians participate in a public plan if they thought the rates were too low? Inquiring minds want to know. [Sources: Wall Street Journal, BNET Healthcare]

Certification Commission Keeps Rockin' - The Certification Commission on Health Information Technology (CCHIT) has announced that it will provide "modular" certification to physicians and hospitals that do not have complete EHRs to enable them to meet the government' s "meaningful use" criteria for financial incentives. At the same time, it plans to continue certifying comprehensive EHRs, adding criteria that will also enable users of those systems to qualify. The Health IT Policy Committee recently decided that there should be multiple certification bodies, but nobody has stepped forward yet to compete with CCHIT. [Source: Government Health IT]

Feeding The Health IT Dolphins - The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) held a webinar recently to explain how the health IT extension centers will operate, and 1,200 interested parties attended. That's no surprise, since the government is spending nearly $600 million on these centers. ONC said that nonprofit organizations will receive $8 million-$9 million each to establish 70 regional centers around the country. ONC hopes that each extension center will train about 1,500 primary care providers on EHRs and that the program will reach 100,000 providers. Besides the grants for the extension centers, about $50 million has been authorized for a National Health IT Resource Center that will work with the regional offices. [Source: iHealthBeat]

Device Makers Feel Squeeze - Because of lower hospital admissions and capital spending, the outlook for medical product manufacturers, including device makers, is negative, says Moody's. The ratings service notes that medical products spending was down in the first half, and expects the downturn to continue for the rest of 2009. Meanwhile, at Medtronics' annual shareholders' meeting CEO Bill Hawkins defended his company's financial deals with physicians, saying that they helped improve and commercialize devices. [Source: Fierce Healthcare]

Minnesotans Can Compare Prices - A collaborative of healthcare providers has provided Minnesotans with a web-based list of the average the prices that insurance companies in the state pay for 103 common medical services. About 85 percent of primary-care physicians were included in the 110 groups that are included in the price comparison tool, along with many hospitals. Wide disparities in prices are revealed, but the relative bargaining power of individual providers is not. [Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune]

  • Ken Terry

    Ken Terry, a former senior editor at Medical Economics Magazine, is the author of the book Rx For Health Care Reform.