HHS Announces Second Round of Health Care Innovation Awards

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell today announced new prospective awardees to test innovative care models, bringing the total amount of funding to as much as $360 million for 39 recipients spanning 27 states and the District of Columbia. These models are designed to deliver better health care and lower costs under the Health Care Innovation Awards program.  

“The Health Care Innovation Awards support our ongoing work to drive down health care costs while providing high quality care to CMS beneficiaries,” said Secretary Burwell. “These awards advance innovative solutions in delivering and improving care from all across our nation.”

The prospective (not yet final) awards range from an expected $2 million to $23.8 million over a three-year period. These awards are made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and round out the anticipated recipients for round two of the Health Care Innovation Awards program. 

Examples include projects to promote better care for persons living with HIV/AIDS, reduce unnecessary use of emergency departments, improve pediatric dental care, promote prevention and management of cardiovascular disorders, and improve care coordination in rural areas of the country.  Earlier this year, HHS announced 12 prospective round two recipients receiving as much as $110 million in combined funding and testing models in 13 states.  Prospective recipients will receive their final Notice of Award later this summer.

Prospective recipients in round two of the Health Care Innovation Awards will be testing models in the following areas, but not limited to:

  • Five prospective awards will focus on improving emergency care;
  • Ten prospective awards will focus on improving care for children;
  • Four prospective awards will focus on promoting prevention and improving management of cardiovascular diseases;
  • Seven prospective awards will focus on promoting better rural care coordination and telehealth;
  • Seven prospective awards will focus on improving care for frail elderly patients or providing support for aging in the community; and
  • Two prospective awards will focus on promoting better care for persons living with HIV/AIDs.

NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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DOL Extends Contractor Minimum Wage Commentary Period

The Department of Labor (DOL), besieged by requests for more time to comment on its proposal to raise the minimum wage for federal contract employees, has extended the public commentary period until July 28, 2014.

In announcing the extension, the DOL explained the proposal in this way:

The Department is proposing regulations to implement Executive Order 13658, Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors. The Executive Order seeks to increase efficiency and cost savings in the work performed by parties that contract with the Federal Government by raising the hourly minimum wage paid by those contractors to workers performing work on covered federal contracts to: (i) $10.10 per hour, beginning January 1, 2015; and (ii) beginning January 1, 2016, and annually thereafter, an amount determined by the Secretary of Labor. The NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] incorporates existing definitions, procedures, remedies, and enforcement processes under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Service Contract Act, and the Davis-Bacon Act.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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HHS Awards $83.4 Million to Train New Primary Care Providers

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has announced $83.4 million in Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding to support primary care residency programs in 60 Teaching Health Centers across the nation. The funding will help train more than 550 residents during the 2014-2015 academic year, increasing the number of residents trained in the previous academic year by more than 200 and helping to increase access to health care in communities across the country.

Created by the ACA, the Teaching Health Center Program expands residency training in community-based settings. Residents will be trained in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, geriatrics and general dentistry.

“The Affordable Care Act supports the training of new primary care physicians through the Teaching Health Center program,” Secretary Burwell said. “Today’s announcement demonstrates the continued growth of this program to help prepare even more physicians to provide primary care in communities across the country.”

The awards will expand the number of states with Teaching Health Centers from 21 to 24. Teaching Health Centers are located in a variety of settings, including urban, rural, and tribal communities and serve diverse populations.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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HHS Launches EHR Innovations for Improving Hypertension Challenge

In an effort to help clinical practices use health information technology (health IT) like electronic health records (EHRs) to reduce high blood pressure, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today launched a new challenge asking health care professionals and other caregivers to submit the tools they use to improve patient care.

The EHR Innovations for Improving Hypertension Challenge, launched by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), is part of Million Hearts, a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Million Hearts brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies including ONC, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke.

“Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and there are many health-care providers who employ clinical decision support tools, like standardized treatment approaches or protocols to control hypertension among their patients. This challenge helps us find the best examples of those efforts and scale them up,” said Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, national coordinator for health information technology.

Evidence-based treatment protocols provide a playbook for providers to guide their selection of effective therapies for blood pressure control, contributing to better health, better health care and lower costs for patients. The deadline for submissions is October 6 and winners will be announced on Oct. 28.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Walgreens Agrees to Pay $180,000 Over a $1.39 Bag of Chips

Drugstore giant Walgreens has agreed to pay $180,000 to a longtime employee with diabetes and to implement revised policies and training to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC's lawsuit charged that former cashier Josefina Hernandez, who has Type II Diabetes, was fired by a South San Francisco Walgreens because of her disability after she ate a $1.39 bag of chips during a hypoglycemic attack in order to stabilize her blood sugar level. 

Hernandez had worked for Walgreen for almost 18 years with no disciplinary record, and Walgreens knew of her diabetes.  Yet the company security officer testified that he did not understand nor did he seek clarification when Hernandez wrote, "My sugar low.  Not have time," in reply to his request for an explanation of why she took the chips before paying.

Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer.  After an investigation by EEOC investigator Carlos Rocha, and after attempting to resolve the case through pre-litigation conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Walgreen Company, Case No. CV 11-04470) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

On Apr. 14, U.S. District Judge William Orrick noted that "Walgreen has failed to allege any misconduct that is unrelated to her disability," and denied Walgreens' motion for summary judgment.  At this hearing, Walgreens' own legal counsel acknowledged Hernandez as a long-term valued employee with a very good track record, and described her termination as a "harsh result" perceived by the EEOC as unfair.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Personnel Concepts Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary Today

From its humble beginnings 25 years ago today in the founder's residence, Personnel Concepts has grown to be the dominant force in the labor law poster compliance industry.

Through its first quarter-century, miore than 1.5 million American businesses have relied upon Personnel Concepts for the labor law and other posters they display.

Founded by Michael T. Rode, Personnel Concepts is now a proud member of the Brady Corp. family.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Obamacare Data Discrepancies Could Mask Potential Fraud

Though he never used the "F" word — fraud –the  Health and Human Services Department Inspector General fessed up to finding 2.9 million inconsistencies on federal marketplace insurance applications, most of them involving citizenship and income entries that could not be verified or didn't match federal records. Of that figure, 2.6 million remain unresolved.

The  report was prepared and delivered to Congress as a concession to Republicans to end the federal shutdown in 2013.

“Inconsistencies do not necessarily indicate that an applicant provided inaccurate information … or is receiving financial assistance through insurance affordability programs inappropriately,” the report said.

Some 40 percent of the errors involve citizenship issues while a third are concerned with income.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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SCOTUS Grants Opt-Out Right on Obamacare Contraceptive Rule

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that privately held companies can opt out of the contraceptive clause of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on religious grounds.

The requirement in question mandates that certain company-provided health insurance policies include contraceptive services. The ruling came in a review of a lawsuit brought by the owners of Hobby Lobby, furniture maker Conestoga Wood and Christian bookseller Mardel contending that the contraceptive mandate violated their constitutional right to religious freedom.

The law in dispute requires for-profit employers of a certain size to offer insurance benefits for birth control and other reproductive health services without a co-pay. A number of companies equate some of the covered drugs, such as the so-called morning-after pill, with abortion, which is against their owners' religious beliefs.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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HHS Proposes Auto-Renewal of Current Obamacare Policies

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is floating a proposal for public commentary to automatically renew everyone who signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during the open enrollment period that ended in March.

The rule would apply to everyone who signed up on a state website or on the federal marketplace site HealthCare.gov.

The rule, which is open for public commentary for 30 days once published in the Federal Register, was developed in consultation with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Massachusetts Enacts Highest Minimum Wage Law Among All States

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick today signed S.2195, “An Act Restoring the Minimum Wage and Providing Unemployment Insurance Reforms,” a bill that "gradually raises the minimum wage to $11 over three years, lowers unemployment insurance (UI) costs for employers across the state, strengthens safety protections for workers and makes permanent the multi-agency task force charged with combating the underground economy," according to an official press release.

“Raising the minimum wage brings a little relief to the working poor, many of whom do jobs we could not live without and who recycle money right back into the economy,” said Gov. Patrick. “By signing this bill, we show the Nation that opportunity can and must be spread outward, not just upward. I thank the Legislature for their important work in reaching this milestone.”


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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