Stage 2 attestation calculator unveiled; CMS issues new answers to FAQs on EHRs;

News From Around the Web

> The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued a new Stage 2 attestation calculator that providers can use to determine if they'll meet the Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements. A results page explains why a provider may or may not receive an incentive payment. Providers who have completed at least two years of Stage 1 will demonstrate Stage 2 in 2014. Website

> CMS has released three new answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and updated five additional ones. The new FAQs deal with calculating patient volume in the Medicaid incentive program; whether "patient electronic access" includes patients who access their records before discharge; and whether an eligible professional is required to report on the "electronic notes" objective even if he/she didn't see patients during the reporting period. Website

> The Meaningful Use program is starting more slowly in 2014 than in prior years, according to Government Health IT. For instance, 3,740 eligible hospitals received incentive payments in the 2012 reporting year. So far in 2014, only five have been paid as of February. Article

Health Finance News

> Not-for-profit and tax-exempt hospitals' protocols for self-pay patients--whether to write their bills off entirely as charity care or insist on years of payments--vary widely from facility to facility, according to 100Reporters. St. Anthony Hospital in Denver, part of the Catholic Health Initiatives network, collects $50 up front from self-pay patients, according to the article. By contrast, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Elgin, N.D., requires that self-pay patients pay the facility 10 percent of their total bill, regardless of whether it takes years or decades to do so. Article

> Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) increased among hospitals and health systems in 2013, according to a new analysis by Kaufman Hall. Last year, hospitals and health systems announced 98 new combinations, a 3 percent increase from the previous year and a 51 percent increase from 2010, the analysis found. Article

Health Insurance News

> The Affordable Care Act was a boon for health insurers, with a strong enrollment surge and more young, healthy consumers signing up. So insurers are preparing to expand their offerings on health insurance exchanges. Motivating insurers is that at least 7 million consumers signed up for exchanges during the first open enrollment period. Many insurers now are taking steps to sell plans in new states and counties, while others that didn't participate in the exchanges will be joining in. Article

> CMS' recent reversal of proposed payment cuts to Medicare Advantage plans has yet to gain a ton of supporters. Last week, CMS announced insurers will see a 0.4 percent boost--an increase slightly higher than what insurers requested. However, insurance analysts still predict lower payments to private Medicare Advantage plans in 2015. Some insurers also still expect to see Medicare Advantage rates drop next year, including Aetna and Humana. Article

And Finally... The dog may do a better job than some humans! Article