February 11, 2015

U.S. Government Establishes Cyber-Security Center

Cyber-security is all the news these days. Yesterday's Washington Post carried an article announcing a new federal Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center.

The Obama administration is establishing a new agency to combat the deepening threat from cyberattacks, and its mission will be to fuse intelligence from around the government when a crisis occurs.

The agency is modeled after the National Counterterrorism Center, which was launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks amid criticism that the government failed to share intelligence that could have unraveled the al-Qaeda plot.

Read the full Post article here.

February 10, 2015

NY Department of Financial Services Produces Report on Cyber-Security in the Insurance Industry

Although probably not planned that way, the February 8 release of a report on cyber-security by the New York Department of Financial Services could not be better timed to the recent Anthem breach. Here is a snippet from the Department's press release:

Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services, today announced the release of a Department of Financial Services (DFS) report on cyber security in the insurance industry and a series of measures that DFS will take to help strengthen cyber hacking defenses at insurers. To view a copy of the report, please visit, link.

In the coming weeks and months, DFS will integrate regular, targeted assessments of cyber security preparedness at insurance companies as part of the Department's examination process; put forward enhanced regulations requiring institutions to meet heightened standards for cyber security; and examine stronger measures related to the representations and warranties insurance companies receive from third-party vendors, among other measures.

Read the entire press release here, or skip right on ahead to the report.

February 9, 2015

Senior Health Partners Notifies 2,700 of Data Breach

From a February 3 article in HealthcareIT News:

A New York healthcare provider is notifying its patients that their medical data has been compromised after one of its business associates reported the theft of an employee-owned laptop and unencrypted smartphone.

The New York-based Senior Health Partners, part of the Healthfirst health plan, has mailed out breach notification letters to 2,700 of its members after discovering that a laptop and mobile phone belonging to a registered nurse employed by its business associates were reported stolen.

Read the full article here.

February 6, 2015

Anthem Data Breach Hits Closer to Home

Reported Wednesday afternoon and widely covered Thursday, news of Anthem's 80 million member data breach went coast-to-coast. Today's Times Union details some of the potential impact in New York:

Tens of thousands of Capital Region residents who have medical coverage with Anthem/Empire Blue Cross, the state's Empire Plan, or the NYSHIP Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield HMO may have had personal information stolen in a major data breach.

Read the full article here.

A Bloomberg report indicates early signs point towards Chinese state sponsorship of the hack.

Investigators of Anthem Inc.'s data breach are pursuing evidence that points to Chinese state-sponsored hackers who are stealing personal information from health-care companies for purposes other than pure profit, according to three people familiar with the probe.

See the Bloomberg article with an accompanying video.

February 5, 2015

Republicans Finally Muster a Counter to the Affordable Care Act

After five years of busily passing symbolic legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act, Republicans in Congress have at long last come up with an alternative proposal, covered here by the New York Times:

Three influential Republican members of Congress unveiled a comprehensive proposal on Wednesday to replace President Obama's health care overhaul with an alternative that would halt the expansion of Medicaid and scale back subsidies for middle-income people to buy private insurance.

The plan, drafted with encouragement from Republican leaders in the Senate and the House, would retain some consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, but would reduce federal regulation of insurance policies. States would have more authority to specify the "essential health benefits" that must be provided by insurance. As an example, the federal government would no longer require insurance policies to include coverage for maternity care.

Read the full article here.

Without commenting on the merits of the Republican proposal, the fact that there is at least some kind of alternative plan to discuss will be helpful to reform as a whole. It will spark new ideas and directions for health reform, or it will solidify the position of the ACA and dispel some of the misgivings, either of which advances the discussion. Until now, the Republican position on health reform has largely been: "I don't know, just not the Affordable Care Act."

Governor Proposes More Taxes on Health Insurance Premiums

James Mulder at Syracuse.com covers this gem:

Gov. Cuomo's proposed budget would slap a new tax on health insurance premiums to help pay the cost of running the state's health insurance exchange.

The tax is $25, applies to on- and off-exchange policies, and is projected to add $69 million to the cost of acquiring health insurance. Read the article here.

February 3, 2015

1199SEIU Workers Authorize Strike

From a January 22, 2015 1199SEIU press release:

After months of unsuccessful efforts to reach a contract settlement, nursing home workers voted by 95 percent to authorize a strike. The contract negotiations cover over 8,000 caregivers in for-profit nursing homes in New York City and on Long Island. The nursing home workers are members of 1199SEIU, the city's largest healthcare union.

Read the press release here.

January 20, 2015

NY AG Schneiderman Looks to Bolster State Privacy and Security Laws

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called for an upgrade to the state's information security and privacy laws, according to a press release issued by the AG's office January 15th.

Given the prevalence and increase of data breaches over the past several years, it is clear that New York - and the United States as a whole - is in need of progressive legislation to protect consumers and businesses.

The AG intends to make New York's data protection laws the strongest in the nation.

January 14, 2015

Medicare Begins Paying Primary Care Docs for Care Coordination

An AP wire covers this development in Medicare reimbursement.

Starting this month, Medicare will pay primary care doctors a monthly fee to better coordinate care for the most vulnerable seniors -- those with multiple chronic illnesses -- even if they don't have a face-to-face exam.

The change was part of the final rule for the 2014 Medicare physician fee schedule issued in December 2013. Although supported in the physician community when first announced, the general reaction seemed to be that the amount offered - - about $40 per month - - was only halfway reasonable, as an article at MedPage suggested.

Here's a snippet from the Final Rule for the 2014 fee schedule, discussing the proposal:

[W]e believe that the resources required to furnish chronic care management services to beneficiaries with multiple (that is, two or more) chronic conditions are not adequately reflected in the existing E/M codes. Therefore, for CY 2015, we proposed to establish a separate payment under the PFS for chronic care management services furnished to patients with multiple chronic conditions that are expected to last at least 12 months or until the death of the patient, and that place the patient at significant risk of death, acute exacerbation/decompensation, or functional decline.

We also stated our intent to develop standards for furnishing
chronic care management services to ensure that the physicians and practitioners who bill for these services have the capability to provide them.

See 78 Fed. Reg. 74415 (Dec. 10, 2013). See also 79 Fed. Reg. 40364 (July 11, 2014).

January 7, 2015

New York Enacts Telehealth/Telemedicine Mandate

Governor Cuomo has signed into law the telehealth/telemedicine mandate passed by the legislature at the end of its June 2014 session.

Chapter 550 of the Laws of 2014, signed December 29, requires health insurers and Medicaid to cover health care services provided via electronic means by providers located at a "distant site" if the health care services would otherwise be covered services.

Read the full text of the law here.

For a good overview of the legal issues in telemedicine, see Frank Serbaroli's May 27, 2014 New York Law Journal Article, "Telemedicine: Legal and Practical Considerations."

January 5, 2015

NY Missing From Leapfrog's 2014 'Top Hospitals' List

The Leapfrog Group has released its 'Top Hospitals' of 2014 and not one New York hospital made the list.

The Leapfrog Group is an employer-based coalition advocating for improved quality, transparency and safety in hospitals.

See the list an a brief accompanying article at Healthcare IT News.

December 23, 2014

Obama Administration Investigating Discriminatory Benefit Designs

Yesterday's New York Times reports that the Obama administration intends to investigate companies in the federal insurance marketplace it suspects of engaging in unlawful discrimination against people with AIDS, mental illness, diabetes and other costly chronic conditions.

The administration intends to focus benefit design aspects such as formulary structure, member cost-sharing, and prospective utilization review.

Read the full NY Times article here.

December 22, 2014

Governor Releases Medical Marijuana Regulations

On Thursday, December 18 Governor Cuomo released draft regulations for the State's medical marijuana program.

The regulations will be published in the December 31, 2014 State Register. The regulations will be open to a 45-day public comment period after that.

See the Governor's press release here or link straight to the draft regulations.

Forty-one New York Hospitals Face Medicare Cuts for Poor HAC Scores

Kaiser Health News is reporting that 721 hospitals will receive a 1% reduction in their Medicare reimbursement for FY2015 due to poor hospital-acquired condition (HAC) scores.

In New York, 41 of the state's 157 hospitals will experience the reduction. The penalties for all 721 hospitals will amount to $373 million.

HAC scores across all 3284 hospitals in the nation ranged from 10 to 1, with 10 being the worst. Only one New York hospital -- Massena Memorial Hospital in St. Lawrence County -- fell into the "10" category. Three New York hospitals tied with the lowest score of 1, including Bon Secours Community Hospital in Orange County, the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and St. Mary's Healthcare in Montgomery County.

The complete data download is available at the Kaiser Healthnews website.

December 17, 2014

New York Gets an "F" For Physician Quality Transparency

Becker's Hospital Review notes a recent study that gives New York an F for physician quality transparency.

The Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute flunked 40 states and Washington, D.C., and gave four states a "D" in providing objective, publically accessible information on physician quality, based on a recent study.

Transparent information is available for only 16 percent of clinicians on average, according to the report. There is no data available in some states.

The report, available here, indicates that transparent quality data is available for only 12 percent of New York clinicians, 4 points below the national average. Factors such as the availability and understandability of the data were also considered in the final grade. New York scored an 8 overall, compared to Massachusetts' 40 and California's 52.

For additional posts, see the archive headings in the right hand column.