N.H. judge nixes hospital tax

In case you missed it, a judge in New Hampshire has declared the state’s so-called “hospital tax” to be unconstitutional.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

Last week, Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Philip P. Mangones ruled that the Medicaid Enhancement Tax is unconstitutional in part because it treats hospitals differently from clinics and doctors, even though they perform the same services.

The suit was brought by Catholic Medical Center, St. Joseph Hospital and Exeter Hospital, which paid $31 million in Medicaid Enhancement taxes in 2011.

The state had been reimbursing the hospitals for the tax, using federal Medicaid dollars. After the New Hampshire legislature opted to stop the reimbursements, the hospitals sued.

Mangones’ key ruling, which may have further-reaching implications, is that hospitals and clinics perform a wide range of health services and therefore cannot be treated differently than similar providers, simply because they are hospitals.
“In essence, the MET imposes a tax on hospitals simply because they are hospitals, not based on the nature of the services they provide,” Mangones wrote.

You can check out the entire article by clicking here.

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Posted in Business, News and stories | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Turn those programs off!

During a recent conversation I had with a group of healthcare professionals it came to light that not everyone shuts all their work computer programs off when they’re done for the day. This seemed to be happening as a time saving measure for the individuals.

NEMT President Linda Allard

Obviously the first thing I thought of was HIPAA and how unsecure this is. During the conversation I was not able to present my case well enough to really make everyone understand.

If programs are not closed that are able to access PHI, anyone who uses the computer has a chance of accessing this information. Also, if inappropriate retrieval of PHI is performed, the HIPAA trail will point to the person who is logged in.

What about remote employees? There is even more vulnerability there. One of the questions on your HIPAA security audit should be “Do we have our programs set up to automatically log out which will prevent this from happening?”

Often as administrators we get the complaints from those who have to follow the procedures of required password changes and programs logging out. We need to balance what is reasonable for our employees with what is required to ensure HIPAA compliance.

Now might be a good time to revisit the security of your system and your policy and procedure manual to make sure these issues are addresses. A good rule of thumb is to shut down your computer when you are done for the day.

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Posted in HIPAA | Tagged , | 1 Comment

ICD-10 delayed?

Just when we all were certain that ICD-10 would launch on Oct. 1, 2014, Congress has now stepped in and a bill has been presented by the House Ways and Means Committee that would potentially delay the start date by at least a year, perhaps more.

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

The House bill would delay ICD-10 deadline until at least 2015. What makes this so much more difficult now than when it was delayed more than a year ago is that millions of dollars have been expended and time invested for the on-time launch by thousands of hospitals nationwide. At the same time some are still in progress and expect to be ready and others know they will not be ready.

The conundrum is: is it fair to penalize those hospitals and practices who are ready? While there is no intent to penalize them, it will if only because momentum will be lost and much more money will likely have to be spent as the deadline is moved out.

Will it make it more or less complicated given all the other items on every hospitals to-do list? I’m guessing more. I don’t feel strongly either way but I do think the time may be past to mandate a delay.

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Windows XP – The end is near

It’s been all over the news.  Windows XP is nearing its end-of-life.  Support for the Windows XP operating system, which was released in 2002, will end on April 8, 2014.  After that date, Microsoft will stop offering tech support and releasing security updates.

Andrew Clarke, IT Director at NEMT

Security updates patch vulnerabilities in a program or operating system that could be exploited by hackers in the form of malware, spyware and the like.  Without these security updates, sensitive data could be stolen.  This data could be anything from your personal banking information to sensitive patient information (PHI).  Running Anti-virus and Anti-Malware software on Windows XP will not be sufficient protection since they also rely on the operating system to do their job.

After April 8, 2014, any computer running Windows XP will not be considered protected by HIPAA standards.  Individuals performing work that involves PHI are required to use an up-to-date, modern operating system.  That means that the operating system needs to be supported by the manufacturer and receive regular security updates.  If your PC meets the system requirements for Windows 71 or Windows 82, you can purchase a copy of the operating system from a local retailer or Microsoft and upgrade your current PC.  If your PC does not meet these requirements, you will need to obtain a PC that uses Windows 7 or Windows 8.

The Bright Side:  If you’re running a computer that came with Windows XP, you are no doubt dealing with a computer that boots up slowly, runs sluggishly, and takes forever to shut down.  As much as none of us likes change, a move to a newer computer running Windows 7 or Windows 8 will be like taking the weights from your ankles on a run or walk.  You’ll be able to move more quickly and easily through your daily tasks, and (hopefully) you’ll wonder what took you so long to make the change.

1 System requirements for Windows 7: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/system-requirements

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

2 System requirements for Windows 8: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/system-requirements

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

Additional information is available from Microsoft at: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/enterprise/endofsupport.aspx

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Posted in IT, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Wanted: ICD-10 testers

If you can’t get enough of ICD-10, you’re in luck – the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is looking for end-to-end testers over the summer.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

In late July, CMS will start end-to-tend testing to a small group of providers. As part of the test, sample claims will be submitted to CMS with ICD-10 codes and explanations. The CMS is looking for more than 500 providers, suppliers and other submitters to volunteer. Officials are looking for a broad cross-section of testers.

The minimum requirements are:

  •     Testers can be a third party or a supplier who submits directly to Medicare.
  •     Testing volunteers must submit claims electronically. Suppliers who submit claims through a third party will have to work with that third party to participate in the testing if the third party is selected as a volunteer.
  •     Testers must be established and active CEDI Trading Partners and capable of receiving electronic remittance advices to be eligible for this testing.
  •     Testers must be ready to test ICD-10, meaning, all vendor and practice management software needed to test has been updated and internally tested prior to conducting end-to-end testing with Medicare.
  •     Testers must be able to submit future dated claims.
  •     Testers must be able to provide the national provider identifiers (NPIs), provider transaction account numbers (PTANs), and beneficiary health insurance claim numbers (HICNs) they will use for test claims. This information will be needed several months prior to the start of testing for set- up purposes.

If you want to volunteer, fill out an application at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CEDI_ICD10_End2End_Test.

For more information about the requirements, download the announcement at http://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNMattersArticles/Downloads/MM8602.pdf

March 24 is the deadline to apply.

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