Dec 21, 2018

Medicare eases up on accountable care rules

Doctors prepare an operating room. Photo: Arne Dedert/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Trump administration on Friday eased up on groups of hospitals and doctors called "accountable care organizations," which were created by the Affordable Care Act, in a regulation that will allow those companies to retain more money if they hold Medicare costs down and keep patient quality high.

The bottom line: The agency that oversees Medicare is still requiring these networks to take on more financial risk. But it's now backpedaling from some of the proposed rules, and as a result, it expects fewer hospitals and doctors to leave the program.

The details: Next year, the federal government will still push groups of hospitals and doctors to both keep savings from lower Medicare spending and pay out financial penalties back to the government if they spend above Medicare's targets.

  • However, some groups can still apply to only keep savings, and the amount of savings those groups can retain (40%) will be larger than what was proposed (25%).
  • Companies will also have an extra year before they have to switch to a program that includes penalties.
  • Medicare expects the rule will save the federal government $2.9 billion over the next 10 years.

Yes, but: Accountable care organizations are saving money, but the savings are very low relative to the size of what Medicare spends every year.

Go deeper: Today's full 957-page rule.

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,094,068 — Total deaths: 58,773 — Total recoveries: 225,519Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 273,880 — Total deaths: 7,077 — Total recoveries: 9,521Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
  4. 2020 latest: Wisconsin's governor called for a last-minute primary election delay. "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said on the 2020 election, as more states hold primaries by mail.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
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Government will cover uninsured patients' coronavirus treatment

Azar at Friday's briefing. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The federal government will cover the costs of coronavirus treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a White House briefing Friday.

How it works: The money will come from a $100 billion pot set aside for the health care industry in the most recent stimulus bill. Providers will be paid the same rates they get for treating Medicare patients, and as a condition of those payments, they won't be allowed to bill patients for care that isn't covered.

More states issue stay-at-home orders as coronavirus crisis escalates

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on Friday as the novel coronavirus pandemic persists. The order goes into effect Saturday at 5 p.m. and will remain in place through April 30. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also issued a statewide social distancing order on Friday.

The big picture: In a matter of weeks, the number of states that issued orders nearly quadrupled, affecting almost 300 million Americans.

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