By Emily Warner
Greetings, Palliative in Practice readers, on this auspicious Friday the 13th. It’s cold and blustery here in New York, but it is no doubt toasty warm in Speaker John Boehner’s heart: a bone-fide budget bill passed the House yesterday, in part thanks to Boehner’s stately show of leadership/ slightly unhinged censure of outside conservative groups. Before the cockles of our hearts are cooled by the ashen winds of war, let’s turn to the top 5.
- About that budget bill. The Medicare sequestration cuts of 2% survived this unusually decisive House vote, but some groups are lobbying hard against these cuts, so let’s see what happens in the Senate.
- The budget bill also includes a 3-month patch to keep the SGR from, as a HuffPo headline would say, whacking Medicare docs. An SGR fix probably won’t pass this year, but the 3-month patch means there’s a good shot we’ll see something in the first quarter of 2014, particularly because the CBO lowered the cost of the repeal once again. I expect there will be some changes as the months go by, but you can see current details on the bill, including a nice section-by-section, here.
- No big news article on this one (indeed, there appear to be no news articles on this at all) but you should know that it is MAP season, and this week many work-groups of the NQF MAP met in DC. The MAP, or Measures Application Partnership, meets each year to give input to CMS on the quality measures to be included in various CMS quality programs. Through December and January, MAP work-groups comb through the measures CMS is considering, vetting them for scientific validity and priority. They release their recommendations to CMS in February. Though CMS is free to ignore MAP recommendations, it’s a large undertaking with significant consequences, and each year it’s important to advocate for the inclusion of measures that will improve palliative care for the sickest and most vulnerable patients. </soapbox>
- Also no news article, but this Monday there was a hill briefing on palliative care, featuring presentations by our own Diane Meier, Sean Morrison of the National Palliative Care Research Center, and the incomparably well-spoken Amy Berman, a nurse by training and patient advocate who spoke elegantly about her experience of being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and her ability to live with the highest quality of life possible thanks to palliative care. The event was meant to educate policymakers on the importance of palliative care to both patients and the health system. It was attended by about 50 Hill staffers and members of the public—not bad for an icy day in the capital.
- And last, and we hope, least: readmissions. It looks like the readmissions penalties may be working, because the rate of readmissions, which usually hovers around 19%, has fallen below 18%.
And honorable mention this week goes to healthcare.gov, which as of Nov. 30 enrolled about 137,000 in health insurance, for inspiring what, based on the photo, appears to be an article about how Kathleen Sebelius is hovering outside your window, waiting to come after your children while they sleep.