News briefs

Insured patient visits behind ED increase

Insured patients, not the uninsured, accounted for most of a 16% increase in emergency department visits between 1996 and 2001, according to a recent analysis by the Center for Studying Health System Change. The study found that emergency department (ED) visits increased 24% for privately insured patients, 10% for Medicare beneficiaries, and 10% for self-pay or no-charge (typically uninsured) patients during the period. It also found a 37% decrease in physician office visits by uninsured patients during the period, an indication that medical resources other than EDs are dwindling for uninsured Americans. The report, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is available at www.hschange.org.

AHA form available to report problems

A form that hospitals and other health care organizations can use to report problems they encounter sending or receiving electronic transactions using the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) transaction standards is available on the American Hospital Association (AHA) web site. AHA will use the information to identify quickly specific problem areas that may warrant correction or intervention by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), according to a spokesman for the association. The form can be accessed at www.aha.org by clicking on "HIPAA." It includes a link to the CMS web site, where organizations can file an official complaint. 

Part A deductible rise set for 2004, HHS says

The Part A deductible, paid by beneficiaries in the fee-for-service Medicare program for certain services, including inpatient hospital care, will increase by $36 to $876 in 2004, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced. For extended hospital stays, the per-day payment for days 61-90 will increase by $9 to $219, while the per day payment for hospital stays beyond the 90th day in a benefit period will increase by $18 to $438. The monthly premium paid by beneficiaries enrolled in the optional Medicare Part B program, which covers services including outpatient hospital care, will increase by $7.90 to $66.60. More information is available at www.hhs.gov.

Pay raise predicted for new registrars

The median pay for newly hired registration/ admission clerks will grow 7.4% in 2004, compared to 2003, says a forecast by OfficeTeam, a temporary staffing and job placement company. Hospitals and other health care providers are likely to provide healthy pay increases for starting administrative staffers in 2004, compared to the unchanged or even declining salaries paid to administrative workers in other economic sectors, the report says. The general pay range for registration/admission clerks will be $20,250 to $27,500, not counting regional pay differentials, according to OfficeTeam. The company also predicted that newly hired medical office administrators will get 7.9% more than their counterparts did in 2003, with pay typically ranging between $33,500 and $45,000 annually. "Ongoing shifts in regulations impacting the health care field have increased the need for skilled workers who can readily adapt to changing job requirements," the company said. More information is available at www.officeteam.com.