News Briefs

Florida’s urgent call for nursing help is answered

Florida has received an overwhelming response from hospitals offering the names of nurses willing to temporarily travel to the state to help relieve hurricane-weary nursing staff or assist with public health needs resulting from the four hurricanes that ravaged the state.

Volunteer help has been offered from several states: "Virginia, South Carolina, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Colorado; and we already have 16-member teams in place from Iowa and Oklahoma," says Monica Rutkowski, a member of the Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) Public Health Nursing Team.

The American Hospital Association, working with the American Organization of Nurse Executives and many state hospitals in the Southeast, asked hospitals for help in identifying nurses willing to assist in Florida’s hardest-hit areas. The Florida State Board of Nursing is granting temporary licenses to the out-of-state nurses, so they can be assigned to hospitals, health clinics, and special-needs shelters, Rutkowski explains. The Florida DOH, which organized the nurse volunteer effort with the Florida Hospital Association, will continue to contact nurse volunteers as specific needs are determined.

JCAHO announces 2005 survey fee increase

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations’ survey fees will increase for 2005. The fee increases, only the second in the last decade, will vary by program and, within programs, will vary by the types and volumes of services provided. The Joint Commission also announced plans to institute a subscription billing model in 2006 that will allow accredited organizations to begin to spread their survey fees over the three-year accreditation cycle.

The Joint Commission has changed the survey process significantly in the past two years and added a variety of new services that have increased the costs of conducting surveys, according to Dennis S. O’Leary, MD, president of the Joint Commission. The final fee schedule had not been set as of publication date, but the estimated average increase for home care is $880. For specific pricing, contact the Joint Commission Pricing Unit at (630) 792-5115 or by e-mail to pricingunit@jcaho.org.

CMS reimbursement for flu vaccine rises

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced an increase in the Medicare Part B payment allowance for this year’s influenza vaccine. Reimbursement for the influenza vaccine is $10.10 per adult dose, an increase of $0.15 from last year’s price of $9.95. This year’s pneumococcal vaccine payment allowance is $23.28, also up from last year’s price of $18.62. The price is effective starting Sept. 1 and is good until Dec. 31. Because the total vaccination Part B reimbursement includes the Medicare allowance price plus administration costs, and those costs vary according to administration area, each agency’s payment will differ, according to CMS officials.