The Obama administration is trying to reduce legal barriers to coordinating care and giving patients products and services they need to improve their health, such as transportation to medical appointments and blood-pressure cuffs. In a proposed rule issued last week by HHS’ Office of Inspector General, the agency proposed additional safe harbors from prohibitions on providing incentives to patients enrolled in government health programs to seek treatment. It also solicited input from providers on how it can relax rules against reducing or limiting services in order to encourage efficient medical care.
Healthcare added 22,600 jobs last month as the nation’s unemployment rate fell to a low not seen since the early months of the Great Recession. Overall healthcare employment in September reached 14.8 million jobs, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figures are seasonally adjusted and preliminary for the past two months. The economy added 248,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate dipped to 5.9%, the first time it has fallen below 6% since August 2008. Hospitals hired steadily through the recession, though recent hiring trends show hospital hiring has cooled, while ambulatory-care employment has accelerated.
Two immigrant groups filed complaints alleging HHS discriminated against federal exchange enrollees who aren’t proficient in English or Spanish. The complaints, filed with the agency’s Office for Civil Rights, allege that the federal government’s actions violate the rights of individuals born in foreign countries. Last month, HHS announced that 115,000 individuals who had failed to resolve problems with their applications related to immigration status would see their plans canceled at the end of September. Asian-Americans faced language and other barriers in exchange enrollment. But letters notifying individuals about the problems were sent only in English and Spanish; some immigrants understood neither.