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Obama considers easing health care rules

New York Times / October 19, 2011

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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration moved yesterday to roll back numerous rules that apply to hospitals and other health care providers after concluding that the standards were obsolete or overly burdensome to the industry.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said the proposed changes, which would apply to more than 6,000 hospitals, would save providers nearly $1.1 billion a year without creating any “consequential risks for patients.’’

Under the new proposals, issued with a view to “impending physician shortages,’’ it would be easier for hospitals to use “advanced-practice nurse practitioners and physician assistants in lieu of higher-paid physicians.’’ This change alone “could provide immediate savings to hospitals,’’ the administration said.

Other proposals would roll back rules for doctors’ offices, kidney dialysis centers, organ transplant programs, outpatient surgery centers, and institutions for people with severe mental disabilities.

In January, President Obama ordered his appointees to modify or revoke rules that were outmoded, ineffective, or “excessively burdensome.’’ Republicans in Congress have demanded such changes, arguing that many federal rules have stifled economic growth and job creation.

Many of the new proposals deal with Medicare and Medicaid rules that have not been altered in decades. In general, the proposals do not affect the large number of rules issued under the new health care law, which set detailed standards for coverage offered by insurance companies and employers.

One of the new proposals would allow hospital patients to take certain drugs on their own - without being monitored by a nurse - with the approval of hospital officials.

Other proposals would eliminate requirements for hospitals to keep detailed logs of infection control problems and relieve certain organ transplant centers of the need to certify the blood type of organ donors. Hospitals would still have to investigate outbreaks of infections, and other medical experts would check on donors’ blood type.

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