Update

July 6, 2007

Professional and financial news you can use

COMPETITION

Strep tests at Gate 11

TAXES

Residents' pay exempt from FICA?

That's the question in a court tussle over a $2.4 million refund of federal taxes to Mount Sinai Medical Center of Florida. The money, which covered amounts paid for tax years 1996 through 1999, included both the employer's and employees' portion of FICA taxes, which are used to fund Social Security. The hospital argued in a US Appeals Court that its status as a teaching institution allowed it to claim a refund of both portions based on the student exemption, which waives FICA taxes on wages paid to a student who is enrolled and regularly attending classes. The Appeals Court remanded the case for further proceedings. The government is reportedly expected to take its case all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

P4P

Study: Incentives don't equal better care

Pay-for-performance programs don't seem to have a significant impact on the quality of care given to heart attack patients or on their mortality rates, says a study published in the June 6 issue of JAMA. Researchers analyzed data for patients with a particular form of myocardial infarction (acute non-ST-segment elevation) between July 2003 and June 2006 at 54 hospitals participating in the Medicare P4P pilot project and 446 nonparticipating hospitals. The use of "process-of-care measures," such as prescribing beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, as well as in-hospital mortality rates, improved at both sets of hospitals, with no significant difference between the two sets. A couple of measurements were slightly higher at the P4P hospitals.

DOCUMENT PROTECTION

Hurricane season's here. Be prepared

As we've reported in these pages, a natural disaster can be devastating to a physician's practice. Some simple steps, however, can help you protect your financial and tax records in case Mother Nature strikes again this summer. The IRS suggests that W-2s, tax returns, and other personal documents be scanned into an electronic format, then backed up onto a flash drive or other portable device such as a CD or DVD, which can be sent to a relative or colleague in another city. As for your patients' records, unless all of them are in a secure and backed-up electronic health record format, there's no truly foolproof method of protecting them.