The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Friday, July 9. Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.
President Biden has issued an executive order “…to promote competition in the American economy, which will lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, and promote innovation and even faster economic growth.” Among other things, the executive order calls for closer scrutiny of corporate consolidation, maintaining that such consolidation results in a “…lack of competition [that] drives up prices for consumers. As fewer large players have controlled more of the market, mark-ups (charges over cost) have tripled. Families are paying higher prices for necessities – things like prescription drugs, hearing aids, and internet service.” The order also includes a provision that “… enforcement should focus in particular on labor markets, agricultural markets, healthcare markets (which includes prescription drugs, hospital consolidation, and insurance), and the tech sector.”
In a section on hospitals, the order notes that
Hospital consolidation has left many areas, especially rural communities, without good options for convenient and affordable healthcare service. Thanks to unchecked mergers, the ten largest healthcare systems now control a quarter of the market. Since 2010, 139 rural hospitals have shuttered, including a high of 19 last year, in the middle of a healthcare crisis. Research shows that hospitals in consolidated markets charge far higher prices than hospitals in markets with several competitors.
- Underscores that hospital mergers can be harmful to patients and encourages the Justice Department and FTC to review and revise their merger guidelines to ensure patients are not harmed by such mergers.
- Directs HHS to support existing hospital price transparency rules and to finish implementing bipartisan federal legislation to address surprise hospital billing.
Learn more from the White House fact sheet on the executive order, which addresses other aspects of health care as well.
Provider Relief Fund
- The Provider Relief Fund’s “Reporting Requirements and Auditing” page has been updated with new information about Provider Relief Fund recipient reporting deadlines, requirements, and worksheets. Find it here.
- The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will host recorded Reporting Technical Assistance Sessions to provide technical assistance on reporting requirements for Provider Relief Fund recipients and stakeholders. For the July 14 session at 3:00 p.m., go here to register and for the July 20 session at 3:00 go here to register.
Department of Health and Human Services
- HHS has published notice of the extension of the designation issued on February 1, 2021 identifying health and medical resources necessary to respond to the spread of COVID-19 that are scarce or the supply of which would be threatened by excessive accumulation by people or entities not needing the excess supplies. These designated materials are subject to the hoarding prevention measures authorized under Executive Order 13910 and section 102 of the Defense Production Act of 1950. Learn more from the Federal Register notice. The notice lists specific items that have had their “scarce” designation removed and others that have not. The action took effect on July 1 and interested parties have until August 7 to submit comments.
Health Policy News
- HHS has updated interoperability standards to support the collection and electronic exchange of data on sexual orientation, gender identity, and social determinants of health. Learn more from HHS’s announcement about this development and from the United States Core Data for Interoperability version 2 (USCDI v2), a standardized set of health data classes and constituent data elements for nation-wide, interoperable health information exchange.
- HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has shared a notice from the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI about how multiple managed service providers and their customers can protect themselves from recent supply-chain ransomware attacks leveraging a vulnerability in Kaseya VSA software. Learn more here.
- HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has developed an infectious disease surge annex tabletop exercise toolkit that can be used by health care coalitions to enhance operational area awareness and capability to effectively address the needs of patients seeking care following exposure to an infectious agent. Health care coalitions are not required to use this template but it can be used to satisfy funding opportunity announcement requirements for the hospital preparedness program cooperative agreement. Find the toolkit and links to other resources here.
- The same HHS office has prepared a home care and hospice emergency operations plan that includes emergency operations plans specific to home care and hospice agencies.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Health Policy News
- CMS has published the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online weekly bulletin. This week’s edition includes an updated FAQ about repayment of COVID-19 accelerated and advance payments, including information about how recoupment works and how it affects providers’ Medicare claims payment amounts. For this and more, including articles on updated HCPCS codes for skilled nursing facilities and updated durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies, go here.
- CMS has announced the appointment of Dr. Meena Seshamani, M.D., Ph.D. as Deputy Administrator and Director of Center for Medicare. Dr. Seshamani most recently served as vice president of clinical care transformation at MedStar Health, where she conceptualized, designed, and implemented population health and value-based care initiatives and served on the senior leadership of a health system with 10 hospitals and more than 300 outpatient sites. Prior to MedStar Health, she was director of the Office of Health Reform at HHS. Dr. Seshamani received her B.A. with honors in business economics from Brown University, her M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and her Ph.D. in health economics from the University of Oxford. Learn more from the CMS announcement of the appointment.
- The CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation’s Financial Alignment Initiative is designed to provide individuals dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid with a better care experience and to better align the financial incentives of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Through this initiative, CMS partners with states to test new models for their effectiveness in accomplishing these goals. Now, the innovation center has posted evaluation and savings reports from participating states Washington, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia. Find those reports and other information about the program here.
- CMS has updated the document “COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) Billing” with an updated question on page 109 about how CMS-HCC risk scores are calculated. The only change from the previous version is an updated link and contact email address.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The CDC and FDA have issued a joint statement explaining that
Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. FDA, CDC, and NIH are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary. This process takes into account laboratory data, clinical trial data, and cohort data – which can include data from specific pharmaceutical companies, but does not rely on those data exclusively. We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed. We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.
- The CDC has updated its information for pregnant women about the risks of contracting COVID-19 while pregnant and the benefits of getting vaccinated against the virus.
- The CDC has updated its information for older adults about the risks of contracting COVID-19, the benefits of getting vaccinated, and what individuals should do if they think they have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it. Learn more here.
- The CDC has posted research on the acceptance of COVID-19 vaccinations among adolescents and the parents of adolescents.
- The CDC has published an update from its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on the use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines after reports of myocarditis among vaccine recipients. Find the report here.
- The CDC has posted the results of its analysis of the effectiveness of care provided to post-COVID patients who have been referred to outpatient rehabilitation clinics for additional care in comparison to patients with other medical challenges who receive the same kind of care.
- The CDC has published a protocol for investigating COVID-19 infections among people who have received COVID-19 vaccines to identify trends or clustering in patient characteristics, the administered vaccine, or the infecting virus. Find the protocol here.
Food and Drug Administration
- The FDA has authorized the use, under the emergency use authorization for the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, of an additional batch of vaccine drug substance manufactured at the Emergent facility. Questions had been raised about the safety of the batch but the FDA has investigated and concluded it is safe. See the FDA announcement of this decision here and the letter the FDA sent to JanssenBiotech explaining its decision.
Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)
- MACPAC has responded to the Office of Management and Budget request for information “Methods and Leading Practices for Advancing Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through Government” with a letter that highlights opportunities for CMS and state agencies that jointly operate Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to document specific disparities in health care and develop new opportunities to improve access to and the quality of care beneficiaries receive. The letter also outlines areas that could be addressed through subregulatory guidance, waiver opportunities, and technical assistance. Learn more from the MACPAC letter to OMB.
National Institutes of Health
- New NIH research suggests that one in four COVID-19 deaths in U.S. hospitals may have been attributed to hospitals strained by surging caseloads. These findings have implications for triage strategies, hospital preparedness, how health care facilities allocate resources, and how public health authorities can assess and react to local data.
Tuesday, July 13 – Food and Drug Administration
The FDA will host a webinar to share information and answer questions about its revocation of EUAs for non-NIOSH-approved respirators and decontamination systems. It will present information about its June 30, 2021 “Update: FDA No Longer Authorizes Use of Non-NIOSH-Approved or Decontaminated Disposable Respirators – Letter to Health Care Personnel and Facilities.” To join the webinar:
Zoom Webinar Link: https://fda.zoomgov.com/j/1600971341?pwd=UTJMTlZmYzVScmNZamd2d2J4SU92Zz09
Webinar Passcode: $vrC6z
Webinar ID: 160 097 1341
Tuesday, July 13 – Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)
ONC Workshop: Advancing SDOH Data Use and Interoperability for Achieving Health Equity
Tuesday, July 13 at 10:00 am – 4:00 pm ET Click here for connection information
This workshop will explore existing and emerging data standards, tools, approaches, policies, models, and interventions for advancing the use and interoperability of non-clinical health data for individual and community health improvement. It will share varying perspectives of health policy-makers and health improvement implementers to highlight inventive solutions, share challenges, and offer ideas on data modernization to advance health equity. The workshop offers introductory content as well as deep exploration of key topics as part of social determinants of health IT data use and interoperability including facilitated, expert stakeholder engagement.
Wednesday, July 14 and Tuesday, July 20 – Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
HRSA will host recorded Reporting Technical Assistance Sessions to provide technical assistance on reporting requirements for Provider Relief Fund recipients and stakeholders. For the July 14 session at 3:00 p.m. go here to register and for the July 20 session at 3:00 p.m. go here to register.