The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 30. Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.
Provider Relief Fund: Applications Are Now Being Accepted
- The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has opened its portal for providers to apply for $25.5 billion in health care relief funds, including $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan resources for providers that serve rural patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program and $17 billion for Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 grants for a broad range of providers that have experienced changes in operating revenues and expenses as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. The application period will run for four weeks. Providers must submit their completed application by October 26. Go here for further information.
Provider Relief Fund: More Information
- As the period begins for applying for Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 grants and funding for rural hospitals provided through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), HRSA has updated some of its resources providing information about who is eligible to apply for these funds and how to submit applications.
- HRSA’s Provider Relief Fund web site has a new section titled “Requesting a Phase 3 Payment Reconsideration.” This is for providers that did not receive the grants they expected from the Phase 3 distribution. The new section notes that HRSA will only consider reconsideration requests from providers that believe their Phase 3 payment calculation was incorrect and that the agency will not consider reconsideration requests that would require a change in payment methodology or policy.
- Another section on the Provider Relief Fund web site has been renamed “Phase 4 and ARP Rural Payments.” This section reminds interested parties that the portal is now open for applications and will remain open until the application deadline of October 26. It also offers links to extensive resources to assist providers applying for funds, including application instructions, sample application forms, a “how to apply” flow chart, an annual revenues from patient care worksheet, an annual revenues adjustment worksheet, general program information, a general fact sheet, a fact sheet for complex organizational structures, two FAQs, and terms and conditions for both the Phase 4 grants and the rural hospital distribution.
- HHS also has relocated and updated its separate Provider Relief Fund FAQ web site, which it has renamed “Provider Relief Programs: Provider Relief Fund and ARP Rural Payments Frequently Asked Questions.” The updated FAQ has 30 additions that address a wide variety of matters involving applying for new grants, reporting on the use of previously awarded grants, eligibility for future funding, and more. These additions can be found on pages 3 5, 9, 13, 17, 27, 32, 33, and 57-61; are all marked either 9/13 or 9/29.
- In addition, the FAQ web site has five entirely new sections from page 61 through 67:
- ARP Rural Payments Overview and Eligibility” (p.61)
- “Phase 4/ARP Rural Payment Tax Identification Number (TIN) Validation Process” (p. 62)
- “Phase 4 Application Process” (p. 63)
- “Phase 4 Complex Financial Situations” (p. 65)“
- ARP Rural Payments Application Process” (p. 67).
- HRSA had previously scheduled a web event on Tuesday, October 5 for providers interested in pursuing Provider Relief Fund grants and funding for rural hospitals. The purpose of this webcast is to provide guidance on how to navigate the application portal for seeking grants. Learn more here and find a link to register to participate.
- HRSA has now announced two additional web events for the same purpose: on Wednesday, October 13 (go here to register) and Thursday, October 21 (go here to register).
- HHS recently hosted a briefing session to provide information about these upcoming funding opportunities. View a video of that session here.
- Congress has passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government at current levels until December 3. This continuing resolution does not include any remedy for the federal government’s debt limit, which the Treasury Secretary has predicted will be reached by mid-October. Congressional Democrats continue internal negotiations on the infrastructure bill and a reconciliation package containing President Biden’s domestic “social infrastructure” priorities.
The White House
- The White House has posted a transcript of the September 28 press briefing given by its COVID-19 response team and public health officials. Find the slides presented during the briefing here.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Health Policy News
- CMS has posted the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online newsletter. The latest issue reports on clinical laboratory fee schedule updates, correct billing for post-acute care transfers, an update of the outpatient prospective payment system, and more. Go here for the latest edition of MLN Connects.
- CMS has released the 2022 premiums, deductibles, and other key information for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans in advance of the annual Medicare Open Enrollment to help Medicare enrollees decide on coverage. The average premium for Medicare Advantage plans will be lower in 2022 at $19 a month, compared to $21.22 in 2021, while projected enrollment continues to increase. As previously announced, the average 2022 premium for Part D coverage will be $33 a month, compared to $31.47 in 2021. Learn more from this CMS news release.
- CMS has announced the CY 2022 participants in its Medicare Advantage Value-Based Insurance Design Model. For CY 2022, the model will have 34 participating Medicare Advantage organizations, up from 14 in 2020 and 19 in 2021. Learn more about the model and how it works and find a list of participating plans for 2022 in this CMS fact sheet.
- CMS has announced CY 2022 Part D plan sponsor participants in its Part D Senior Savings Model. Learn more about the program, how it works, and the 2022 participants from the Part D Senior Savings Model web page.
Department of Health and Human Services
- HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has issued guidance on the cleaning and sanitation of out-of-operation facilities that are being reopened to serve as monoclonal antibody COVID-19 treatment sites.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The CDC has issued a health advisory strongly recommending COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future, to prevent serious illness, deaths, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. The advisory also calls on health departments and clinicians to educate pregnant people on the benefits of vaccination and the safety of recommended vaccines. Learn more from the CDC’s news release announcing the health advisory and from the CDC’s advice on pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccinations.
- The CDC has updated its general FAQ about COVID-19 vaccines.
- The CDC has updated its information for providers about considerations involved in administering COVID-19 vaccines to reflect recent changes in federal policy authorizing Pfizer booster vaccines.
- The CDC has updated its background information about the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
- The CDC has updated its information about the possible side effects of receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
National Institutes of Health
- The NIH has issued a request for information seeking feedback from stakeholders in the scientific research community, clinical practice communities, patient and family advocates, scientific and professional organizations, federal partners, internal NIH stakeholders, and other interested constituents on research opportunities and operational activities related to the NIH Strategic Plan to Advance Research on the Health and Well-Being of Sexual and Gender Minorities for fiscal years 2021–2025. The goal of this request for information is to provide organizations, researchers, non-profits, and community members an opportunity to identify potential research opportunities and operational activities related to the NIH mission. Comments must be received by December 3, 2021. Learn more from this Federal Register notice.
HRSA – New Provider Relief Fund and Rural Hospital Grants – October 5, 13, and 21
The Health Resources and Services Administration will hold web events on Tuesday, October 5, Wednesday, October 13, and Thursday, October 21 for providers interested in pursuing Provider Relief Fund grants and funding for rural hospitals provided through the American Rescue Plan. The purpose of the event is to provide guidance on how to navigate the application portal for seeking these grants.
- To register for the October 5 webcast, go here.
- To register for the October 13 webcast, go here.
- To register for the October 21 webcast, go here.
CDC – Recommendations for Influenza Prevention and Treatment in Children – October 7
The CDC and experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics will hold a webinar on Thursday, October 7 at 2:00 p.m. (eastern) to discuss strategies that primary care providers and medical subspecialists can use to improve, prevent, and control influenza among children during the upcoming flu season. Go here to learn more about the webinar and how to participate.
FDA – Workshop Addressing Response to the Opioid Crisis – October 13 and October 14
The FDA will hold a workshop titled “Reconsidering Mandatory Opioid Prescriber Education Through a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS)” to give stakeholders an opportunity to provide input on aspects of the current opioid crisis that could be mitigated in a measurable way by requiring mandatory prescriber education as part of a REMS effort. The public workshop will be held on October 13 and October 14. For information about participating in the workshop or submitting comments or materials, see this Federal Register notice.