The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government for February 9-15.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS has released a 2023 update of its Equity Action Plan.  The plan outlines five priority areas to advance equity:  prevent neglect and improve care to help children thrive in their families and communities; promote accessible and welcoming health care for all; improve maternal health outcomes for rural, racial, and ethnic minority communities; prioritize the behavioral health of underserved populations; and increase clinical research and trial diversity to support innovation.  Learn more from this HHS news release and from the Equity Action Plan itself.
  • HHS and its Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) have announced that two additional organizations, CommonWell Health Alliance and Kno2, have been designated as Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) capable of nationwide health data exchange governed by the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA).  TEFCA became operational last December with the designation of the first five QHINs:  eHealth Exchange, Epic Nexus, Health Gorilla, KONZA, and MedAllies.  Learn more from this HHS news release.
  • HHS has launched the HHS Secretary’s Postpartum Maternal Health Collaborative.  Six states will participate in the initiative:  Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Mexico.  This collaborative seeks to bring together state experts, local providers, community partners, and federal experts to develop a better understanding of the challenges being experienced among the postpartum population and to support new solutions that will improve postpartum mortality.  Learn more from this HHS news release.
  • HHS, its Office on Women’s Health, and CMS have named the winners of the second and final phase of its $1.8 million HHS Racial Equity in Postpartum Care Challenge.  This national competition was developed to improve equity in postpartum care for Black or African American and American Indian/Alaska Native women enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP.  Learn more about the program and find descriptions of the grant-winning programs in this HHS news release.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • CMS has issued a memo that updates its policy for texting patient orders.  The new policy gives hospitals and critical access hospitals the flexibility to include text orders, via a secure platform, to be entered into patients’ medical records or electronic health records   in a manner that complies with the medical record Conditions of Participation.  To comply, providers must use and maintain systems/platforms that are secure and encrypted and minimize the risks to patient privacy and confidentiality, as stipulated in HIPAA.  Learn more from this CMS memo to state survey agencies.
  • CMS has published a bulletin explaining its expansion of practitioners who can supervise Medicare-covered pulmonary rehabilitation, cardiac rehabilitation, and intensive cardiac rehabilitation services.  Find that bulletin here.  The new policy took effect on January 1, 2024.
  • CMS has published a bulletin presenting ICD-10 and other coding revisions to national coverage determinations.  Find the bulletin here.  The changes take effect on July 1.
  • CMS has published a bulletin about the activation of validation edits for providers with multiple service locations.  The bulletin clarifies how to handle certain off-campus provider-based departments excepted from Section 603 payment policy.  Find the bulletin here.

HHS Newsletters

National Institutes of Health

The NIH has issued a request for information inviting feedback from researchers, health care professionals, advocates and health advocacy organizations, scientific and professional organizations, federal/state/local government agencies, community groups, and other interested stakeholder on the development of its FY 2026–2030 NIH strategic plan for HIV and HIV-related research.  NIH has developed four specific goals for this plan:  enhance discovery and advance HIV science through fundamental research; advance the development and assessment of novel interventions for HIV prevention, treatment, and cure; optimize public health impact of HIV discoveries through translation, dissemination, and implementation of research findings; and build research workforce and infrastructure capacity to enhance sustainability of HIV scientific discovery.  Through this request for information it invites interested parties to propose research priorities for each goal.  Learn more about the NIH’s intentions for its FY 2026-2030 strategic plan, its goals and objectives, the feedback it seeks from stakeholders, and how to submit that feedback from this NIH notice.  The deadline for responding to this request for information is April 1.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

MACPAC has published an issue brief examining access to Medicaid coverage for adults with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities across racial and ethnic groups and by Medicaid-only or dually eligible status.  The brief seeks to identify how access, health status, and service use may differ by type of demographic characteristic within the intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities population.  Find the issue brief here.

Stakeholder Events

CMS – Home Health, Hospice & DME Open Door Forum – February 22

CMS will hold a home health, hospital, and DME open door forum on Thursday, February 22 at 3:30 (eastern).  Go here to register.

CMS – Physicians, Nurses, and Allied Professionals Open Door Forum – February 22

CMS will hold a physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals open door forum on Thursday, February 22 at 2:00 (eastern).  Go here to register.

HHS – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – Integrating Patient-Reported Outcomes into Practice – February 27

HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will hold a webinar on integrating patient-reported outcomes into practice on Tuesday, February 27 at 3:00 (eastern).  During the webinar, AHRQ will host presentations of research findings on how best to use patient-reported outcomes for patients with varying health conditions and how to scale and spread patient-reported outcomes use within health systems.  Go here to learn more and register to participate.

CMS – Transforming Maternal Health Model Overview – February 28

CMS will host a webinar on Wednesday, February 28 at 1:00 (eastern) to provide an overview of its Transforming Maternal Health Model.   The webinar, intended for an audience of State Medicaid agencies, maternity care providers, managed care plans, and other stakeholders, will offer information about the model’s structure, anticipated care delivery transformations, and resources available to participants.  Learn more about the Transforming Maternal Health Model here and go here to register to participate in the webinar.

CDC – Webinar on Overdoses Involving Xylazine Mixed with Fentanyl – February 29

The CDC will offer a webinar on the clinical and public health implications of overdoses involving xylazine mixed with fentanyl on Thursday, February 29 at 2:00 (eastern).  During this call, presenters will discuss the epidemiology of overdoses involving xylazine mixed with fentanyl, the current understanding of health risks related to these overdoses, and acute treatment strategies.  Presenters also will review the state of laboratory testing, outline potential harm reduction activities, and provide an example of a continuing public health and clinical partnership to mitigate harms from xylazine mixed with fentanyl.  Go here to learn more about the webinar, its objectives, the presenters, and how to participate.  Continuing education credits are available for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, certified health education specialists, and others.

CMS – Rural Health Open Door Forum – February 29

CMS will hold a rural health open door forum on Thursday, February 29 at 3:30 (eastern).  Go here to register.

CMS – Hospital Open Door Forum – March 5

CMS will hold a hospital open door forum on Tuesday, March 5 at 2:00 (eastern).  Go here to register.

HHS – Office of Climate Change and Health Equity – Webinars on Taking Advantage of Provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act – March 7 (and March 21 and April 4 and 18)

HHS’s Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is holding a series of webinars to help health care providers, and especially safety-net organization, take advantage of the tax credits, grants and other supports made available by the Inflation Reduction Act, which creates opportunities for health sector organizations to invest in clean energy, building efficiency, infrastructure resilience, and more.  The next webinar will be held on Thursday, February 8, with additional events scheduled on February 22, March 7 and 21, and April 4 and 18.  Separate break-out sessions will be held for essential hospitals, community health centers, and rural providers.  Go here to learn more about the webinar series, future events, and the break-out sessions; go here for a recording of a November briefing on Inflation Reduction Act resources available to health care providers; and go here to register to participate.

HHS – Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research – Webinar on Integrating Behavioral Health in Primary Care – March 7

AHRQ will hold a webinar to share its research on the integration of behavioral health in primary care on Thursday, March 7 at 2:00 (eastern).  The webinar will feature AHRQ grantees who are researching behavioral health tools and interventions in ambulatory care settings.  Go here to learn more about the webinar and to register to participate.

MedPAC – Commissioners Meeting – March 7-8

MedPAC’s commissioners will hold their next public meeting on Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8.  An agenda and directions on how to participate in the meeting is not yet available but when that information is announced it will be posted here.

MACPAC – Commissioners Meeting – March 7-9

MACPAC’s commissioners will hold their next public meeting on Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8.  An agenda and directions on how to participate in the meeting is not yet available but when that information is announced it will be posted here.

CMS – Health Equity Conference – May 29-30

CMS will hold its second annual CMS Health Equity Conference on Wednesday, May 29 and Thursday, May 30.  The free, hybrid conference will be held in person in Bethesda, Maryland and available online for virtual participation and involve health equity leaders from federal and local agencies, health provider organizations, academia, community-based organizations, and others. Conference participants will hear from CMS leadership on recent developments and updates to CMS programs; explore the latest health equity research; discuss promising practices and creative solutions; and collaborate on community engagement strategies.  CMS is now accepting proposals for breakout session speakers and poster presenters. Learn more from the conference web page.