The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 21.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

The White House

The administration has announced new steps to protect Americans and help communities and hospitals battle the COVID-19 omicron variant.  The major parts of this initiative include:

  • Increasing support for hospitals by deploying 1000 Department of Defense medical personnel to hospitals during January and February and federal medical personnel to some states immediately; expanding hospital capacity; providing support to states to help hospitals create and license more beds; deploying hundreds of ambulances and emergency medical teams to transport patients to available hospital beds; and providing critical supplies, including supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile and ventilators, to states.
  • Ensuring access to free testing, including by launching new federal testing sites; distributing free rapid tests to Americans after purchasing 500 million such tests, with delivery expected beginning in January; and employing the Defense Production Act to accelerate test production.
  • Expanding capacity to administer COVID-19 vaccines, including by establishing new pop-up vaccination clinics, deploying additional vaccinators, giving flexibility to surge pharmacy teams, and continuing to scale pharmacy capacity.

Learn more from this White House news release.  In addition, the White House held a background briefing for the press prior to the announcement to offer further details.  Go here for a transcript of that briefing.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services


Health Policy Update

  • CMS has released a final rule with comment period announcing several proposed policies that were not addressed in the final Medicare inpatient prospective payment system rule for FY 2022.  Among these proposals was CMS’s implementation of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 distribution of 1000 new graduate medical education residency positions for hospitals over the next five years and CMS’s proposal to change the calculation of “Medicare usable organs” when determining acquisition costs for which Medicare will reimburse transplant hospitals.  Learn more from this CMS news release and an accompanying CMS fact sheet.

Department of Health and Human Services

Health Policy Update

  • HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) software tools for the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification/Procedure Coding System (ICD-10-CM/PCS) are updated annually to accommodate new or revised ICD-10-CM/PCS codes and to add corrections or modifications based on new clinical guidance for the use of those codes.  Go here for the updated codes for FY 2022.
  • HHS and its Office for Civil Rights have issued guidance to help clarify how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule permits covered health care providers to disclose protected health information to support applications for extreme risk protection orders that temporarily prevent a person in crisis from gaining access to firearms.  Find HHS’s announcement about the new guidance here and find the guidance itself here.
  • HHS has announced that it will spend $282 million to help transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from its current 10-digit number to a three-digit dialing code:  988.  The agency will spend $177 million to strengthen and expand the existing Lifeline network operations and telephone infrastructure and $105 million to build up staffing across states’ local crisis call centers.  Learn more from this HHS announcement.
  • HHS’s HIV/AIDS Bureau has released the 2020 Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Annual Client-Level Data Report.  Find the report here.  The bureau also has released 2020 Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. Initiative (EHE) Data Report, which can be found here


  • HHS announced that 15 digital health start-ups are joining its 2022 PandemicX Accelerator cohort to address health inequities, create a culture for success, and deploy resources to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  PandemicX will be co-led by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and involves using digital tools and publicly accessible data to eliminate disparities and tackle drivers of inequity exacerbated by COVID-19.  Learn more about the project and find a list of participating organizations in this HHS announcement.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

MACPAC executive director Anne L. Schwartz, PhD will retire in the spring of 2022.  She has led the organization for nearly a decade.  See the MACPAC announcement here