The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 26. Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.
- NASH has written to the chairs and ranking members of the congressional committees of jurisdiction over health care to ask them to prevent the anticipated January 1, 2022 tripling of the current Medicare sequester from two percent to six percent of all provider Medicare payments and to consider the challenges that community safety-net hospitals have long faced, and that they now continue to face to an unprecedented degree, when looking for budget savings to offset new federal spending during upcoming federal budget deliberations. See NASH’s letter here.
Provider Relief Fund
- HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has revamped its Provider Relief Fund web site. See the new site here.
- During a Provider Relief Fund stakeholder webinar today, HRSA highlighted three new fact sheets to assist providers in meeting the September 30, 2021 reporting deadline for Provider Relief Fund money received from April 2020 through June 2020:
The White House
- The White House has posted a transcript of the August 24 press briefing given by its COVID-19 response team and public health officials. Find the slides presented during the press briefing here.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Health care providers can now receive additional payments from Medicare for administering vaccines to multiple residents in one home setting or a communal home setting. Previously, CMS increased Medicare payments for vaccines administered in the home, and now, under this new policy, vaccine providers can receive the increased payment up to five times when fewer than ten Medicare beneficiaries receive the vaccine on the same day in the same home or communal setting. Learn more from this CMS announcement.
- CMS has written to Medicare Advantage organizations and Medicare-Medicaid health plans to inform them that in light of the recent surge of the COVID-19 delta variant and increased hospitalizations across the country, it strongly encourages those organizations to waive or relax plan prior authorization requirements and utilization management processes to facilitate the movement of patients from general acute-care hospitals to post-acute care and other clinically-appropriate settings, including skilled nursing facilities, long-term-care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and home health agencies. The ability of hospitals to transfer patients to appropriate levels of care without unnecessary delays or administrative burdens, CMS writes, is critical to ensuring that hospitals have open acute-care beds to treat patients requiring emergency care. See the CMS message here.
- CMS has updated its Medicare provider enrollment relief FAQ. Find it here.
Department of Health and Human Services
Health Policy News
- Along with the Department of the Treasury and Department of Labor, HHS is vested with responsibility for implementing the 2020 law that requires health care payers to make available to the public machine-readable files for in-network rates and out-of-network allowed amounts and billed charges for plan years. That information was to be available publicly by January 1, 2022, but now, the departments have delayed implementation of this requirement for six months. Learn more from this HHS FAQ.
- HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response will award a single grant of $3 million to establish a new Regional Disaster Health Response System site. It would be part of a tiered system that builds upon and unifies existing assets within states and across regions to support a more coherent, comprehensive, and capable health care disaster response system able to respond health security threats. Entities eligible for grants include hospitals, local health care facilities, political subdivisions, states, emergency medical services organizations, and emergency management organizations. Learn more about the funding opportunity here and here and about the Regional Disaster Health Response System here. Applications are due September 20.
- HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has published a statistical brief on diabetes-related inpatient stays in 2018.
Food and Drug Administration
- The FDA has granted its first full (non-emergency use authorization only) approval of a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine that has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. Learn more from this FDA news release.
- The FDA has posted updated information about COVID-19 booster shots, including when they will be available, who should get them, and when people should get them. Find that information here.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The CDC has posted updated information about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 even after receiving a vaccination.
- The FDA has updated the Pfizer-BioNTech emergency use authorization (EUA) to support the extension of shelf-life of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine stored at -90 degrees to -60 degrees Celsius from six months to nine months.
- The CDC has updated its guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The CDC has updated its guidance for clinical and public health laboratory and support staff working in a laboratory that handles or processes specimens associated with COVID-19.
- The CDC has published a study on the effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in peventing COVID-19 infections among nursing home residents both before and after the widespread circulation of the delta variant.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the public charge ground of inadmissibility as it pertains to applicants for admission to the U.S. and adjustment of status. The agency has published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to seek broad public feedback on the public charge ground of inadmissibility to the U.S. that will inform its development of a future regulatory proposal. Find the Federal Register notice here. Comments are due by October 22.
National Institutes of Health
- A study funded by the NIH has found that drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco cigarettes throughout the first trimester of pregnancy is associated with nearly three times the risk of late stillbirth compared to women who neither drink nor smoke during pregnancy or quit both before the end of the first trimester. Learn more from this NIH news release.
Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)
- MedPAC has submitted formal comments to CMS in response to CMS’s proposed home health prospective payment system regulation for 2022. See MedPAC’s comment letter here.
Congressional Research Service
- The Congressional Research Service has updated its report Finding Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) Payment System Rules: Schedules and Resources. Find it here.