NASH Lauds Creation of Congressional Social Determinants of Health Caucus

In a letter to the new Congressional Social Determinants of Health Caucus, the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals expressed its appreciation for the group’s creation and said it would like to work in partnership with the caucus to identify health inequities and help develop ways to address them.

NASH noted that private safety-net hospitals “…have been working for years to address social determinants of health that lead to health inequities,” doing so at times as part of government programs but also on their own in response to the needs of their communities.  In the letter NASH recommended several steps Congress can take to address social determinants of health and pointed to its own response to the caucus’s recent request for information on the challenges stakeholders and Congress face when working to identify and address social determinants of health.

Go here to see NASH’s letter to the Congressional Social Determinants of Health Caucus.

Federal Health Policy Update for Wednesday, October 6

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, October 6.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

Provider Relief Fund:  Reminder That 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 runs for four weeks.  Providers must submit their completed application by October 26.  Go here for further information.

The White House

Surprise Billing Regulation

  • The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury and the Office of Personnel Management have issued an interim final rule with comment period to further implement the No Surprises Act, the law that seeks to protect consumers from surprise medical bills that was passed last December.  This rule is the third in a series implementing the No Surprises Act:  the first two were a rule to help collect data on the air ambulance provider industry and a rule in July on consumer protections against surprise billing.  Collectively, these rules take effect January 1, 2022 and ban surprise billing for emergency services as well as certain non-emergency care provided by out-of-network providers at in-network facilities and limit high out-of-network cost-sharing for emergency and non-emergency services for patients.  This latest rule details a process that will take patients out of the middle of payment disputes, provides a process to settle out-of-network rates between providers and payers, and outlines requirements for health care cost estimates for uninsured or self-pay individuals.  Other consumer protections in the rule include a payment dispute resolution process for uninsured or self-pay individuals.  It also adds protections in an external review process so that individuals with job-based or individual health plans can dispute denied payment for certain claims.  To learn more about the latest rule implementing the No Surprises Act, see the following resources:

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • A new HHS report found that COVID-19 vaccinations may have helped prevent approximately 265,000 COVID-19 infections, 107,000 hospitalizations, and 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries alone between January and May of 2021.  The study was conducted by researchers with HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.  Learn more from this HHS news release and the HHS report.
  • HHS’s Office for Civil Rights has issued guidance to help the public understand when the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule applies to disclosures and requests for information about whether a person has received a COVID-19 vaccine.  The guidance reminds the public that the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not apply to employers or employment records.  Learn more from the HHS news release announcing the guidance and from the guidance itself.

Health Policy News

  • HHS has rescinded a regulation that required health centers to create and maintain new practices necessary to determine patients’ eligibility to receive certain drugs at or below the discounted price paid by the health center or subgrantees plus an administration fee under the section 340B prescription drug discount program.  In particular, the rule affected patient eligibility for insulin products at reduced prices.  Although HHS is withdrawing the rule itself, the executive order the rule was intended to implement remains in effect and, according to language in the recission, “HHS is exploring non-regulatory options to implement the Executive Order.”  Learn more from the Federal Register notice rescinding the 2020 rule.
  • HHS has issued a final rule to revise the Title X family planning program.  The rule restores eligibility for federal family planning funds for organizations that also perform abortions or provide referrals for them, requires family planning facilities to broaden their array of services, and adds health equity considerations to the review of grant requests.  Learn more from HHS’s announcement about the new rule and from the rule itself.
  • HHS has awarded $2.21 billion in Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funding for cities, counties, states, and local community-based organizations in FY 2021.  The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides care and treatment services to low-income people with HIV and serves approximately 50 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S.  Learn more from the HHS announcement, which includes links to several categories of grant recipients.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Health Policy News

  • CMS has updated its information about Medicare and Medicaid opioid prescribing rates based on geography.  Find the updated Medicare data here and the updated Medicaid data here.
  • CMS is offering web-based training to assist skilled nursing facility providers with coding for data element O0100, part of the Minimum Data Set.  Go here for a description of the training and the on-demand training itself.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

Health Policy News

  • The CDC announced that it has awarded 20 grants under its “Closing the Gap with Social Determinants of Health Accelerator Plans” initiative.  The funding, which was awarded on a competitive basis, is intended to help accelerate actions in state, local, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions that lead to improved chronic disease outcomes among persons experiencing health disparities and inequities.  Learn more about the program and the grant recipients in this CDC announcement.

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has issued emergency use authorization for the ACON Laboratories Flowflex COVID-19 Home Test, an over-the-counter COVID-19 antigen test.  The agency expects this authorization to double rapid at-home testing capacity in the U.S. over the next several weeks.  By the end of the year the manufacturer plans to produce more than 100 million tests a month, and this number will rise to 200 million a month by February of 2022.  Learn more from this FDA announcement.
  • The FDA has revised its guidance on the compounding of drugs by hospitals and health systems.  Learn more from the FDA announcement of the revision and from the newly revised guidance.

National Institutes of Health

  • The NIH has released a study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Latino individuals in the United States.  Learn more from this NIH news release, which summarizes the study’s findings, and from the Annals of Internal Medicine article “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Excess Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic, March to December 2020.”
  • An NIH analysis has found the risk of COVID-19 breakthrough infections among vaccinated patients with substance use disorders to be low overall but higher than the risk among vaccinated people without substance use disorders.  The study also found that co-occurring health conditions and adverse socioeconomic determinants of health, which are more common in people with substance use disorders, appear to be largely responsible for the increased risk of COVID-19 breakthrough infections.  People with substance use disorders – such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, opioid, and tobacco use disorders – also had elevated rates of severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death, following breakthrough infections.  Learn more from this NIH news release and from the article “Increased risk for COVID-19 breakthrough infection in fully vaccinated patients with substance use disorders in the United States between December 2020 and August 2021,” published in the journal World Psychiatry.
  • Through its High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, the NIH has awarded 106 grants “…to support highly innovative and broadly impactful biomedical or behavioral research by exceptionally creative scientists…”  Learn more about the categories in which the grants were awarded and find links to more information about those categories and this year’s grant winners in this NIH news release.

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Stakeholder Events

HRSA – New Provider Relief Fund and Rural Hospital Grants – October 13 and 21

The Health Resources and Services Administration will hold web events on 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 these events is to provide guidance on how to navigate the application portal for seeking such grants.

  • 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.

MedPAC – Public Meeting – October 7 and October 8

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) will hold its October public meetings on  Thursday, October 7 and Friday, October 8.  The meetings will be held virtually.  Go here to find the agenda for the two days of meetings and information about how to join those meetings.

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.

Changes Coming in Innovation Center Payment Models

Future Medicare payment models will probably feature less risk for participants and a greater emphasis on health equity.

At least that is the vision shared by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services chief operating officer Jon Blum during a recent conference.

While not backing away from including risk in future value-based purchasing models, CMS and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center will probably propose fewer full-risk models, which the agency fears favor wealthier providers that can afford to shoulder more risk to begin with, and a greater focus on reporting race and ethnicity data among future model participants as the federal government works to close equity gaps.

In addition, CMMI will probably simplify its array of payment models and have fewer tracks within those models.

Learn more about the directions CMMI envisions moving with its Medicare alternative pay models in the near future in the Fierce Healthcare article “CMS official:  Don’t expect a lot of fully risk-based payment models going forward.”

Federal Health Policy Update for Tuesday, September 28

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 28.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

Provider Relief Fund:  Application Reminder

  • Beginning on September 29, health care providers may 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

  • HHS has updated its information on Phase 4 Provider Relief Fund grants and American Rescue Plan grants for rural providers.  The new information includes:
    • Types of eligible providers.
    • An explanation that although general distribution payments will be allocated based on “changes to operating revenue and expenses” from July 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, the payments can be used to cover eligible lost revenue and expenses incurred from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2022.
    • The addition of the time period for identifying care provided to individuals living in rural areas:  January 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020.
  • The Health Resources and Services Administration will hold web events on Thursday, September 30 and Tuesday, October 5 for providers interested in pursuing Provider Relief Fund grants and funding for rural hospitals provided through the American Rescue Plan.  The purpose of these events 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 announced that it will hold additional sessions during the weeks of October 11 and October 18; dates and times for those events have not yet been announced.
  • HHS recently hosted a briefing session to provide information about these upcoming funding opportunities.  View a video of that session here.

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

Health Policy News

  • HHS has awarded nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to nearly 1300 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Health Center Program-funded health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories to support major health care construction and renovation projects.  According to HHS, health centers will use this funding for COVID-19-related capital needs, constructing new facilities, renovating and expanding existing facilities to enhance response to pandemics, and purchasing new state-of-the-art equipment, including telehealth technology, mobile medical vans, and freezers to store vaccines.  Learn more about the funding, its intended use, and how much money was granted to facilities in each state in this HHS news release.
  • Following up on a previously announced commitment, HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced the distribution of $825 million in federal funds to 231 community mental health centers across the country.  This grant program is intended to enable community mental health centers to more effectively address the needs of individuals who have a serious emotional disturbance or mental illness, often accompanied by substance use disorders.  For a more detailed description of the work the community mental health centers are expected to do with this money and a link to a list of the 231 facilities awarded grants, see this HHS news release.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

  • Following the FDA’s recent authorization of a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for certain high-risk populations and a recommendation from the CDC, CMS will continue to provide coverage for booster doses without cost-sharing.  Beneficiaries with Medicare will pay nothing for COVID-19 vaccines or their administration and there is no copayment, coinsurance, or deductible.  In addition, nearly all Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries must receive coverage of COVID-19 vaccines and their administration without cost-sharing.  COVID-19 vaccines and their administration, including boosters, will also be covered without cost-sharing for eligible consumers of most issuers of health insurance in the commercial market.  Learn more from this CMS news release.

Health Policy News

  • CMS has posted a special edition of its online newsletter MLN Connects explaining that effective September 20 it is exercising enforcement discretion for skilled nursing facility consolidated billing provisions related to flu and pneumococcal vaccines that enables Medicare-enrolled immunizers, including pharmacies, to bill directly and get direct reimbursement from Medicare, including for vaccine administration and product, whether these vaccines are administered at the same time (co-administered) as a COVID-19 vaccine or at different times.  Find the notice here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health

  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, has awarded approximately $36.3 million to three academic institutions to conduct research to develop vaccines to protect against multiple types of coronaviruses and viral variants.  The awards are intended to fuel vaccine research for a diverse family of coronaviruses, with a primary focus on potential pandemic-causing coronaviruses such as COVID-19.  Learn more about the anticipated research and the grant recipients in this NIH news release.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

  • MACPAC commissioners met last week to discuss a variety of Medicaid and CHIP payment and access issues, including communicating with beneficiaries, workforce issues, monitoring access to care, health IT adoption among behavioral health providers, and vaccines for adults.  Go here for a summary of the meeting and links to issue briefs prepared to support the commissioners’ discussions.

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

  • The GAO has published a short report that draws from a number of past GAO reports to describe examples of racial and ethnic health disparities, barriers that may contribute to disparities, and federal efforts to help address them.  In this report the GAO cites policy considerations and reiterates recommendations to improve gaps in race and ethnicity data.  Learn more in “GAO Health Care Capsule:  Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.”
  • In 2016, HHS selected eight states to participate in a time-limited demonstration to establish certified community behavioral health clinics to help improve their response to depression and opioid use challenges within their Medicaid populations.  The GAO has now reviewed the efforts of those states, including the degree to which spending on these services changed during the demonstration period, and has offered recommendations on provider payments and overlap with other Medicaid payments.  Learn more from the GAO report “Medicaid Behavioral Health:  CMS Guidance Needed to Better Align Demonstration Payment Rates with Costs and Prevent Duplication.”

Stakeholder Events

HRSA – New Provider Relief Fund and Rural Hospital Grants – September 30 and October 5

The Health Resources and Services Administration will hold web events on Thursday, September 30 and Tuesday, October 5 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.  Learn more here and find a link to register to participate.

CDC – Evaluating and Supporting Patients Presenting With Fatigue Following COVID-19 – September 30

The CDC will hold a webinar on evaluating and supporting patients who present with fatigue following treatment for COVID-19.  The webinar will be held on Thursday, September 30.  For further information on the subjects the webinar will cover, those who will be participating in the event, and how to join the webinar, go here.

HHS/Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response – Grand Rounds for EMS, Critical Care, and Emergency Department ICU Care of Pediatric COVID Patients – September 30

The agency’s “clinical rounds” sessions return on Thursday, September 30 at noon (eastern) with presenters who will discuss emergency management resources and information that can be used to improve operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Go here to register to participate in the remote event.

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.

Federal Health Policy Update for Tuesday, September 21

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, September 21.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

NASH Advocacy

  • NASH has submitted formal comments to CMS on the agency’s proposed outpatient prospective payment system regulation for calendar year 2022.  Writing from the perspective of private community safety-net hospitals, NASH addresses proposals and request for information about health equity, the section 340B prescription drug discount program, hospital price transparency requirements, proposed changes in Medicare’s inpatient-only procedures list, and the extension of provider flexibilities introduced in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  See NASH’s comment letter here.
  • In July the newly formed Congressional Social Determinants of Health Caucus invited stakeholders to respond to a series of questions designed to help the caucus learn more about social determinants of health and what Congress might do to address them more effectively.  Go here to read NASH’s response to the caucus’s questionnaire.

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS has updated its Provider Relief Fund reporting portal’s frequently asked questions.  Find the updated FAQ here.
  • HHS has published a Provider Relief Fund reporting portal user guide.  Find the guide here.

The White House

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • The federal government has responded to recent increases in COVID-19 cases by assuming control of the distribution of monoclonal antibodies used to treat the virus.  Learn more from the announcement of this new approach.  Federal officials also explain the new policy, why they are pursuing it, and how it will work in this video of a web event.

Health Policy News

  • HHS has extended the open enrollment period for people seeking health insurance on the federally facilitated marketplace and has extended the scope of services provided by navigators for that marketplace.  The department also has authorized state marketplaces to set their own open enrollment dates.  Learn more from this HHS news release.
  • HHS and its Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have awarded $48 million to 271 HRSA-supported health centers in 26 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia to expand HIV prevention and treatment, outreach, and care coordination services.  To learn more about the awards, how the money will be used, and the award recipients, see this HHS announcement.
  • HHS and HRSA have awarded $350 million in grants to every state to support safe pregnancies and healthy babies.  Funding will be used expand home visiting services to families most in need, increase access to doulas, address health disparities in infant deaths, and improve data reporting on maternal mortality.  The money is being awarded through the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, the Healthy Start Initiative, and the State Systems Developmental Initiative.  To learn more about how HHS intends for the money to be spent, how much money is being allocated through these programs, and how much money individual recipients will receive, see this HHS announcement.
  • HRSA has announced the availability of funding to support continued access to comprehensive, culturally competent, high-quality primary health care services for communities and populations currently served by its Health Center Program.  Eligible organizations include domestic public or non-profit private entities that propose to serve an announced service area and its associated population(s) to ensure continued access to affordable, quality primary health care services.  Learn more from this HRSA announcement.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

Health Policy News

  • The latest edition of the CMS online publication MLN Connects includes Medicare’s quarterly provider quality compliance newsletter and information about annual HPSA updates, flu vaccine payment allowances, updated clinical lab fees, and more.  Find the September 16 edition of MLN Connects here.
  • CMS has posted a pre-publication version of a final rule that sets forth revised 2022 user fee rates for issuers offering qualified health plans (QHPs) through Federally-facilitated Exchanges and State-based Exchanges on the federal platform; repeals separate billing requirements related to the collection of separate payments for the portion of QHP premiums attributable to coverage for certain abortion services; expands the annual open enrollment period and Navigator duties; implements a new monthly special enrollment period for qualified individuals or enrollees, or the dependents of a qualified individual or enrollee, who are eligible for advance payments of the premium tax credit (APTC) and whose household income does not exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level, available during periods of time during which APTC benefits are available such that certain applicable taxpayers’ applicable percentage is set at zero, such as during tax years 2021 and 2022 under the section 9661 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021; repeals the recent establishment of a Direct Enrollment option for Exchanges; and modifies regulations and policies related to section 1332 waivers.  Find the document here.
  • CMS has published three FAQs that explain that the agency will not take enforcement action against certain payers for the payer-to-payer data exchange provision of the May 2020 Interoperability and Patient Access final rule until future rulemaking is finalized.  CMS’s decision to exercise enforcement discretion for the payer-to-payer policy until future rulemaking occurs does not affect any other existing regulatory requirements and implementation timelines outlined in the final rule.  Go here to see the announcement and find links to the FAQs.
  • CMS has proposed repealing the Medicare Coverage of Innovative Technology and Definition of ‘”Reasonable and Necessary” final rule, which was published on January 14, 2021 and is scheduled to take effect on December 15.  The repealed rule was a response to concerns that breakthrough technologies were not being made available to the Medicare population in a timely manner but CMS now believes more care must be taken before authorizing the use of such technologies for Medicare patients.  Find the proposed rule here.
  • CMS has published its Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Patient Assessment Instrument (IRF-PAI) Quarterly Q&As December 2020 document so inpatient rehabilitation facility (IRF) providers have the benefit of clarifications to existing guidance.
  • CMS has published the Long-Term-Care Hospital (LTCH) CARE Data Set Quarterly Q&As, September 2021, Consolidated September 2020 to September 2021 document so LTCH providers have the benefit of the clarifications to existing guidance.
  • CMS has awarded $15 million in planning grants to 20 states to support expanding community-based mobile crisis intervention services for Medicaid beneficiaries.  Learn more about the services the grants will underwrite and find a list of grant recipients in this CMS announcement.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has revised its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the monoclonal antibodies bamlanivimab and etesevimab, administered together, to include emergency use as post-exposure prophylaxis (prevention) for COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg) who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.  In this revision of the EUA, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, administered together, are authorized for use after exposure to the virus and are not authorized for pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent COVID-19 before being exposed to the COVID-10 virus.  Learn more from the FDA announcement, the revised EUA, and this fact sheet for providers.
  • The FDA has updated its enforcement policy for masks, barrier face coverings, face shields, surgical masks, and respirators during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Find the updated policy here.

National Institutes of Health

  • The NIH has awarded $470 million to build a national study population of diverse research volunteers and support large-scale studies on the long-term effects of COVID-19.  Learn more from this NIH news release.

Stakeholder Events

MACPAC – September meetings – September 23 and 24

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) will hold its scheduled September meeting of commissioners on Thursday, September 23 and Friday, 24 to discuss federal Medicaid and CHIP policies.  The meetings will be held virtually.  Find the meeting agenda here and go here to register to view the sessions.

CDC – Evaluating and Supporting Patients Presenting With Fatigue Following COVID-19 – September 30

The CDC will hold a webinar on evaluating and supporting patients who present with fatigue following treatment for COVID-19.  The webinar will be held on Thursday, September 30 at 2:00 p.m. (eastern).  For further information on the subjects the webinar will cover, those who will be participating in the event, and how to join the webinar, go here.

FDA – Workshop Addressing Response to the Opioid Crisis – October 13

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 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (eastern) and October 14 from 1 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  For information about participating in the workshop or submitting comments or materials, see this Federal Register notice.

 

NASH Unveils 2021 Advocacy Agenda

NASH has introduced its 2021 agenda.

In the coming year, NASH will:

  • Work to ensure that private safety-net hospitals receive the federal resources and regulatory assistance they need to help their low-income, medically underserved communities through the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Advocate the development and implementation of laws, regulations, and programs that enhance the ability of private safety-net hospitals to serve their communities more effectively.
  • Pursue enhanced access to Medicaid and to affordable, high-quality health insurance.
  • Urge Congress and the administration to work with safety-net hospitals and do more to address the social determinants of health to bring about health equity and better health outcomes in diverse and underserved communities.

To see NASH’s complete 2021 advocacy agenda, go here.

Feds Give States Direction on Addressing Social Determinants of Health

Federal laws, regulations, and programs offer numerous tools to states seeking to address social determinants of health through their Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Now, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has written to state Medicaid directors outlining those tools.

In the 51-page letter, CMS notes that

Many Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries may face challenges related to SDOH [social determinants of health], including but not limited to access to nutritious food, affordable and accessible housing, convenient and efficient transportation, safe neighborhoods, strong social connections, quality education, and opportunities for meaningful employment.  There is a growing body of evidence that indicates that these challenges can lead to poorer health outcomes for beneficiaries and higher health costs for Medicaid and CHIP programs and can exacerbate health disparities for a broad range of populations…

In the letter, CMS describes:

  • Overarching principles CMS expects states to adhere to in their Medicaid and CHIP programs when offering services and supports that address social determinants of health.
  • Services and supports that are commonly covered in Medicaid and CHIP programs to address social determinants of health.
  • Federal authorities and other opportunities under Medicaid and CHIP that states can use to address social determinants of health.

The letter does not introduce new opportunities or flexibilities under Medicaid and CHIP for addressing social determinants of health. Instead, it focuses on helping states identify existing tools, regulations, and programs they can use to facilitate their efforts to address social determinants of health in their individual Medicaid and CHIP programs.

Learn more from the CMS letter “Opportunities in Medicaid and CHIP to Address Social Determinants of Health.”

Can Medicare Feed its Way Out of Some Readmissions?

Feeding some Medicare patients after they are discharged from the hospital could reduce readmissions and save taxpayers millions, a new study has concluded.

According to the new Bipartisan Policy Center report Next Steps in Chronic Care:  Expanding Innovative Medicare Benefits, providing a limited number of free meals to certain Medicare patients could eliminate nearly 10,000 readmissions a year and save more than $57 million.

Participating patients would be those with more than one of a limited number of chronic medical conditions and the meals would be for one week only.  According to the report, more than 575,000 Medicare beneficiaries would be eligible to participate in such a program, with their meals costing $101 million a year, or $176 a person for one week, but the nearly 10,000 Medicare readmissions that would be prevented would reduce Medicare spending more than $158 million a year.

Such a program, if implemented, would be yet another approach to addressing the social determinants of health in many communities.

Such a program would undoubtedly benefit the low-income communities most private safety-net hospitals serve because food insecurity is one of many social determinants of health that challenge the health of the residents of those communities.

Learn more about how such an approach would work and whom it would serve in the Bipartisan Policy Center report Next Steps in Chronic Care:  Expanding Innovative Medicare Benefits.

New Bill Would Address Social Determinants of Health

The federal government would provide funding to help address social determinants of health within Medicaid populations under a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives last week.

According to a legislative summary prepared by one of the bipartisan bill’s sponsors,

Economic and social conditions have a powerful impact on our health and wellness. Stable housing, reliable transportation and access to healthy foods are all factors that can make a difference in the prevention and management of many health conditions like diabetes, asthma and heart disease. Known as social determinants of health, a focus on these non-medical factors can improve health outcomes and wellbeing. States are increasingly looking to deploy social determinants of health interventions to manage costs and improve health outcomes within their Medicaid programs. However, one of the greatest challenges to high-impact interventions is the difficulty in navigating and coordinating fragmented and complex programs aimed at addressing healthcare needs, food insecurity, housing instability, workforce supports, and transportation reliability, among others.

To address these challenges, the bill would

help states and communities devise strategies to better leverage existing programs and authorities to improve the health and well-being of those participating in Medicaid. The legislation will provide planning grants and technical assistance to state, local and Tribal governments to help them devise innovative, evidence-based approaches to coordinate services and improve outcomes and cost-effectiveness.

Such legislation could be especially beneficial to the communities served by private safety-net hospitals, which generally can be found in low-income communities whose residents’ health is often shaped in large part by social determinants of health.

Learn more about the Social Determinants Accelerator Act by reading a summary of the bill’s key provisions and an FAQ on the bill.

The Role of Medicaid in Addressing Social Determinants of Health

Medicaid can play a major role in addressing the social determinants of health.

Or so argues a recent post on the Health Affairs Blog.

According to the post, social determinants of health – income, education, decent housing, access to food, and more – significantly influence the health and well-being of individuals – including low-income individuals who have adequate access to quality health care.  Medicaid, the post maintains, can play a major role in addressing social determinants of health.

The post outlines the role state Medicaid programs can play in addressing social determinants of health; describes tools for such action such as section 1115 Medicaid demonstration waivers; offers examples of efforts currently under way in some states; and presents suggestions for steps the federal government can take to facilitate such efforts.

Addressing social determinants of health is an especially important issue for private safety-net hospitals because they care for so many more Medicaid-covered low-income patients than the typical American hospital.

Learn more from the Health Affairs Blog post “For An Option To Address Social Determinants Of Health, Look To Medicaid.”