The New Administration’s Health Care Team

Becker’s Hospital Review has published a list of 35 officials who are currently part of the Biden administration’s health care team.

Some are staff, some are appointments awaiting Senate confirmation, and some are serving on an interim basis until permanent replacements can be chosen and/or confirmed.

The list includes links to information about each individual.

See the list here.

Coronavirus Update for Wednesday, December 23

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 23.

Provider Relief Fund

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health

American Medical Association

Coronavirus Update for Tuesday, December 9

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 8.

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS announced that the Provider Relief Fund will distribute $523 million in second-round performance payments to 9248 nursing homes as rewards for successfully reducing COVID-19-related infections and deaths between September and October.  HHS concluded that between September and October, 69 percent of 13,251 eligible nursing homes met the incentive program’s infection control criteria.  See HHS’s announcement of the nursing home distribution and a list of how much of this money HHS distributed to nursing homes in individual states.
  • HHS has updated its CARES Act Provider Relief Fund FAQ with nine new or modified questions and answers.  Find the new items, all labeled “12/4/2020,” on pages 2, 6, 14, 15, 16-17, 25, 34, 47, and 55.  Fund recipients should review this new information carefully, and in particular, the question on page 6 about erroneous payments, which reverses previous policy, and questions on audit terms and extensions on pages 14 and 15.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

CMS COVID-19 Stakeholder Calls 

CMS hosts recurring stakeholder engagement sessions to share information about the agency’s response to COVID-19.  These sessions are open to members of the health care community and are intended to provide updates, share best practices among peers, and offer participants an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.

COVID-19 Office Hours Call

Tuesday, December 22 at 5:00 (eastern)

Toll Free Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  3968359

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Hospitals Without Walls Call

On November 25, CMS announced the expansion of its Hospitals Without Walls program by introducing its Acute Hospital Care At Home program, giving eligible hospitals unprecedented regulatory flexibilities to treat eligible patients in their homes.  This program was developed to support models of at-home hospital care that have succeeded in several hospitals and networks.  A CMS Hospitals Without Walls stakeholder call will feature two organizations walking through their programs and a question and answer session.  Slides/resources will be posted on CMS.gov prior to the call.

Wednesday, December 9 at 4:00-5:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  1235939

Audio Webcast Link:  go here.

Conference lines are limited so CMS encourages interested parties to join via audio webcast.

To listen to the audio files and read the transcripts for past stakeholder calls, go here.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS has released new hospital COVID-19 capacity data at the facility level.  Previously released data about hospital capacity that had been released was aggregated at the state level but this new, more granular data release aggregates daily hospital reports into a “week at a time” picture while providing a view of how COVID-19 is affecting hospitals and communities.  See HHS’s announcement about the new data and an FAQ about the data and go here for access to the data itself.

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

States Expect Medicaid Enrollment, Spending to Rise in FY 2021

States expect to see their Medicaid enrollment and spending rise in FY 2021, driven by increases in unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and maintenance-of-effort requirements in legislation enacted earlier this year.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey of state Medicaid directors found that those officials expect their Medicaid enrollment to rise 8.2 percent in FY 2021 and their Medicaid spending to increase 8.4 percent that same year.  Most states expect the 6.2 percentage point increase in federal Medicaid matching funds that was included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed this March, to expire at the end of 2020.

Learn more about how states see their Medicaid responsibilities changing in the coming year and the underlying causes of those changes in the Kaiser Family Foundation report “Medicaid Enrollment & Spending Growth: FY 2020 & 2021.”

Coronavirus Update for Tuesday, June 30

Coronavirus update for Tuesday, June 30 as of 2:30 p.m.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • An HHS spokesperson tweeted yesterday that “@HHSGov expects to renew the Public Health Emergency due to COVID-19 before it expires.”
  • HHS announced that it has entered into an agreement to secure a supply of remdesivir, a drug used to treat COVID-19. Hospitals will have to purchase the drug from the pharmaceutical company and its distributor at the negotiated price of about $3200 a treatment, with the amount each hospital can purchase to be determined by the federal government and state health departments based on recent COVID-19 caseloads.  Those allocation decisions will be made every two weeks, and beginning on July 6 hospitals will be asked to submit their data through the TeleTracking web portal by Monday at 8 p.m. ET every two weeks.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

CMS has updated its toolkit on state actions to mitigate the prevalence of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

CMS COVID-19 Stakeholder Calls

CMS hosts recurring stakeholder engagement sessions to share information related to the agency’s response to COVID-19.  These sessions are open to members of the health care community and are intended to provide updates, share best practices among peers, and offer attendees an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.

CMS COVID-19 Office Hours Calls

Tuesday, June 30th at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 5125839

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Tuesday, July 7th at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 3048844

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Tuesday, July 14th at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 2550919

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Tuesday, July 21st at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 7477995

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Tuesday, July 28th at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 1492795

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Nursing Homes Call

Wednesday, July 8th at 4:30 – 5:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 2997138

Audio Webcast Link: go here.

Wednesday, July 22nd at 4:30 – 5:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 1143564

Audio Webcast Link:  go here.

Home Health and Hospice Calls

Tuesday, July 7th at 3:00 – 3:30 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 9480618

Audio Webcast Link: go here.

Tuesday, July 21st at 3:00 – 3:30 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 6080197

Audio Webcast Link:  go here.

Dialysis Organizations Call

Wednesday, July 8th at 5:30 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 8481378

Audio Webcast Link:  go here.

Wednesday, July 22nd at 5:30 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 7692208

Audio Webcast Link: go here.

Nurses Call

Thursday, July 9th at 3:00 – 3:30 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 9386539

Audio Webcast Link:  go here.

Thursday, July 23rd at 3:00 – 3:30 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 7971869

Audio Webcast Link: go here.

Lessons from the Front Lines

Friday, July 17th at 12:30 – 2:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Code: 3096434

Web Link:  go here.

Conference lines are limited so CMS encourages interested parties to join via audio.  To listen to the audio files and read the transcripts for the COVID-19 Stakeholder calls, visit CMS’s Podcast and Transcripts page.

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Department of Labor

  • The Department of Labor has issued guidance on child labor, paid sick leave, and expanded family and medical leave amid school and camp closures necessitated by COVID-19. See the announcement, which includes links to department policy bulletins.

American Medical Association

Federal Funding Opportunities for Hospitals

  • NASH has prepared a document that collects and presents in one place the various new federal funding opportunities for hospitals resulting from legislation addressing the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Find that document here.

To receive this daily update directly, sign up for our mailing list at info@safetynetalliance.org.)

Coronavirus Update for Thursday, June 4, 2020

Coronavirus update for Thursday, June 4 as of 2:30 p.m.

NASH Advocacy

Today NASH sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma expressing safety-net hospitals’ disappointment that HHS still has not made a targeted distribution of CARES Act Provider Relief Funds to providers of especially high volumes of care to Medicaid and government-insured patients and urging them to do so as soon as possible.  See NASH’s letter here.

 

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Department of Health and Human Services

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has introduced a new web-based resource, Testing Supply Substitution Strategies, that includes detailed information to help support labs performing authorized COVID-19 tests.
  • The FDA has updated the question-and-answer appendix in its guidance Conduct of Clinical Trials of Medical Products during COVID-19 Public Health Emergency with new information about compliance for electronic systems used to generate electronic signatures on clinical trial records.
  • The FDA has issued an alert to providers about the temporary absence of the “paralyzing agent” warning statement on the vial caps of the neuromuscular blocking agents vecuronium bromide and rocuronium bromide, both of which are often used for patients requiring medical ventilation.
  • The FDA has issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for five new commercial diagnostic tests for COVID-19. Find them here, here, here, here, and here.
  • Federal Funding Opportunities for Hospitals

    • NASH has prepared a document that collects and presents in one place the various new federal funding opportunities for hospital resulting from legislation addressing the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Find that document here.

    (To receive this daily update directly, sign up for our mailing list at info@safetynetalliance.org.)

Coronavirus Update for April 10, 2020

The following is the latest information from federal regulators as of 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 10.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Federal Communications Commission (COVID-19 Telehealth Program)

Last week the FCC announced a $200 million grant program to help health care providers develop connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Today the FCC announced that it will begin accepting applications for this money on Monday, April 13.  See this FCC news release for further details on the program and the application process.

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA has issued a news release announcing that it will seek to give states the option of assuming control of federal community-based COVID-19 testing sites.

White House

President Trump has issued a memorandum on providing federal support for governors’ use of the National Guard to respond to COVID-19.  A similar order was issued earlier this week and this new order adds 13 states to the list of those previously authorized to use the National Guard in this manner, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency directed to assume 100 percent of the associated costs.  The new states are Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Federal Funding Opportunities for Hospitals

NASH has prepared a document that collects and presents in one place the various new federal funding opportunities for hospitals resulting from legislation addressing the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Find that document here.

(To receive this daily update directly, sign up for our mailing list at info@safetynetalliance.org.)

NASH Endorses Surprise Medical Bills Legislation

The National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals has endorsed the Consumer Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills Act of 2020, surprise medical bills legislation developed by the House Ways and Means Committee.

In a letter to the committee’s chairman and ranking member, NASH wrote that

NASH supports the bill’s protection of patients from surprise medical bills for care they receive from out-of-network providers; we support the concept of patients receiving an “Advance Explanation of Benefits”; and most of all, we support a mediation process to be used when insurers and providers do not agree on appropriate payments that requires those parties to engage in good-faith negotiations; that employs mediated dispute resolution when those negotiations do not lead to agreement on payments; and that excludes from that mediation the use of specific, standard benchmark rates.

See the entire NASH letter here.

Health Care Groups Rebel Against Proposed Federal Regulation, Program

The administration’s proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation and its guidance encouraging states to implement Medicaid block grants has incurred widespread opposition among a variety of health care groups.

The Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation would, if adopted, impose new restrictions on how states raise their share of their Medicaid spending, potentially limiting state participation in Medicaid or necessitating tax increases to fill the funding gap if long-accepted financing tools are no longer available to them.

The Medicaid block grant guidance offers states a blueprint for curtailing their Medicaid costs by imposing limits on that spending that they negotiate with the federal government.

Numerous health care groups have expressed reservations or direct opposition to one or both of the proposals.  Among them:

  • AARP
  • America’s Essential Hospitals
  • America’s Health Insurance Plans
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American Health Care Association
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Medical Association
  • Association for Community Affiliated Plans
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Coalition of Long-Term Acute-Care Hospitals
  • LeadingAge
  • National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals
  • National Association of State Budget Officers
  • National Association of Medicaid Directors
  • National Continuing Care Residents Association
  • National Governors Association
  • Private Essential Access Community Hospitals

Among the groups submitting formal comment letters to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in response to the proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation was the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals.  See NASH’s letter here.

Learn more about why these groups object to these two new policy developments in articles in Axios (“A little-noticed Medicaid proposal could have huge consequences”), Bloomberg Law (“Trump Plan to Tame State Medicaid Finance Schemes Sees Pushback”), Health Affairs (“Proposed Rules On Medicaid Financing Miss Mark And Threaten Access”), Healthcare Dive (“Payers, providers urge CMS to scrap rule targeting supplemental Medicaid payments”), Healthcare Finance News (“Providers, payers, others speak out against federal proposals for Medicaid funding”), McKnight’s Long-Term Care News (“Providers rally against proposed Medicaid supplemental payment rules that threaten ‘major financial burdens’”), McKnight’s Senior Living (“CMS proposal would be ‘major financial burden’ for CCRCs, residents, organizations say”),  and U.S. News & World Report (“Governors Warn Trump Rule Could Lead to Big Medicaid Cuts

Improper Medicare Payments Down in FY 2019

The amount of improper Medicare payments made by the federal government fell $7 billion in federal fiscal year 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reports.

FY 2019 marked the third consecutive year that improper fee-for-service payments have fallen.  In FY 2018, improper payments accounted for 8.12 percent of Medicare fee-for-service spending but in FY 2019 that portion fell to 7.25 percent.  In FY 2019, CMS estimates that it made $28.9 billion in improper fee-for-service payments.

$5.32 billion of the $7 billion reduction came through corrective actions in Medicare home health payments.  Other Medicare Part B services accounted for $1.82 billion in savings and durable equipment improvements also accounted for significant savings.

Learn more about the decline in improper Medicare payments and the policy changes that contributed to it in this CMS news release, which also links to a CMS fact sheet and a full report.