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Federal Health Policy Update for Friday, July 2

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

Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear a case in its next term challenging cuts in 340B payments and another involving Medicare disproportionate share.

White House

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS has published new information about use of Provider Relief Fund grants, accounting for the use of those grants, expense and lost revenue calculations, changes in ownership, reporting on the use of Provider Relief Fund resources, and more.  The changes, including links to new documents, worksheets, instructions, an FAQ, a link to a webinar to learn about these changes, and more can be found on the Provider Relief Fund’s “reporting requirements and auditing” web page.  Recipients of Provider Relief Fund grants should review this new information carefully.
  • HHS also has updated its Provider Relief Fund FAQ site to reflect the changes introduced on the primary Provider Relief Fund web site (described above).  The update includes 24 new or updated items addressing the expenditure of Provider Relief Fund grants, accounting for and reporting on the use of those grants, recoupments, FEMA funds, and more.  The changes, marked “7/1/2021,” can be found on pages 8, 9, 11, 12, 16, and 22-27.

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has introduced a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutics calculator for infusion sites (mAbs Calculator) to inform staffing decisions and resource investments needed for COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutic infusion sites.  Go here to learn more about the calculator and to find a link to it.
  • HHS’s COVID-19 health equity task force met this week to consider interim recommendations addressing the inequities and the impact of long-COVID or Post-Acute Sequelae COVID-19 infection and access to personal protective equipment, testing, and therapeutics.  Go here for a summary of the meeting and links to a recording of the event.

Health Policy News

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Health Policy News

  • CMS has released the final notice for the Basic Health Program federal funding methodology for program year 2022.  This document provides the methodology and data sources necessary to determine federal payment amounts for program year 2022 to states that elect to establish a Basic Health Program to offer health benefits coverage to low-income individuals otherwise eligible to purchase coverage through qualified health plans in the exchange.  Learn more in the proposed rule.
  • CMS has proposed updating its End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) prospective payment system rates, changing the ESRD Quality Incentive Program, and modifying the ESRD Treatment Choices (ETC) Model.  The proposed changes to the ETC Model policies seek to encourage dialysis providers to decrease disparities in rates of home dialysis and kidney transplants among ESRD patients with lower socioeconomic status.  Other changes in the proposed ESRD regulation address rates, wage index, an update of the outlier policy, a transitional add-on payment adjustment for new and innovative equipment and supplies applications, and more.  Learn more from the following resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

  • The CDC has published a report in which it evaluates the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines among health care workers during the early phase of vaccinations.  Find the report here.
  • The CDC has updated its guidance for laboratories on the use of pooling for COVID-19 testing.  The new guidance notes that while pooling specimens for public health surveillance purposes is still acceptable, the focus now is on its use for diagnostic and screening testing.
  • The CDC has issued a guide for jurisdictions on expanding COVID-19 vaccine distribution to primary care providers to address disparities in immunizations.  Find it here.
  • The CDC has published research on the efficacy of portable air cleaners and masking for reducing indoor exposure to simulated exhaled COVID-19 aerosols.  Read the report here.

Health Policy News

  • The CDC reports that the number of cancer screenings received by women through the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program declined 87 percent for breast cancer and 84 percent for cervical cancer during April 2020 compared numbers for that month over the past five years.  The CDC attributes this to delayed in seeking care because of COVID-19.  Learn more here.

Food and Drug Administration

COVID-19

  • With improved access nation-wide to N95 masks, the FDA has revoked emergency use authorizations for certain respirators and decontamination systems.  See the FDA announcement.  The FDA also will hold a webinar to share information and answer questions about its revocation of EUAs for non-NIOSH-approved respirators and decontamination systems.  Go here to learn more about the webinar.

Health Policy News

  • The FDA has alerted users of Philips Respironics ventilators, BiPAP, and CPAP machines and their health care providers that Philips Respironics has recalled certain devices due to potential health risks.  Go here to see the FDA announcement.
  • The FDA has approved Rylaze (asparaginase erwinia chrysanthemi (recombinant)-rywn) as a component of a chemotherapy regimen to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia and lymphoblastic lymphoma in adult and pediatric patients who are allergic to the E. coli-derived asparaginase products used most commonly for treatment.  Learn more here.
  • The FDA has released a Cyclospora prevention, response, and research action plan.  The plan focuses on improving prevention, enhancing response activities, and filling knowledge gaps to help prevent Cyclospora contamination of foods and to help prepare for responding to future outbreaks.  See the FDA announcement for more.

National Institutes of Health

  • The NIH announced that it is funding five additional projects to identify ways of safely returning students and staff to in-person school in areas with vulnerable and underserved populations. Learn more about the new projects and other NIH-funded projects with similar objectives in this NIH announcement.

FEMA

  • FEMA has revised its COVID-19 funeral assistance policy to assist with COVID-19-related fatalities that occurred in the early months of the pandemic.  The change is intended to help families paying for funeral costs for people who died of COVID-19 but for which that cause of death was not noted on their death certificate.  Learn more from FEMA’s announcement of the change, which also has links to additional resources.

Stakeholder Events

Thursday, July 8 – HHS

HHS’s “We Can Do This” campaign is a national initiative to build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and get more people vaccinated.  This campaign offers tailored resources and toolkits for stakeholders to use to provide COVID-19 vaccine information to at-risk populations.  CMS is partnering with the campaign to offer several webinars to walk through each toolkit and its resources and train community organizations, local voices, and trusted leaders to use the campaign tools for vaccine outreach efforts to diverse communities.  A webinar will be held on Thursday, July 8 at 1:00 p.m. (eastern)  Register here.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, July 7, July 8, and July 9 CMS

CMS – Revisions to the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) Code Set.

CMS will hold virtual meetings on July 7, 8, and 9, to discuss its preliminary coding recommendations for revisions of the HCPCS Level II code set.  For information about times, registration, submission of materials, signing up to speak, and submitting comments, click here.

Wednesday, July 8 – HHS – Provider Relief Fund

HHS will host a webcast on Wednesday, July 8 at 3:00 p.m. (eastern) to present updated information on the use of Provider Relief Fund grants and reporting and auditing requirements associated with the receipt and use of those grants.  Go here to register.

Tuesday, July 13 – Food and Drug Administration

The FDA will host a webinar to share information and answer questions about its revocation of EUAs for non-NIOSH-approved respirators and decontamination systems.  It will present information about its June 30, 2021 “Update:  FDA No Longer Authorizes Use of Non-NIOSH-Approved or Decontaminated Disposable Respirators – Letter to Health Care Personnel and Facilities.”  To join the webinar:

Zoom Webinar Link: https://fda.zoomgov.com/j/1600971341?pwd=UTJMTlZmYzVScmNZamd2d2J4SU92Zz09External Link Disclaimer

Webinar Passcode: $vrC6z

Dial: 833-568-8864
Webinar ID: 160 097 1341
Passcode: 292602

Tuesday, July 13 Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)
ONC Workshop: Advancing SDOH Data Use and Interoperability for Achieving Health Equity
Tuesday, July 13 at 10:00 am – 4:00 pm ET  Click here for connection information
This workshop will explore existing and emerging data standards, tools, approaches, policies, models, and interventions for advancing the use and interoperability of non-clinical health data for individual and community health improvement.  It will share varying perspectives of health policy-makers and health improvement implementers to highlight inventive solutions, share challenges, and offer ideas on data modernization to advance health equity.  The workshop offers introductory content as well as deep exploration of key topics as part of social determinants of health IT data use and interoperability including facilitated, expert stakeholder engagement.

 

Federal Health Policy Update for Wednesday, May 19

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

NASH Advocacy

  • NASH has written to all members of Congress urging them to contact Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra about directing more of its remaining CARES Act Provider Relief Fund money to private safety-net hospitals to help them serve their diverse, predominantly low-income communities during the COVID-19 emergency.  Go here to see NASH’s message to Congress.

The White House

COVID-19

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Health Policy News

Go here for links to these and other items.

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is distributing $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding for its mental health and substance use block grant programs.  The Community Mental Health Services Block Grant Program and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program are distributing $1.5 billion each to states and territories to help communities addressing mental health and substance use needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Learn more from HHS’s news release announcing the funding.
  • HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has updated its work plan for COVID-19-related audits, evaluations, and inspections scheduled for May.
  • In conjunction with the California Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a news release advising the public that they should not be asked by providers to pay for COVID-19 vaccines and reminding providers that they may not attempt to charge or bill consumers for administering those vaccines.  See the news release here.
  • HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has published information about the challenges of providing hospice care amid the COVID-19 pandemic and about providing home care during the public health emergency.

Health Policy News

Senate Finance Committee Hearing

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing today on COVID-19 flexibilities.

  • Go here to read the opening statement of the committee chair, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and go here to read the opening statement of the committee’s ranking minority member, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID).
  • Go here to see the testimony of individuals who appeared at the hearing.
  • The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has submitted a written statement to the committee.  The MedPAC statement notes that “While many of these actions have been helpful in addressing the short-term issues presented by the pandemic, continuing those changes indefinitely would have drawbacks.  Therefore, policymakers should be cautious about extending them beyond the duration of the public health emergency (PHE) or other scheduled expiration date.”  The statement pays particular attention to telehealth and post-acute care.  Go here to see the MedPAC submission “Temporary modifications of Medicare policies in response to the coronavirus public health emergency.”
  • The Government Accountability Office has submitted a report to the Senate Finance Committee on the same subject.  The GAO notes that it undertook this work, titled “Medicare and Medicaid:  COVID-19 Program Flexibilities and Considerations for Their Continuation,” because of a CARES Act provision that calls for the agency to “… conduct monitoring and oversight of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”  Find the GAO submission here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

Food and Drug Administration

COVID-19

National Institutes of Health

COVID-19

National Academy of Medicine

FEMA

Government Accountability Office

Federal Health Policy Update for Friday, May 14

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 14.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

NASH Advocacy

  • NASH has written to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to urge his department to apply more appropriate criteria and a better methodology for calculating payments in all future Provider Relief Fund distributions.  Learn more from NASH’s letter to HHS Secretary Becerra.

The CDC and Mask Guidance

The White House

COVID-19

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

  • CMS has released data highlighting the continued impact of the COVID-19 emergency on Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries and their utilization of health care services.  The data show that from March through October 2020, beneficiaries skipped millions of primary, preventive, and mental health care visits due to COVID-19 in comparison to the same time period in 2019.  Although utilization rates for some treatments have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, mental health services show the slowest rebound.  Learn more from the following resources:

Health Policy News

  • CMS has issued guidance to states on how they can receive enhanced American Rescue Plan funding to increase access to home and community-based services (HCBS) for Medicaid beneficiaries.  This guidance seeks to assist states with leveraging federal resources to increase health equity in Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to HCBS, positive health outcomes, and community integration.  Those resources include a one-year increase of 10 percent in federal Medicaid matching money for such expenditures.  The guidance was issued to states through a CMS letter to state Medicaid directors.  Go here to see CMS’s announcement about the enhanced HCBS funding and go here to see the CMS letter to state Medicaid directors.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

FEMA

Health Policy Update for Tuesday, March 30

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30.

Medicare Sequestration

  • In anticipation of possible congressional action to extend the two percent sequester reduction suspension, CMS has instructed the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to hold all claims with dates of service on or after April 1, 2021 for a short period without affecting providers’ cash flow.  This will minimize the volume of claims the MACs must reprocess if Congress extends the suspension.  The MACs will automatically reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied if necessary.  NASH has been a strong proponent of extending the suspension of the Medicare sequester.

The White House

COVID-19

  • The White House has posted a fact sheet explaining that President Biden will announce that 90 percent of the adult U.S. population will be eligible for vaccination and 90 percent will have a vaccination site within five miles of their home by April 19.  The key elements of the plan are:
  • Expanding vaccines to 20,000 more local pharmacies, bringing the total to nearly 40,000 pharmacies across the country by April 19.
  • Launching a new effort to get the most vulnerable and at-risk seniors and people with disabilities vaccinated.
  • Expanding the number of mass vaccination centers across the country.
  • The White House has posted a transcript of the March 29 press briefing provided by its COVID-19 response team and public health officials.

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • HHS, the CDC, and the Administration for Community Living (ACL) will spend nearly $100 million to help increase vaccinations among older adults and people with disabilities.  With funding from the CDC, the ACL will award nearly $93 million in grants to aging and disability networks in every state and territory.  This effort will include an additional $5 million in funding for national hotlines to help older adults and people with disabilities register for vaccinations and to connect them with local disability and aging agencies that can provide services and supports necessary to obtain them.  Learn more from HHS’s announcement of this initiative.

Health Policy News

  • HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for FY 2021 screening, brief intervention, and referral-to-treatment grants.  The purpose of this program is to implement screening, brief intervention, and referral-to-treatment services for children, adolescents, and/or adults in primary care and community health settings with a focus on screening for underage drinking, opioid use, and other substance use.  Eligible applicants include public and private non-profit health care or behavioral health care systems such as hospital systems, pediatric health care providers, children’s hospitals, and community health or behavioral health centers, HMOs, PPOs, and FQHC systems.  Applications are due April 19.  Learn more from the SAMHSA announcement.
  • HHS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation has announced that its request for applications to participate in an aspect of its Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (CHART) Model designed to involve 20 rural-focused accountable care organizations will be delayed from April of 2021 to the spring of 2022.  Learn more here.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

  • CMS has issued section 1135 waivers to Texas, Nevada, and Kentucky.  1135 waivers give states greater flexibility to serve their Medicaid beneficiaries during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Health Policy News

  • In a message to state survey agencies, CMS announced that it has lifted the previously extended 30-day survey suspension for hospitals.  Survey activity will resume in accordance with previous non-long-term-care guidance.  Under the suspension, surveys had been limited to immediate jeopardy complaint allegations posing imminent danger to patients at the hospital, non-compliance with Medicare hospital conditions of participation, and matters requiring immediate action to be taken to protect the health and safety of patients.  Hospital recertification surveys were suspended except for a subset of hospital re-accreditation surveys under guidance provided to the accrediting organizations.  Hospital enforcement actions for deficiencies that did not represent immediate jeopardy had their termination date extended for at least 30 days.  CMS is now lifting the 30-day limitations imposed for hospital surveys as of March 23, 2021.  Among the resumed activities are reviews of non-immediate jeopardy hospital complaints, hospital plans of correction, desk reviews, on-site reviews, and work on open enforcement cases.  Learn more in this CMS memo to state survey agencies.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

National Institutes of Health

COVID-19

  • In a preliminary NIH study of recovered COVID-19 patients, researchers found that T-cells in those patients recognize most COVID-19 variants and offer some protection against those variants.  This suggests that vaccines may offer similar protection.  The NIH notes that additional research is needed.  Learn more here.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

COVID-19

  • FEMA announced that it has amended 58 COVID-19-related disaster declarations to increase FEMA’s share of the eligible costs associated addressing the disaster activities covered by the declarations from 75 percent to 100 percent.  See FEMA’s announcement here.
  • FEMA announced that it will provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.  Go here for information about eligibility and applications.