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Federal Health Policy Update for Monday, August 30

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

Temporary Suspension of COVID-19 Data Reporting Requirements for Some Hospitals

  • The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has announced that federal hospital COVID-19 reporting requirements for the entire state of Louisiana and parts of Mississippi have been suspended for seven days in response to Hurricane Ida.  While hospitals in the affected areas may still report their data if they wish they are not required to do so and reporting for this period is not expected to be back-filled.  The office will continue to monitor the storm’s impact and this suspension could be extended or expanded to additional areas depending on conditions in the region.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS has declared a state of public emergency in Louisiana and Mississippi because of the effects of Hurricane Ida.  See the HHS announcement for more about what this means.
  • HHS has issued guidance with essential information for states as they navigate the options available to advance COVID-19 vaccination and testing and the Medicaid program’s broader aim of providing health coverage for millions of eligible individuals.  To help states support families and communities and to continue to address health disparities, CMS is providing guidance to states about additional American Rescue Plan funding to promote the importance of COVID-19 vaccination for eligible children and adults enrolled in Medicaid.  Among the areas the new guidance addresses are COVID-19 testing in schools, coverage of habilitation services, enhancing access to COVID-19 vaccines, incentives for states to expand Medicaid, and reducing health disparities.  Learn more from this HHS news release, which includes links to several documents HHS has issued in support of this initiative.
  • HHS has established an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity in response to President Biden’s executive order calling for tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad.  The office is charged with:
    • Identifying communities with disproportionate exposures to climate hazards and vulnerable populations.
    • Addressing health disparities exacerbated by climate impacts to enhance community health resilience.
    • Promoting and translating research on public health benefits of multi-sectoral climate actions.
    • Assisting with regulatory efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and criteria air pollution throughout the health care sector, including participating suppliers and providers.
    • Fostering innovation in climate adaptation and resilience for disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations.
    • Providing expertise and coordination to the White House, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and federal agencies related to climate change and health equity deliverables and activities, including Executive Order implementation and reporting on health adaptation actions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
    • Promoting training opportunities to build the climate and health workforce and empower communities.
    • Exploring opportunities to partner with the philanthropic and private sectors to support innovative programming to address disparities and health sector transformation.
  • HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has extended the deadline for providers, FQHCs, and associations to apply for grants under its “Promoting Resilience and Mental Health Among Health Professional Workforce” program from August 30 to September 20.  $29 million in grant funding is available.  Learn more about the grants and the application process here.
  • HRSA has extended the deadline for applications for another public safety workforce resiliency training program from August 30 to September 20.  This program, which will award up to $68 million in grants, is part of a program to plan, develop, operate, or participate in health professions and nursing training activities using evidence-based or evidence-informed strategies, to reduce and address burnout, suicide, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders and promote resiliency among health care students, residents, professionals, paraprofessionals, trainees, public safety officers, and employers of such individuals in rural and underserved communities.  Learn more about the program and the grant opportunity here.
  • HRSA has awarded $10.7 million from the American Rescue Plan to expand pediatric mental health care access by integrating telehealth services into pediatric care.  Learn more about the programs funded by these resources and the recipients of this grant in this HHS announcement.
  • HRSA will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing changes in the agency’s organization and operations.  See a pre-publication version of the notice here.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

Health Policy News

  • CMS has published the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online newsletter.  The latest edition has an article on revised ICD-10 code sets, an update on monoclonal antibodies, and more.  Find it here.
  • CMS announced that Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program in 2020 earned performance payments (shared savings) totaling nearly $2.3 billion while saving Medicare approximately $1.9 billion.  Learn more about the performance of ACOs in the Medicare Shared Savings Program from this CMS news release,
  • CMS has announced three new major appointments:   Dr. Ellen Montz as Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight; Dr. Natalia Chalmers as its first-ever Chief Dental Officer in the Office of the Administrator; and Dara Corrigan as Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Program Integrity.  Learn more about the new officials and the positions to which they have been appointed in this CMS news release.

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has approved a first-of-its-kind drug-free rehabilitation system intended to treat moderate to severe upper extremity motor deficits associated with chronic ischemic strokes.  Learn more about this new technology and its application in this FDA news release.

National Institutes of Health

  • The NIH has begun a clinical trial to assess the antibody response to an extra dose of an authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine in people with autoimmune disease who did not respond to an original COVID-19 vaccine regimen.  The trial also will investigate whether pausing immunosuppressive therapy for autoimmune disease improves the antibody response to an extra dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in this population.  Learn more in this NIH news release.

Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)

  • MedPAC has submitted formal comments to CMS on that agency’s proposed end-stage renal disease (ESRD) prospective payment system for 2022.  Read its letter here.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

MACPAC has posted a fact sheet on Medicaid coverage of qualified residential treatment programs for children in foster care.

Stakeholder Event

MedPAC Meeting – September 2 and 3

MedPAC will hold its September public meetings remotely on Thursday, September 2 and Friday, September 3.  To register to view the Thursday, September 2 session (from 1:15 to 5:15 eastern) go here and to register to view the Friday, September 3 session (9:30 until noon eastern) go here.  To see the agenda for the two sessions and find supporting materials, go here.

 

 

Federal Health Policy Update for Wednesday, July 14

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, July 14.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

CMS – Proposed 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Rule

CMS has released its proposed Medicare physician fee schedule rule for 2022.  Highlights of the proposed rule, which is more than 1700 pages, include:

  • loosening current restrictions on the use of telehealth and expanding its use for behavioral health services;
  • expanding the reach of the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program;
  • requiring clinicians to meet a higher performance threshold to receive incentives under the Quality Payment Program;
  • authorizing physician assistants to bill Medicare directly for the Part B services they provide; and
  • phasing out coinsurance for colorectal screening additional services.

In addition, CMS is soliciting stakeholder feedback on health equity data collection and on current Medicare payments for administering vaccines.

For further information about the proposed physician fee schedule rule, see the following resources:

CMS’s news release announcing the newly proposed rule

a CMS fact sheet

quality program update fact sheet

Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program update fact sheet

the proposed rule itself

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Health Policy News

  • CMS has published the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online weekly bulletin.  This week’s edition includes an article about cognitive assessment resources for providers, updated FY 2022 ICD-10-CMS codes, and opportunities for web-based training on aspects of Medicare billing.  For this and more, go here.
  • CMS has announced that it will open a National Coverage Determination (NCD) analysis through which it will review and determine whether Medicare will establish a national Medicare coverage policy for monoclonal antibodies targeting amyloid for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.  NCDs are program instructions developed by CMS to describe the nation-wide conditions for Medicare coverage for a specific item or service.  This NCD analysis will be applicable to national coverage considerations for aducanumab, which was recently approved by the FDA, as well as any future monoclonal antibodies that target amyloid for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.  As part of the NCD process, a 30-day public comment period began on July 12.  CMS will host two public listening sessions in July to provide an opportunity for public input.  Learn more from this CMS announcement.
  • CMS has announced that it will distribute $15 million in American Rescue Plan funding to provide community-based mobile crisis intervention services for those with Medicaid.  The $15 million funding opportunity is available to state Medicaid agencies, not providers, for planning grants to support developing these programs.
  • CMS’s Accountable Health Communities (AHC) Model assesses whether bridging the gap between clinical care and social services can reduce health care utilization and costs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.  In February 2021, CMS hosted its third annual AHC meeting virtually to convene 28 bridge organizations participating in the AHC model and key partners, including community service providers, state Medicaid agencies, and advisory board members.  Meeting participants collaborated and shared insights to sustain their screening, referral, and navigation strategies to address the health-related social needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.  Learn more about their insights in the brief “Planning for Sustainability and Advancing Health Equity during the Public Health Emergency.

Provider Relief Fund

Department of Health and Human Services

Health Policy News

  • HHS has provided $398 million in American Rescue Plan money through the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program to 1540 small rural hospitals for COVID-19 testing and mitigation.  See the HHS announcement here, including a list of how much was distributed to hospitals in each state.
  • HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of complete lists of all geographic areas, population groups, and facilities designated as primary medical care, dental health, and mental health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) as of April 30, 2021.  See the HRSA notice here and find the updated lists of HPSAs here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

Food and Drug Administration

COVID-19

Please note that the vaccine’s FAQ and separate fact sheets translated into other languages have not yet been updated.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

  • OMB has published its semi-annual work plan presenting its regulatory priorities in the coming months.  Among the HHS matters listed, in addition to those that occur regularly, are:
    • Streamlining the Medicaid and CHIP Application, Eligibility Determination, Enrollment, and Renewal Processes
    • Medicaid Drug Misclassification, Beneficiary Access Protection, and Drug Program Administration
    • Mandatory Medicaid and CHIP Core Set Reporting
    • Medicaid Managed Care Risk-Sharing Mechanisms
    • Temporary Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) increase under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

See the complete HHS list here.

Stakeholder Events

Thursday, July 15 – Centers for Disease Control

CDC National Call Series on COVID-19-Related Response Strategies

Thursday, July 15 at 2:00 – 3:00 pm ET Click here to join
CDC’s COVID-19 response team conducts a national call weekly to provide state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) partners with timely updates and opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and sharing of successful response strategies. Over the summer, these weekly COVID-19 community of practice webinars will focus on topics related to school readiness.

Monday, July 19 – National Emergency Management Association (NEMA)

Mission-Ready Packages Workshop for Resource Providers

Monday, July 19 at 1:00 pm ET  Click here for registration

NEMA is hosting a workshop on developing mission ready packages (MRPs). MRPs are specific response or recovery capabilities that have been created to ensure the skills, capabilities, and associated costs are bundled prior to an emergency or disaster for more efficient deployment. These workshop sessions are designed for resource providers. A resource provider is any organization that is able to deploy under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) and that has capabilities that might be needed during an emergency response. Previous knowledge of EMAC or MRPs is not required.

Tuesday, July 20 – Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

Provider Relief Fund Reporting Requirements

Tuesday, July 20 at 3:00 pm ET

HRSA will host a recorded Reporting Technical Assistance session to provide technical assistance on reporting requirements for Provider Relief Fund recipients and stakeholders.  To register for the July 20 session go here.

Thursday, July 22 – HHS’s Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3)
HC3
Cybersecurity Threat Briefing – Qbot/QakBot

Thursday, July 22 at 1:00 pm ET – Click here for registration

HC3 is holding its second July threat briefing, the topic will be “Qbot/QakBot.”  This webinar will provide actionable information on health sector cybersecurity threats and mitigations.  HC3 analysts will engage in discussions with participants on current threats and highlight best practices and mitigation tactics.

Wednesday, August 4 – Centers for Disease Control

Zoonoses and One Health Update (ZOHU) Call

Wednesday, August 4 at 2:00 – 3:00 pm ETClick here for more information

ZOHU Calls are one-hour monthly webinars that provide timely education on zoonotic and infectious diseases, One Health, antimicrobial resistance, food safety, vector-borne diseases, recent outbreaks, and related health threats at the animal-human-environment interface.

 

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 Wednesday, May 5

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

The White House

COVID-19

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • HHS has created a web page for its new COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund through which providers can be reimbursed for the cost of administering COVID-19 vaccines to the uninsured and to those whose health insurance requires a co-pay for vaccinations.  This web page offers information about how the program works and how providers can submit claims for reimbursement.
  • To support the launch of this new COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund, HHS will hold a webinar on Thursday, May 6 at 2:00 p.m. (eastern) to introduce stakeholders to what the program will do and how it will work.  Go here for further information and to register to participate.
  • HHS has announced the availability of $250 million in American Rescue Plan funds to develop and support a community-based workforce that will share information about vaccines, increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence, and address barriers to vaccination for individuals living in vulnerable and medically underserved communities.  For the first funding opportunity, released today, approximately 10 award recipients will be funded to engage with multiple organizations regionally and locally, including with community-based organizations, health centers, minority-serving institutions, and other health and social service entities.  The second funding opportunity will be released in the near future and will focus on smaller community-based organizations.  To learn more about program eligibility and to apply for funding, visit Grants.gov.  Applications are due May 18, 2021.  See HHS’s announcement about the new program.
  • HHS and its Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have announced the availability of $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to strengthen COVID-19 response efforts and increase vaccinations in rural communities.  HRSA’s Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program will provide $460 million to more than 4,600 rural health clinics (RHCs) to maintain and increase COVID-19 testing, expand access to testing for rural residents, and broaden efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus in ways tailored to their local communities.  HRSA will provide up to $100,000 per RHC-certified clinic site.  In addition, HRSA will provide $398 million to existing grantees of the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program to work with approximately 1,730 small rural hospitals and critical access hospitals on COVID-19 testing and mitigation, with funding to be used to support all eligible rural hospitals, up to $230,000 per hospital.  Finally, through its Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence Program, HRSA will make nearly $100 million available in grants to eligible RHCs nation-wide to address health equity gaps by offering support and resources to medically underserved rural communities where COVID-19 vaccine uptake lags.  HRSA will fund all eligible RHCs that apply.  Learn more from this announcement about the new funding.
  • HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has updated its FAQ outlining situations in which it is willing to exercise its discretion in the enforcement of existing guidelines in support of the flexibility needed to respond effectively to the COVID-19 emergency.  See the updated FAQs here.

Health Policy News

  • The administration announced that HHS and its Administration for Community Living will spend $1.4 billion in American Rescue Plan money to address a variety of needs of older Americans.  Among its uses will be $460 million for home and community-based services; $44 million for evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention; $145 million to help family caregivers support their loved ones; and $10 million to safeguard the health and welfare of residents of long-term-care facilities.  Learn more from this fact sheet.
  • HHS has issued a request for nominations to the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services.  Nominations are due May 31.  See the Federal Register announcement for additional information.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

  • CMS has issued a new waiver for treatment in place for ground ambulance services during the COVID-19 public health emergency and has posted a fact sheet on this waiver.
  • In support of this new waiver CMS has updated its document “COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) Billing” with revised questions on pages 50 and 51 and new questions on pages 55-60 for ground ambulance providers.  All result from a provision in the American Rescue Plan that established circumstances under which Medicare may reimburse providers for a service that did not arise during a community-wide emergency medical service but that instead is a result of the COVID-19 emergency.  Go here to see the new and revised questions.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission

  • MACPAC has published a new report titled Examining the Potential for Additional Re-balancing of Long-Term Services and Supports.  Find it here.

American Medical Association

  • The AMA has updated its Current Procedural Code (CPT) code sets to include new vaccine and administration codes for the COVID-19 vaccine currently being developed by the company Novavax.  This vaccine has not yet been approved for use.  Learn more from an AMA news release.

Stakeholder Events

Friday, May 7
FDA
Common Labeling Deficiencies and Tips for Generic Drug Applications
Friday, May 7 at 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET.  Click here for connection information.
The FDA will discuss the most common labeling mistakes found in abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) and how to avoid them and offer other labeling tips.  The FDA also will provide answers to common labeling questions asked by generic drug applicants.

Wednesday, May 12
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

CISA 2021 Hurricane Webinar
Wednesday, May 12 at 10:30 am – 12:00pm ET.  Click here for registration.

This webinar will focus on providing awareness of CISA’s role and resources in hurricane preparedness and response activities associated with systems that make landfall on the continental U.S. or U.S. territories while in a COVID-19 environment.  It will also feature presentations from the NOAA Liaison to the National Operations Center and FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center.

Wednesday, May 12

HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response – Vaccine Promotion

Wednesday, May 12 at 1:30 pm ET.  Click here for further information and registration.

Speakers will discuss a New York City initiative dedicated to building confidence in COVID-19 vaccines; provide information about the current FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines and their safety and effectiveness; and share effective communication strategies to encourage friends, family, colleagues, and the community to get vaccinated.  The webinar will share additional educational resources and tools developed by local health care partners and there will be time for participant Q&A.

Group Organizes Advocacy in Support of 340B Program

Under pressure from federal regulators and MedPAC, the advocacy group 340B Health is attempting to rally hospital groups behind the 340B prescription drug discount program that requires pharmaceutical companies to provide discounts to qualified hospitals for drugs dispensed on an outpatient basis to Medicaid patients.

Last year the Health Resources and Services Administration, which runs the program, issued proposed regulations that would change how the program operates and is governed. Recently, MedPAC proposed reducing the size of the discount hospitals receive for the drugs, with the savings to be redirected to fund additional Medicare disproportionate share (Medicare DSH) payments for selected hospitals.

Prescription Medication Spilling From an Open Medicine BottleMore than 2100 organizations participate in the 340B program, including most private safety-net hospitals. NAUH has conveyed its concern about the proposed regulatory changes to the Health Resources and Services Administration and about the proposal to reduce 340B payments to MedPAC.

For a closer look at the 340B program, the changes that have been proposed, and what hospitals are attempting to do about it, see this report from CQ Roll Call presented by the Commonwealth Fund.