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Federal Health Policy Update for Monday, June 28

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

Supreme Court Decision in Affordable Care Act Case

  • The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a case in which insurers unsuccessfully sued to recover reductions in their Affordable Care Act federal cost-sharing reduction payments.

White House

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • HHS and the FDA have paused all distribution of bamlanivimab and etesevimab together and etesevimab alone, to pair with existing supply of bamlanivimab, on a national basis until further notice.  In addition, the FDA has recommended that health care providers nation-wide use alternative authorized monoclonal antibody therapies and not use bamlanivimab and etesevimab administered together at this time.  Learn more about why the agencies have taken this action and what they propose as alternatives from this message distributed by HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response,
  • HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on Medicare beneficiaries residing in nursing homes during 2020.  Learn more from the OIG’s announcement and summary of the report and from the OIG report “COVID-19 Had a Devastating Impact on Medicare Beneficiaries in Nursing Homes During 2020.”

Health Policy News

  • HHS and the CDC have awarded 59 jurisdictions with $200 million to bolster support for and enhance the disease intervention specialists workforce.  These awards represent the initial funding of a $1.13 billion investment being made over the next five years under the American Rescue Plan and will provide these jurisdictions, public health programs, and the CDC with support to expand and leverage the work of disease intervention specialists.  Learn more from the CDC’s announcement and find a list of the funding recipients here.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

  • CMS has provided guidance to state Medicaid programs about the circumstances under which health care facilities still operating under their emergency preparedness plans because of COVID-19 will temporarily remain exempt from participating in required full-scale emergency preparedness exercises and testing.  See the CMS guidance letter here.

Health Policy News

  • CMS has announced the appointment of Daniel Tsai as deputy administrator and director of its Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services.  Tsai comes from Massachusetts, where he served as the assistant secretary for MassHealth and state Medicaid director.  Learn more about Tsai and the agency he will help lead in this CMS news release.
  • CMS has released a Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services bulletin to introduce a series of tools and toolkits for states and CMS to use to improve the monitoring and oversight of managed care in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that will help improve beneficiaries’ access to care.  This bulletin also provides guidance setting the content and format of the Annual Managed Care Program Report required by CMS regulations and introduces additional resources and technical assistance toolkits that states can use to improve compliance with managed care standards and requirements.  Learn more from the new CMS bulletin.
  • CMS has published the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online publication.  For articles about updates of the hospital outpatient prospective payment system and the clinical laboratory fee schedule and more, go here.
  • CMS has updated its FAQ on its final rule on interoperability and patient access.  Find the information here.
  • CMS announced that it will provide $20 million in American Rescue Plan money to support state-based marketplaces to improve access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage for consumers in their states.  States can apply for funding to help modernize or update their systems, programs, or technology to comply with federal marketplace requirements.  Learn more about the new funding from this CMS announcement.
  • CMS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation has announced an anti-kickback safe harbor for CMS-sponsored model patient incentives under the agency’s Maternal Opioid Misuse Model.  Learn more here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

Food and Drug Administration

COVID-19

Health Policy News

  • The FDA has approved the drug Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate), the first oral blood thinning medication for children.  Learn more from this FDA news release.
  • The FDA has issued draft guidance encouraging industry to include patients with incurable cancers (when there is no potential for cure or for prolonged/near normal survival) in cancer clinical trials regardless of whether they have received existing alternative treatment options.  See the FDA announcement of this new policy and the draft guidance itself, which was published in the Federal Register.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

  • OSHA has issued an emergency temporary standard to protect health care and health care support service workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19 in settings where people with COVID-19 are reasonably expected to be present.  Compliance with some of the new requirements is mandatory as of July 6 and compliance with the rest of the requirements is mandatory as of July 21.  Learn more from OSHA’s notice in the Federal Register.

National Institutes of Health

  • NIH director Francis S. Collins and other leaders have outlined their vision for a new science entity, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, that was included in the president’s fiscal year 2022 budget with requested funding of $6.5 billion.  The purpose of the agency is to accelerate biomedical innovation and adoption of technologies and approaches to revolutionize health care and medicine.  Find the NIH announcement and a link to additional information about the agency here.
  • An NIH study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine concludes that “…there were 4.8 undiagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infections for every diagnosed case of COVID-19, and an estimated 16.8 million infections were undiagnosed by mid-July 2020 in the United States.”  Find the study here.

Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)

  • MedPAC has submitted formal comments to CMS about that agency’s proposed regulation describing how it plans to pay for acute-care hospital and long-term-care hospital inpatient care in FY 2022.  The MedPAC letter addresses limited parts of the proposed regulation.  Go here to see MedPAC’s letter to CMS.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

  • MACPAC has published a fact sheet with an updated analysis of physician acceptance of new Medicaid patients, including at the state level.  The analysis found that physicians were significantly less likely to accept new patients covered by Medicaid than patients with Medicare or private insurance, although acceptance varied by specialty and by state.  Learn more from the new MACPAC fact sheet “Physician Acceptance of New Medicaid Patients:  Findings from the National Electronic Health Records Survey.”
  • MACPAC has published an issue brief that describes how Medicaid programs can pay for certain housing-related services.  Learn more from the MACPAC issue brief “Medicaid’s Role in Housing.”

Government Accountability Office

Stakeholder Events

CMS – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Stakeholder Calls 

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.  Webinar dates and registration links are below:

  • Tuesday, June 29, 1:00-1:30 pm ET:  Faith-Based Toolkit – Register here
  • Thursday,  July 1, 1:00-2:00 pm ET:  Toolkits for Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities – Register here
  • Thursday, July 8, 1:00-1:30 pm ET:  Older Adults Toolkit – 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.

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 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.

OIG Sets 2015 Medicare, Medicaid Investigations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has outlined the areas where it anticipates focusing its investigative energies in 2015.

hhsOIGAmong the Medicare issues it plans to address next year are:

  • new hospital inpatient admission criteria
  • oversight of provider-based status
  • the appropriateness of indirect medical education (IME) payments
  • evaluation and management (E&M) coding practices
  • hospital controls over wage data used in the calculation of hospital Medicare area wage indexes

Among the Medicaid issues the OIG will examine are:

  • the accuracy of state eligibility determinations
  • quality of care, including access to preventive screenings for children
  • managed care organization practices, including claims for services delivered after patients’ deaths and payments made on behalf of beneficiaries who are not eligible for Medicaid

For an overview of the OIG 2015 plan, see this National Law Review article.  To see the plan itself go here, to the OIG’s web site.