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Federal Health Policy Update for Monday, January 3

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Monday, January 3.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

The White House

  • President Biden has issued a memorandum to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on maximizing assistance to respond to COVID-⁠19.  Among other things, the memorandum calls for FEMA to provide emergency and disaster assistance, to establish or expand COVID-19 testing sites at the request of state governments, and to underwrite the full costs it incurs in such efforts.  Learn more from the memorandum.
  • The White House has posted a transcript of the December 29 press briefing given by its COVID-19 response team and public officials.

Provider Relief Fund

  • The Provider Relief Fund reporting portal is now open for reporting period 2 and will remain open through March 31, 2022.  Go here for more information about what organizations do and do not need to report and how to do so.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

Health Policy Update

  • CMS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation has a “Most Favored Nation Model” that seeks to test a way to lower prescription drug costs by paying no more for high-cost Medicare Part B drugs and biologicals than the lowest price that drug manufacturers receive in other, similar countries. The program was schedule to begin in 2021 but was delayed when a federal court issued a preliminary injunction against that implementation.  Between the court’s ruling and stakeholder feedback, CMMI has decided to withdraw its Most Favored Nation Model and did so in this Federal Register notice.  Additional information can be found on CMMI’s Most Favored Nation Model web page.

Department of Health and Human Services

Health Policy Update

  • HHS is working with states to promote access to Medicaid services for people with mental health and substance use disorder crises by giving states a new option for supporting community-based mobile crisis intervention services for individuals with Medicaid through newly available federal funds.  The American Rescue Plan grants CMS new authority to provide states with additional resources and tools to enhance these programs, including additional federal funding to states for qualifying mobile crisis intervention services for three years.  This new Medicaid option also offers flexibility for states to design programs that work for their communities, allowing states to apply for this new option under several Medicaid authorities.  Learn more from this HHS news release and this guidance letter CMS has sent to state Medicaid directors.
  • HHS has published a Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters 2023 Proposed Rule that seeks to make it easier for consumers to find affordable, comprehensive health coverage.  Among other steps, the proposed rule seeks to advance standardized plan options, implement network adequacy reviews, strengthen access to essential community providers, and prohibit discriminatory practices.  Learn more from this HHS news release, this HHS fact sheet, and the proposed rule itself.  Interested parties have until January 27 to submit formal written comments.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

  • In June, OSHA adopted a “Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard” to protect workers from COVID-19 in settings where they provide health care or health care services, doing so with the expectation that this standard would be formalized in regulation within six months.  Now, OSHA has announced that while the regulation still has not been finalized it “…will vigorously enforce the general duty clause and its general standards, including the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protection Standards, to help protect healthcare employees from the hazard of COVID-19” while modifying certain other aspects of the standard.  Learn more about the standard and the ways in which the agency intends to enforce and modify it in this OSHA statement.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has amended its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to expand the use of a single booster dose to include use in individuals 12 through 15 years of age; to shorten the time between the completion of the original Pfizer vaccine regimen and a booster dose to at least five months; and to allow for a third primary series dose for certain immunocompromised children five through 11 years of age.  Learn more from this FDA news release.
  • The FDA has updated its EUA for COVID-19 convalescent plasma by placing new limits on its use.  See the announcement here and the revised EUA here.
  • The FDA is inviting industry organizations to participate in the selection of non-voting industry representatives to serve on certain panels of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health by nominating such individuals in writing.  The agency also seeks nominations for non-voting industry representatives to serve on certain device panels.  Learn more from this Federal Register notice.  The deadline for nominations is February 2.

Stakeholder Events

HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness – January 6

HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and Project ECHO will hold a “COVID-19 Clinical Rounds: A Peer-to-Peer Virtual Community of Practice” event on Thursday, January 6 at 12:00 (eastern).  COVID-19 Clinical Rounds are resource webinars intended for consultant physicians involved in critical care practice, fellows, residents, pharmacists, nursing staff, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, and allied health staff.  Go here to register for the January 6 event and find recordings of previous events here.

MedPAC – January 13-14

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) will hold its next public meeting on January 13 and 14.  Watch this space for a meeting agenda and information about virtual participation.

MACPAC – January 20-21

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) will hold its next public meeting on January 20 and 21.  Watch this space for a meeting agenda and information about virtual participation.

Federal Health Policy Update for Friday, November 19

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Friday, November 19.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

Congress

On Friday the House passed a $1.7 trillion social spending bill, H.R. 5376 – Build Back Better Act, with no Republican votes and all but one Democratic vote.  The Congressional Budget Office score indicates that the health care policies in the bill are paid for by cuts in other health care programs.

The bill includes nearly $300 billion in health care provisions, including:

  • $57 billion to provide insurance to more than two million people in non-expansion states
  • $74 billion to temporarily extend subsidies for Affordable Care Act health plans
  • $146 billion for home health services
  • $36 billion to cover hearing services in Medicare
  • $26 billion to expand the public health workforce, address maternal mortality, and prepare for future pandemics

This new spending would be paid for in part by:

  • nearly $34 billion in savings from cuts in uncompensated care payments to hospitals in 12 states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs
  • nearly $300 billion in savings through policies to negotiate the cost of some expensive drugs, penalize drug companies that raise prices faster than inflation, redesign seniors’ Medicare benefits, and repeal the drug rebate rule

The bill that passed the House this morning is the result of a number of last-minute changes to smaller provisions from previous versions.  We are still going through that language and will update you on any changes you should be aware of.  The bill will certainly be changed by the Senate, where it will require the votes of all 50 Democratic senators to pass.

The White House

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration, which administers the Provider Relief Fund, has established a 60-day grace period for complying with the fund’s Reporting Period 1.  The grace period began on October 1, 2021, and will end on November 30, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. (eastern).  Learn more here, under “60-Day Grace Period – Reporting Period 1.”

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

  • Effective April 1, 2022, CMS will introduce seven new ICD-10 codes for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines and the CDC will implement three new codes for reporting COVID-19 vaccination status.  To find these codes, go here and scroll down to the downloadable zip file “ICD-10 MS-DRGs V39.1 Effective April 1, 2022  (ZIP) – – Updated 11/16/2021.”
  • CMS has posted the first in a series of short podcasts for frontline nursing home staff.  “Nursing Home Series for Front Line Clinicians and Staff” addresses training and infection control practices in nursing homes to help combat the spread of COVID-19.  Find the podcast here.

Health Policy Update

  • CMS has published the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online newsletter of information about Medicare payment and other policies.  Articles in this edition address changes in nursing home visitation policies, opportunities for clinicians to review their 2020 quality payment program performance data before it is published on the Medicare Care Compare web site, the 2022 update of Medicare thresholds per beneficiary, and more.  Go here for the latest edition of MLN Connects.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • A new federal regulation requires health insurance issuers, employer-based health plans, and other group health plans to report on prescription drug and health coverage costs.  The requirement, issued as a final rule with comment period, was issued jointly by the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury and the federal Office of Personnel Management and was issued to implement the No Surprises Act and the transparency requirements of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.  The regulation requires health plans, health insurance issuers offering group or individual health insurance coverage, and health benefits plans offered to federal employees to submit selected data to the departments involved, which will work through the office of HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation to publish a report on prescription drug pricing trends and rebates and their impact on premiums and consumers’ out-of-pocket costs.  The data submission requirements include information on average monthly premiums and drug spending for patients compared to their employers and/or group health plans/health insurance issuers.  Learn more about the regulation from the following resources:
  • an HHS news release
  • an HHS fact sheet
  • the regulation itself
  • HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra spoke this week at the National Association of Medicaid Directors’ fall conference.  Read his remarks here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has authorized use of a single booster dose for all individuals 18 years of age and older after completion of primary vaccination with any FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.  Learn more about this development, and the reasoning behind it, in this FDA news release.
  • The FDA has updated its enforcement policy for viral transport media during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Among the audiences for this guidance is clinical laboratories.  Find the updated guidance here.

National Institutes of Health

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

  • In the wake of a federal court ruling that OSHA “take no steps to implement or enforce” its emergency temporary standard requiring employees of companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of that requirement.  Learn more from this OSHA news release.

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

  • The GAO has published a report with information on the transition to alternative payment models by providers in rural areas, health professional shortage areas (HPSAs), and medically underserved areas (MUAs).  Find a summary of the report here and the full report here.

Stakeholder Events

CMMI – The Value-Based Insurance Design Health Equity Business Case for Medicare Advantage Organizations – December 2

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) is sponsoring a series of webinars for current and potential Medicare Advantage Organization participants in its Value-Based Insurance Design Model.  The first webinar in the series will provide an overview of the model’s health equity incubation sessions effort, articulate a business case for Medicare Advantage organizations to leverage Value-Based Insurance Design Model components to address health inequities in their member populations, and provide specific guidance and clarification on the full extent of health equity-focused flexibilities that fall under the model’s waiver authority.  The first webinar will be held on Thursday, December 2 at 2:30 p.m. (eastern).  Go here for more information about the webinar and to register to participate.

CDC – Molecular Approaches for Clinical and Public Health Applications to Detect Influenza and COVID-19 Viruses – December 9

The CDC will hold a webinar on Thursday, December 9 to share with clinicians information about molecular approaches for clinical and public health applications to detect the influenza virus and COVID-19.  Go here to learn more about the webinar and how to participate.

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 Thursday, June 10

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 10.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

White House

Health Policy News

  • The White House has released a memo titled “What We Urge You To Do To Protect Against The Threat of Ransomware.”  This memo addresses the growing number and size of ransomware incidents and calls upon government and the private sector to take steps to protect their organizations from this growing threat.  The memo also outlines the federal government’s recommended best practices.  Find the memo here.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

Health Policy News

  • CMS has published the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online publication.  For articles about prior authorization for hospital outpatient departments, ICD-10 PCS procedure codes for FY 2022, HCPCS codes subject to and excluded from CLIA amendments, Medicare’s quarterly compliance newsletter, and more, go here.

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has written to providers to remind them that COVID-19 tests and vaccines are to be “…free for any individual living in the United States, regardless of their insurance or immigration status.”  The letter reminds providers of how they may seek reimbursement for their testing and vaccine administration costs from entities other than their patients.  See the HHS announcement of this reminder from Secretary Becerra and the letter to providers.
  • HHS announced that the federal government will purchase approximately 1.7 million courses of the investigational antiviral treatment molnupiravir (MK-4482), which is used to treat COVID-19, pending emergency use authorization or approval by the FDA.  The drug is currently in phase 3 trials.  The value of the purchase is $1.2 billion.  See the HHS announcement here.
  • HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has updated its COVID-19 Behavioral Health Resources page to help address health care professional stress and resilience, including self-care resources and combating compassion fatigue.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

  • OSHA posted a new emergency rule, soon to be published in final form, describing new steps that health care entities must take to protect their workers from COVID-19.  The steps address the use of personal protective equipment, ventilation, social distancing, time off for vaccines, and more.  Learn more from information posted on the OSHA web site and from the new emergency rule itself.  The rule takes effect upon official publication.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

National Institutes of Health

  • The NIH announced that a clinical trial is under way in five U.S. cities to determine whether delivering integrated health services through mobile clinics can improve HIV and substance use outcomes among people with opioid use disorder who inject drugs.  Learn more here.

Stakeholder Events

Friday, June 11 – FDA
Identification of Medicinal Products: Path to Global Implementation
Friday, June 11 at 1:00 – 2:30 pm ET  Click here to learn more
FDA will present updates on the Identification of Medicinal Products standards development and implementation with an emphasis on international collaboration, pilot projects on substance, dosage form and pharmaceutical identification.

Friday, June 11 – FDA
Identification of Medicinal Products:  Path to Global Implementation
Friday, June 11 at 1:00 – 2:30 pm ET   Click here to learn more
The FDA will present updates on the identification of medicinal products standards development and implementation with an emphasis on international collaboration, pilot projects on substance, dosage form, and pharmaceutical identification.

Friday, June 18 – Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)
ONC Workshop: Advancing Social Determinants of Health Data Use and Interoperability for Achieving Health Equity
Friday, June 18 at 10:00 am – 4:30 pm ET  Click here to learn more
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 enable varying perspectives of health policy-makers and health improvement implementers to highlight inventive solutions, share challenges, and review 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.

Tuesday, June 22 – FDA
FDA Drug Topics: Overview of Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) for Health Care Providers
Tuesday, June 22 at 1:00 – 2:15 pm ET  Click here to learn more
This webinar will provide an overview of REMS and discuss how the REMS safety requirements affect prescribers, dispensers and patients.  Participants should gain an understanding of the REMS authorities, how REMS are implemented, and the entities that provide oversite and support.  REMS is a drug safety program that the FDA can require for certain medications with serious safety concerns to help ensure the benefits of the medication outweigh its risks.