The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Monday, December 6. Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.
- NASH has submitted formal comments to the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, Department of the Treasury, and federal Office of Personnel Management in response to those agencies’ publication of a second regulation describing how the No Surprises Act will be implemented. In its letter NASH focuses on problems with the manner in which providers will be required to prepare good-faith estimates for those seeking care without benefit of insurance, the regulation’s Independent Dispute Resolution process, and the manner in which the regulation addresses resolving fee disputes between providers and patients. NASH raises concerns about all of these processes, suggests better approaches to addressing them, and asks the federal agencies to suspend enforcement of the new requirements while they consider ways to improve the current approach to implementing the surprise billing law that was enacted late last year. Go here to read NASH’s comment letter.
The White House
- The White House has published a plan outlining the steps the administration will take to combat the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19 in the coming months. The major components of this plan are boosters for all adults, vaccinations for children, expanded free home testing, stronger public health protocols for international travel, workplace protections, rapid response teams to help battle rising cases, and supplying treatment pills to help prevent hospitalizations and death. Go here to see a fact sheet describing the plan. White House officials also held a background briefing for the press on this plan. Learn more from a transcript of that call.
- The White House has posted a transcript of the December 3 press briefing given by its COVID-19 response team and public officials. Go here for the slides presented during the briefing.
- The White House has released a new national HIV/AIDS strategy. Go here to see the White House announcement and go here to see the strategy itself.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- CMS has announced that it will require states to cover COVID-19 vaccine counseling during which health care providers talk to families about the importance of vaccines for children. Under this policy CMS will now consider certain COVID-19 vaccine counseling visits for children and youth to be COVID-19 vaccine administration for which state expenditures can be federally matched at 100 percent through the last day of the first quarter that begins one year after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS will match COVID-19 vaccine counseling-only visits at the 100 percent federal match rate only when they are provided to children and youth under age 21 as part of the Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit. Learn more from this CMS news release.
- CMS has announced a series of steps it will take to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Read about these steps in this CMS news release.
Health Policy Update
- CMS has published the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online newsletter featuring information about Medicare payment issues. The new edition includes features about 2022 clinical lab fees, new ICD-10 codes that take effect next April, the annual update of the therapy code list, the 2022 rate update for home health care, and more. Go here to see the latest edition of MLN Connects.
- A separate, special edition of MLN Connects outlines the steps CMS will take to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to receive COVID-19 vaccines shots.
- On November 18, CMS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) held a listening session on its recently released strategy for the coming years. The agency has now made available a transcript of the session and session slides.
- With the expanded use of telehealth during the current public health emergency, HHS’s Office of the Inspector General will launch a study in December describing the types of telehealth services that are available, including those that were expanded during the pandemic, and key program integrity risks associated with the use of telehealth across six selected federal health care programs. It will publish its findings in a report. Learn more here.
- CMMI has published a comprehensive evaluation of the six-year history of its Independence at Home Model. Find a summary of that evaluation here.
- CMMI has published updated annual reports on its Oncology Care Model: a general summary of performance periods 1-6, an evaluation of the model’s impact on payments, and a report on participants’ perspectives on the program.
Department of Health and Human Services
Health Policy Update
- A new HHS report found a significant increase in the use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, with specialists like behavioral health providers seeing the highest telehealth utilization relative to other providers. The report found that the share of Medicare visits conducted through telehealth in 2020 increased 63-fold, from approximately 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million. States with the highest use of telehealth in 2020 included Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut while states with the lowest use of telehealth that year were Tennessee, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, and Wyoming. The report also identified trends in the kinds of services Medicare beneficiaries sought through telehealth. Learn more from this HHS news release and go here to see the report itself.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The CDC has updated its information about the COVID-19 omicron variant.
- The CDC has updated its COVID-19 variant classifications and definitions.
- The CDC has introduced interactive COVID-19 vaccine conversation modules for health care professionals to use with different kinds of patients. Find them here.
- The CDC has updated its information about COVID-19 vaccinations and the risks of COVID-19 for pregnant and recently pregnant people.
- The CDC has updated its information for those who have COVID-19 and are breastfeeding and caring for newborns.
- The CDC has updated its information about COVID-19 vaccinations.
- The CDC has updated its information about the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Food and Drug Administration
- The FDA has expanded authorization for use of the monoclonal antibodies bamlanivimab and etesevimab for treatment and post-exposure prevention of COVID-19 to younger pediatric patients, including newborns. Learn more from this FDA news release and this updated fact sheet for providers.
CMS – Open Door Forum on No Surprises Act – December 8
CMS will host an open door forum to discuss provider requirements under the No Surprises Act on Wednesday, December 8 at 2:00 p.m. (eastern). The forum will be held by conference call only and interested parties can dial into the event at 1-888-455-1397; the conference ID is 8604468.
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation – Roundtable on Health Equity Strategy – December 8
CMMI will hold a roundtable event on Wednesday, December 8 at 1:30 p.m. (eastern) to discuss how it can carry out its strategic objective of advancing health equity. The agency also invites written comments on the subject. For further information about the roundtable and to register to participate, go here.
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.
MEDPAC – commission meeting – December 9-10
Members of the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee will meet virtually on December 9 and 10. The two days of meetings will consist of four separate sessions. For agendas for those sessions and information on how to register to participate, go here.
MACPAC – commission meeting – December 9-10
Members of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission will meet virtually on December 9 and 10. To see the meeting agenda and register to participate, go here.