The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 3:00 p.m. on Friday, February 18. Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.
The White House has posted a transcript of the February 16 press briefing given by its COVID-19 response team and public officials. Go here to see the slides presented during the briefing.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Health Policy Update
- CMS has issued a request for information (RFI) seeking feedback on topics related to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), such as enrolling in and maintaining coverage, gaining access to health care services and supports, and ensuring adequate provider payment rates to encourage provider availability and quality. CMS writes that
Feedback obtained from the RFI announced today will aid in CMS’ understanding of enrollees’ barriers to enrolling in and maintaining coverage and accessing needed health care services and support through Medicaid and CHIP. This information will help inform future polices, monitoring, and regulatory actions, helping ensure beneficiaries have equitable access to high-quality and appropriate care across all Medicaid and CHIP payment and delivery systems, including fee-for-service, managed care, and alternative payment models. The RFI submissions will also inform CMS’ work to ensure timely access to critical services, such as behavioral health care and home and community-based services.
- CMS has announced a national coverage determination that expands coverage for lung cancer screening with low dose computed tomography (LDCT) to improve health outcomes for people with lung cancer. This screening is aimed at early detection of non-small cell lung cancer, and this decision expands eligibility for people with Medicare to get lung cancer screening with LDCT by lowering the starting age for screening from 55 to 50 years and reducing the tobacco smoking history from at least 30 packs a year to at least 20 packs a year. LDCT is the only recommended screening test for lung cancer. Learn more from this CMS news release.
- CMS has posted a new edition of MLN Connects, its online publication with information about Medicare reimbursement matters. The latest edition includes items on two new ICD-10 codes for monoclonal antibodies used to treat COVID-19, documentation requirements for surgical dressing claims, and more. Find it in the latest edition of MLN Connects.
- CMS has issued an informational bulletin describing updatesto the 2022 Health Home Core Set of quality measures for Medicaid individuals with chronicconditions who receive health home services. Find the bulletin here.
Department of Health and Human Services
- The administration and HHS are discussing asking Congress for another $30 billion for COVID-19 aid. Among the requests they are reported to be considering are:
- $4.9 billion for testing,
- $3 billion to pay for care for the uninsured,
- $17.9 billion for vaccines and treatments,
- $3.7 billion to pay for new vaccine development, and
- $500 million for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID surveillance and operations.
The request reportedly does not include additional money for the Provider Relief Fund.
- HHS announced that the federal government has purchased 600,000 courses of the new monoclonal antibody treatment bebtelovimab that data shows works against the omicron variant. See the HHS announcement about bebtelovimab here and look below, in the FDA section, for further information about bebtelovimab.
Health Policy Update
- HHS and its Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have awarded nearly $55 million to 29 HRSA-funded health centers to increase health care access and quality for underserved populations through virtual care such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring, digital patient tools, and health information technology platforms. To learn more about how the funding will be used and the work of community health centers and to find a link to a list of grant recipients, see this HHS news release.
- HRSA has published information about a series of grant opportunities for health care interests and professionals. To view them, go here and scroll down to “Funding Opportunities.”
- HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has updated its work plan for audits, evaluations, and inspections that are under way or planned for February. Find its updated plan here.
Department of Homeland Security
- The Department of Homeland Security will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would regulate how it applies the public charge ground of inadmissibility to the U.S. Of particular interest to health care providers, the revised rule clarifies that the agency will not consider non-cash benefits, including most Medicaid benefits, when making public charge inadmissibility determinations. Learn more from this Department of Homeland Security news release and go here to see a preview version of the proposed rule, which should officially be published shortly. Comments will be due 60 days from official publication.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The CDC is seeking nominations for membership on the Board of Scientific Counselors of its National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This board consists of 15 experts in fields associated with occupational safety and health, such as occupational medicine, occupational nursing, industrial hygiene, occupational safety, engineering, toxicology, chemistry, safety and health education, ergonomics, epidemiology, biostatistics, psychology, wellness, research translation, and evaluation. Learn more from this Federal Register notice. Nominations are due by April 15.
Food and Drug Administration
The FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for a new monoclonal antibody for the treatment of COVID-19 that retains activity against the omicron variant. Bebtelovimab is for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients with a positive COVID-19 test and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options approved or authorized by the FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate. Learn more about the FDA action and bebtelovimab from the following resources:
- an FDA news release
- the FDA’s emergency use authorization letter
- an FDA FAQ
- a fact sheet for health care providers
- a fact sheet for patients, parents, and caregivers
Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)
MedPAC has submitted formal comments to CMS in response to CMS’s proposed national coverage determination decision memorandum on monoclonal antibodies that target amyloid for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. See the MedPAC letter here.
CMS – Surprise Medical Billing – February 24
CMS will hold an open door forum on surprise billing protections on Wednesday, February 23 at 2:00 p.m. (eastern). This session will provide information for providers and facilities on the following No Surprises Act rules: 1) balance billing disclosure requirements; 2) protections for certain continuing care patients whose plan terminates a contract with a provider; and 3) requirements to protect patients and improve the accuracy of provider directory information. This event will be by telephone only. To participate, dial 1-888-455-1397 and use passcode 5109694. Participants are asked to call in 15 minutes before the event’s scheduled start time.
CMS – Provider Compliance Group – February 24
On Thursday, February 24 at 1:00 (eastern), CMS’s Center for Program Integrity’s Provider Compliance Group will offer interactive virtual presentations to address medical review and claims issues and help providers stay informed about the latest policies, programs, and activities. It also will solicit feedback via a question-and-answer session during this event about what the agency can do to communicate better, improve its processes, and eliminate unnecessary requirements. Go here to learn more and register. Registration closes on February 18.
HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response – COVID-19 Clinical Rounds – February 24
HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response will hold a virtual COVID-19 clinical rounds on Thursday, February 24 at noon (eastern). These clinical rounds are intended as resources for consultant physicians involved in critical care practice, fellows, residents, pharmacists, nursing staff, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, respirator therapists, and allied health staff. Go here to register to participate.
CDC – Updated Guidance for Clinicians on COVID-19 Vaccines – February 24
The CDC will hold a webinar on Thursday, February 24 at 2:00 p.m. (eastern) to offer updated guidance for clinicians on COVID-19 vaccines. During the call presenters will discuss current recommendations on vaccination for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised; describe the simplified recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination after a patient has received passive antibody therapy; and offer points for health care providers to use when talking about COVID-19 vaccination with people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and with people who have received passive antibody therapy. Go here for additional information about the event and how to participate.
HHS/CMMI – Updates to the Innovation Center Kidney Models – March 2
CMMI will host a webinar on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. (eastern) to share updates on several of its kidney care models. This webinar is available to the first 1,000 registrants. Go here to learn more and find out how to register.
CMS – Emerging Technologies – March 31
CMS will hold public listening sessions on transitional coverage for emerging technologies on Thursday, March 31, also at 3:00 (eastern). The purpose of these sessions is to obtain feedback to help inform CMS’s development of an alternative coverage pathway to provide transitional coverage for emerging technologies following the repeal of the January 2021 Medicare Coverage of Innovative Technology and Definition of “Reasonable and Necessary” final rule. For additional information about the listening sessions and to register to participate, go here.