The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 3:45 p.m. on Friday, January 28. Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.
Provider Relief Fund
- HHS and its Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced that this week they made more than $2 billion in Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 General Distribution payments to more than 7,600 providers. Nearly $11 billion of the $17 billion allocated for Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 payments have now been distributed. Phase 4 payments have an increased focus on equity, including reimbursing a higher percentage of losses for smaller providers and incorporating bonus payments for providers that serve Medicaid, CHIP, and Medicare beneficiaries. Approximately 82 percent of all Phase 4 applications have now been processed. Learn more from this HHS news release.
- HRSA has updated the Provider Relief Fund FAQ with 11 new questions and answers. The new information, found on pages 29, 30 (three questions), 31 (three questions), 38 (three questions), and 39 primarily address financial reporting requirements.
- The reconsideration window for Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 payments and American Rescue Plan rural hospital payments will open on February 1, 2022, at which time providers will be able to request reconsideration of their payments. This process is intended only for providers that believe their payment was not calculated correctly. They will not have an opportunity to submit an application if they missed a deadline; will not be able to revise or correct their original application; and will not be able to request reconsideration that would require a change of payment methodology or policy. Learn more from this Provider Relief Fund web page.
Hospital COVID-19 Data Reporting
- On January 6, HHS issued updated guidance for COVID-19 hospital data reporting. Now it has issued a supplement that addresses common questions received through webinars, support desk requests, and jurisdiction meetings. Find the clarification document here.
- The White House has posted a transcript of the January 26 press briefing given by its COVID-19 response team and public officials. Go here to see the slides presented during the briefing.
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has released a discussion draft of bipartisan legislation that seeks to strengthen the country’s public health, emergency preparedness, and response systems. Find the discussion draft here and a summary of the draft here. The committee will accept comments on the proposed legislation until February 4.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Health Policy Update
- CMS has published a new edition of MLN Connects, its online newsletter with information about Medicare reimbursement issues. The latest edition includes items on tools to determine to whom the vaccine mandate applies; vaccine codes; codes for the acute-care hospital at home program; an update of the MS-DRG grouper and ICD-10 codes for COVID-19 vaccines and infusion treatments; and an updated telehealth fee schedule. Find this and more in the January 27 edition of MLN Connects.
- CMS will award $49.4 million on a competitive basis to fund organizations that can connect more eligible children, parents, and pregnant individuals to health care coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Funding recipients, including state/local governments, tribal organizations, federal health safety net organizations, non-profits, schools, and others, will receive up to $1.5 million each for a three-year period to reduce the number of uninsured children by advancing Medicaid/CHIP enrollment and retention. Learn more about the program and authorized uses of the money from this CMS news release and go here for information about applying for a grant. The application deadline is March 28.
- CMS has published new data on participation in the Medicare Shared Savings Program, which is Medicare’s national accountable care organization (ACO) program. The new data covers the number of participating ACOs, the number of new participating ACOs, the number of Medicare beneficiaries served through these ACOs, and more. Learn more about Medicare’s Shared Savings Program, and find links to additional resources, from this CMS news release.
- CMS has begun posting staff turnover rates and weekend staff levels for nursing homes on the Medicare.gov Care Compare web site. Learn more about why CMS is doing this and find links to the new data and other resources about nursing home staffing from this CMS news release.
- CMS has updated its decision tree infographic for providers to use to determine whether the CMS vaccine mandate applies to their facility.
- CMS has updated its infographic on how to visit nursing homes safely.
Department of Health and Human Services
Health Policy Update
- HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has posted a notice of its intention to perform a national audit of hospital compliance with the Provider Relief Fund’s balance billing requirements for out-of-network payments. Go here to see an OIG explanation of its plans.
- HHS, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury have submitted to Congress their mandatory report on the compliance of group health plans (and health insurance coverage offered in connection with suchplans) with the requirements of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Find an HHS news release about the report here and the report itself here.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The CDC has published research comparing trends in disease severity and health care utilization during the early days of the spread of the omicron variant with previous COVID-19 high-transmission periods.
- The CDC has published research on the effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 in preventing emergency department and urgent care facility visits and hospitalizations among adults during periods of delta and omicron variance predominance. Find the CDC’s report here.
- The CDC has published research on COVID-19 incidence and death rates among unvaccinated and fully vaccinated adults with and without booster doses during periods of delta and omicron from April through December of 2021. Find that research here.
- The CDC has published research on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations based on vaccination status and previous COVID-19 diagnosis in California and New York from May through November of 2021.
- The CDC has published research on the effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in preventing hospitalization because of COVID-19 among immunocompromised and immunocompetent adults.
- The CDC has updated its guidance on isolation and quarantine because of COVID-19: what they are, when they are needed, and for how long they need to be maintained.
- The CDC has updated its guidance on how to use an N95 respirator.
National Institutes of Health
- The NIH reports that in adults who had previously received a full regimen of any of three COVID-19 vaccines, an additional booster dose of any of these vaccines was safe and prompted an immune response, according to preliminary clinical trial results. Learn more from this NIH news release.
- The NIH reports that a clinical trial has found that the combination of remdesivir plus a highly concentrated solution of antibodies that neutralize COVID-19 is not more effective than remdesivir alone for treating adults hospitalized with the disease. Learn more about the study and its implications in this NIH news release.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- In light of a recent Supreme Court decision, OSHA has withdrawn its November 21 emergency temporary standard mandating that large employers require their workers to receive COVID-19 vaccines. See OSHA’s withdrawal statement in this Federal Register notice.
Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)
- MedPAC has submitted formal comments in response to the CMS request for information titled “Health and Safety Requirements for Transplant Programs, Organ Procurement Organizations, and End-Stage Renal Disease Facilities.” MedPAC’s comments primarily address physician participation in the ownership of dialysis facilities and can be found here.
Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)
- States are required to provide multiple modes of communication for individuals to apply for and renew Medicaid and many are using technology to help facilitate those communications. MACPAC has conducted stakeholder interviews and beneficiary focus groups to learn how states communicate with individuals during the enrollment and renewal process. Find out what MACPAC learned in its new report “Beneficiary Experiences with the Medicaid Enrollment and Renewal Processes.”
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
- The GAO has published a new report, “COVID-19: Significant Improvements Are Needed for Overseeing Relief Funds and Leading Responses to Public Health Emergencies,” which evaluates the federal response to the COVID-19. The report identifies a number of areas that need improvement, offers recommendations, and explains that it is adding HHS’s leadership and coordination of public health emergencies to its “high-risk list.”