The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Monday, June 13.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

White House

  • The White House has issued a fact sheet outlining its plan for administering COVID-19 vaccines to children under the age of five.  Find the fact sheet here.  The White House also held a background call with the press to discuss this plan; go here to see a transcript of that call.
  • The White House COVID-19 response team has held a briefing for the press to discuss the latest in the federal response to the virus.  Find a transcript of that briefing here.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • CMS has created new HCPCS codes so providers may bill for stand-alone vaccine counseling they provide to Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries; these codes can be used for stand-alone vaccine counseling provided in-person and/or via telehealth.  Go here for a list of the codes and an explanation of what each code covers.
  • CMS has developed and published webinar content from its Performance Period 2022 Eligible Clinician Electronic Clinical Quality Measure (eCQM) Education and Outreach Webinar Series.  PDF slides and links to the webinar video recordings can be found here (scroll down to the heading “Implementing eCQMs Eligible Clinicians”).
  • The latest edition of MLN Connects, CMS’s online newsletter covering Medicare reimbursement issues, includes features on the agency’s strategy for strengthening behavioral health services, a July update of the outpatient prospective payment system, updated information on Medicare-covered preventive health services, information on required reporting by teaching hospitals on their residents and interns, and more.  Find it here.
  • CMS has issued an update on changes in the ambulatory surgical center payment system that will take effect in July.  Find it here.
  • CMS has issued an update on changes in its 2022 durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies fee schedule that will take effect in July.  Find the update here.
  • CMS has updated chapter seven, on home health services, in its Medicare Benefit Policy Manual.  Find an explanation of the changes here.
  • CMS has announced minor changes in its Medicare Part B coverage of pneumonia vaccines.  Find the agency’s explanation of the changes here.
  • CMS and the state of Maryland are partnering to test the Maryland Total Cost of Care Model, which sets a per capita limit on Medicare total cost of care in Maryland.  This is the first Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation model to hold a state fully at risk for the total cost of care for Medicare beneficiaries and builds upon the current Maryland All-Payer Model, which had set a limit on per capita hospital expenditures in the state. Go here to learn more about the model and how it works.
  • CMS has posted an FAQ about compensation paid by insurers to agents and brokers who assist consumers with health insurance enrollment during a special enrollment period or during open enrollment periods.  According to CMS, it has issued this FAQ because it “…has become aware that some health insurance issuers offering individual market health insurance coverage, including issuers of qualified health plans offered through the Marketplaces, have reduced or eliminated commissions and other forms of compensation for agents and brokers who assist consumers with enrollments in individual market coverage during a special enrollment period (SEP).”  Learn more from this CMS news release and go here to see the FAQ.
  • CMS outlines its national quality strategy – what it calls a “person-centered approach to improving quality” – in some detail, including presentation of its goals, in the latest installment of the CMS blog.  Find it here.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS and its Office for Civil Rights have issued guidance on how covered health care providers and health plans can use remote communication technologies to provide audio-only telehealth services when such communications are conducted in a manner that is consistent with applicable HIPAA requirements after the COVID-19 public health emergency has ended and HHS’s Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth is no longer in effect.  Learn more about HHS’s action in this news release and find the new guidance here.
  • HHS and its Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have announced nearly $15 million in funding for rural communities to address psychostimulant misuse and related overdose deaths.  Learn more about the program and find a list of grant recipients in this HHS news release.
  • HHS and HRSA have launched their “Building Bridges to Better Health:  A Primary Health Care Challenge,” a national competition with a total of $1 million in cash prizes to encourage innovation through technical assistance to health centers.  Competition participants will work to accelerate the development of low-cost, scalable solutions to help HRSA-supported community health centers improve patient access to primary care and strengthen the link between health care and social services.  Learn more about the contest from this HHS news release.  The competition will be conducted in three phases, with submissions for the first phase due August 2.  Learn more about the contest from its new web page.
  • HRSA has published a report evaluating year one of its Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies program.  Find that report here.
  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee, which advises the HHS Secretary on physician payment models.  Nomination letters are due July 11.  Learn more from this Federal Register notice.
  • The 21st Century Cures Act established the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee to provide recommendations to HHS’s National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on policies, standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria relating to the implementation of a health information technology infrastructure that advances the electronic access, exchange, and use of health information.  Learn more about the committee, the backgrounds and areas of expertise it seeks of candidates for membership, the terms committee members serve, and how to submit nominations in this Federal Register notice.  Letters of nomination are due by July 22.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • The CDC has issued a news release about monkeypox that addresses what it is, how it differs from COVID-19 and measles, how it is transmitted, and more.  Learn more from this CDC news release.
  • The CDC also has updated its posted information about monkeypox, including its tracking of current cases, individuals who are at high risk, and how to treat the virus.  Find the updated information here.
  • The CDC has updated its information about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, including its view that in most situations the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferred over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should only be considered in some cases and cannot be used as a second booster dose.  Find the updated information here.
  • The CDC has published research on COVID-19 vaccination coverage by race and ethnicity from December 2020 through November 21.  Find its report here.

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has published guidance to help prescribers evaluate potential drug interactions when using Paxlovid therapy for COVID-19.  Learn more from the agency’s “PAXLOVID Patient Eligibility Screening Checklist Tool for Prescribers.”
  • The FDA has announced an open period for applications to support the development of evidence-based, clinical practice guidelines for the management of postoperative pain in obstetric patients who have undergone surgeries.  Learn more from this grant notice.  Letters of intent are due by June 23.

Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)

MedPAC has submitted formal comments to CMS in response to CMS’s proposed skilled nursing facility prospective payment system regulation for FY 2023 and other proposed changes in how the agency governs long-term care.  Find the MedPAC letter here.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

  • MACPAC has written to CMS in response to that agency’s request for information on revising requirements for long-term-care facilities to establish mandatory minimum staffing levels.  In its letter, MACPAC reviews its work on this issue and explores policies to ensure adequate staffing in nursing facilities while encouraging CMS to apply a health equity lens in its analyses of staffing standards.  Go here to see MACPAC’s letter to CMS.
  • MACPAC has published a new issue brief:  “Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Medicaid Beneficiaries with Accessing Medical and Behavioral Health Care.”  Find it here.

Stakeholder Events

HHS – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Advisory Committee for Women’s Services – June 14

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Advisory Committee for Women’s Services will meet virtually on Tuesday, June 14 at 12:30 (eastern).  The meeting will include discussions on assessing SAMHSA’s current strategies, including the mental health and substance use needs of women and girls.  In addition, the committee will be addressing priorities regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the behavioral health needs of women and children and directions around behavioral health services and access for women and children.  Interested persons may present data, information, or views, orally or in writing, on issues pending before the committee.  Learn more about the meeting agenda, how to submit comments, and how to join the meeting from this Federal Register notice.

NIH – National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council – June 14 and 15

The NIH’s National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council will hold public meetings that also will be available virtually on Tuesday, June 14 and Wednesday, June 15 at noon on both days.  To see the meeting agenda and learn where the meeting will be held and how to join it virtually, see this Federal Register notice.

HHS – Advisory Committee on Infant and Maternal Mortality – June 14-15

The Advisory Committee on Infant and Maternal Mortality, which advises HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will hold a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, June 14 and Wednesday, 15 at 11:00 (eastern) both days.  Learn about the committee’s work and find the agenda in this Federal Register notice.  Log-in information for the meeting is not yet available but will eventually be posted here.

CMS – The Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility and Long-Term Care Hospital Updated Guidance Virtual Training Program – June 15-16

CMS will present virtual training to review the updated guidance for the Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility – Patient Assessment Instrument (IRF-PAI) 4.0 and the LTCH Continuity Assessment Record and Evaluation (CARE) Data Set (LCDS) 5.0 for providers in the IRF and LTCH settings.  This training is part of the agency’s effort to ensure that IRF and LTCH providers understand and can comply with changes in reporting requirements associated with the IRF and LTCH quality reporting programs that go into effect on October 1, 2022.  A major focus of this training will be on the cross-setting implementation of the standardized patient assessment data elements being introduced in 2022 to ensure more consistent reporting and evaluation across post-acute-care settings.  The training will consist of two parts.

  • Beginning May 9, CMS will offer recorded training videos that deliver foundational knowledge necessary to understand the new items and guidance.  These videos are intended to be reviewed in advance of the live event.
  • On June 15–16, CMS will conduct live, virtual workshops to provide coding practice on the items covered in the Part 1 videos.  These live sessions will take place each day between 1:00 and 5:00 (eastern).

This event is now at capacity and is closed to new participants.  All training materials and videos will be made available on the CMS website.

HHS – National Vaccine Advisory Committee – June 15-16

The National Vaccine Advisory Committee will meet in person on Wednesday, June 15 and Thursday June 16 at 9:00.  The meeting will be open to the public and public comment will be heard during the meeting.  Once available, meeting times, agendas, and registration information will be posted here.  Learn more about the committee and the meeting from this Federal Register notice.

CDC – COVID-19 Therapeutics – June 16

The CDC will hold a webinar on Thursday, June 16 at 2:00 to discuss what clinicians should know about the various drug treatments for COVID-19.  For more information about the webinar, the subjects to be discussed, the presenters, and how to join the webinar, go here.

NIH – Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council – June 23

The NIH’s Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council will meet virtually at noon (eastern) on Thursday, June 23.  The meeting’s agenda includes a report from the director of the Office of AIDS Research; an update from that office’s clinical guidelines working groups; updates from the NIH’s HIV-related advisory councils; presentations and discussions on data science and NIH-wide programs and initiatives; and public comment.  Learn more about how to submit comments and participate in this meeting from this Federal Register notice.

National Advisory Council for Healthcare Research and Quality – July 21

The National Advisory Council for Healthcare Research and Quality, which advises the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Director of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) on matters involving to AHRQ’s mission, will meet on Thursday, July 21 at 12:30 p.m. (eastern).  Council members will meet in person but the public is invited only virtually.  Learn more about the council, the agenda for the meeting, and how to participate in the meeting from this Federal Register notice.