The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 5.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS and its Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have awarded nearly $25 million to 125 HRSA-funded health centers to improve and strengthen access to school-based health services.  Awards will support local partnerships between schools and health centers to provide children and youth with comprehensive physical and mental health care.  Learn more from this HHS news release.
  • HHS and its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have announced $55 million in funding for SAMHSA’s Tribal Opioid Response grant program.  The grant program seeks to address the overdose crisis in tribal communities by increasing access to FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid misuse and supporting prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services for opioid and stimulant misuse and co-occurring mental and substance use conditions.  Funding will be provided each year for up to 150 grantees over a two-year project period beginning late FY 2022.  Learn more about the program from this HHS news release and learn more about who is eligible for grants and how to apply for them in this HHS notice of funding opportunity.  Applications are due June 27.
  • HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has issued a request for information (RFI) about a potential Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey to assess patient care experiences in inpatient mental health care settings.  The RFI seeks comments regarding methodologically sound survey and data collection approaches of care experiences of those receiving inpatient mental health care and about any unique considerations or concerns associated with collecting such patient experience information.  Learn more from this Federal Register notice.  Comments are due by July 1.
  • A new HHS report has found a decrease in the uninsured rate in 2021 for the population as a whole and by race, ethnicity, and income.  Learn more in the report “Health Coverage Changes Under the Affordable Care Act:  End of 2021 Update.”
  • HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation has published the study “Hospitalization Cost Savings Associated with COVID-19 Vaccinations Among Medicare Beneficiaries in Early 2021.”  The study estimates that between January and May of 2021 vaccinations prevented approximately 107,000 hospitalizations among Medicare patients and saved $2.6 billion for Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • CMS has issued a final rule for the Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug programs that seeks to improve experiences for dually eligible beneficiaries and provide greater transparency for the Medicare Advantage and Part D programs.  Among other changes, the final rule revises the Medicare Advantage and Part D regulations related to marketing and communications; the criteria used to review applications for new or expanded Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, including compliance with Medicare Advantage provider network adequacy requirements; quality ratings for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans; medical loss ratio reporting; special requirements during disasters or public emergencies; how Medicare Advantage organizations calculate attainment of the maximum out-of-pocket limit for Parts A and B services; and the use of pharmacy price concessions to reduce beneficiary out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs under Part D.  This final rule also revises regulations for Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNPs), and in some cases, other special needs plans, related to enrollee advisory committees, health risk assessments, and ways to improve integration of Medicare and Medicaid.  Learn more about the final rule from this CMS news release; a CMS fact sheet; and the final rule itself.
  • The latest edition of MLN Connects, CMS’s online newsletter addressing Medicare reimbursement issues, includes features on Medicare patient access to free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests; a proposed rule governing immunosuppressive drug coverage for kidney transplant patients; opportunities for inpatient rehabilitation facilities, long-term-care hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities to review data that will be posted on Medicare Compare; and information for providers at rural and urban teaching hospitals billing for services they provide to Medicare patients.  Find these items and more in the latest MLN Connects.
  • CMS and its Office of Minority Health have published a report on the quality of health care received by Medicare Advantage enrollees nationwide (42 percent of all people with Medicare in 2021).  The report highlights racial and ethnic differences in health care experiences and clinical care; differences in health care experiences and clinical care by sex; and how racial and ethnic differences in quality of care vary by sex.  Learn more from the CMS report “Disparities in Health Care in Medicare Advantage by Race, Ethnicity, and Sex.”
  • CMS has added to its “Risk Adjustment Telehealth and Telephone Services During COVID-19 FAQs” new information clarifying which telehealth and telephone-only services are valid for data submissions for the HHS-operated risk adjustment program.  Find that new information here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • The CDC has updated its guidance on clinical care for people suffering from COVID-19.
  • The CDC has updated its guidance on COVID-19 vaccines for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and those who have certain medical conditions.
  • The CDC has updated its information about post-COVID conditions and Long COVID.
  • The CDC has posted research on the effectiveness of additional COVID-19 vaccines and boosters in preventing COVID-19 in nursing homes during the winter surge of the omicron variant.  Find that research here.
  • The CDC has issued a report on nine children recently hospitalized in Alabama with severe cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin and adenovirus.  The CDC is monitoring such cases.  Learn more from this CDC report.  In conjunction with this development, the CDC has issued a Health Alert Network advisory with recommendations for adenovirus testing and reporting of children with acute hepatitis of unknown etiology.
  • The CDC has reported the first confirmed case of avian influenza A(H5) virus (H5 bird flu) in the U.S.  Learn more about the case, symptoms, and its implications from this CDC news release.
  • The CDC is soliciting nominations for appointment of individuals to serve on its Community Preventive Services Task Force.  New members will serve a five-year term starting in either 2023 or 2024.  Learn more from this Federal Register notice.  Nominations must be submitted by June 24.
  • The CDC is seeking nominations for membership on the Advisory Committee to the Director’s Data and Surveillance Workgroup.  This work group will consist of approximately 15 members who are experts in fields associated with public health science and practice; policy development, analysis, and implementation; and surveillance and informatics.  Learn more about the work group and qualities the CDC seeks from potential nominees in this Federal Register notice.  The deadline for submitting nominations is May 16.
  • The CDC is seeking nominations for membership on the Advisory Committee to the Director’s Laboratory Workgroup. The work group will consist of up to 15 members who are experts in the fields of public health laboratory science and practice, laboratory quality management, diagnostic regulations, and laboratory testing and research.  Learn more about the work group and the nomination criteria in this Federal Register notice.  The deadline for submitting nominations is May 16.

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has updated its guidance for the prescription and use of Paxlovid, the antiviral treatment for COVID-19.  The updated guidance consists of the following materials:
    • a checklist to support clinical decision-making for prescribers
    • an updated fact sheet for prescribers
    • an updated FDA FAQ for providers

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has appointed four new members to MACPAC and reappointed two current members.  Learn about the new MACPAC commissioners in this GAO news release.
  • Separately, MACPAC has appointed a new executive director.
  • MACPAC has posted an issue brief that reviews each type of Medicaid hospital payment, with information on payment goals, payment amounts, and the relationship to other types of Medicaid payments.  It provides examples showing how the use of supplemental payments varies by state and additional information about how state methods for financing Medicaid payments affect net hospital payments.  Find this in the MACPAC issue brief “Medicaid Base and Supplemental Payments to Hospitals.”

Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)

  • MedPAC has published a report on the status of the prospective payment system for inpatient psychiatric facilities 15 years after the introduction of that payment system.  Among other considerations, the study examines Medicare enrollees’ use of inpatient psychiatric facilities services and how the characteristics of inpatient psychiatric facilities have changed since the introduction of the payment system.  The study also examines use of acute inpatient services, emergency department use, use of other use of acute inpatient service stays, and whether there have been changes in events that occur before or after inpatient psychiatric facilities stays that may indicate potential changes in the quality of services.  Learn more from the report “Medicare’s Prospective Payment System for Inpatient Psychiatric Facilities at 15 Years.”

Stakeholder Events

CDC – The Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility and Long-Term Care Hospital Updated Guidance Virtual Training Program – May 9 and 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).

Go here to register to participate.

HHS/Health Resources and Services Administration – Telehealth – May 16-17

HRSA will hold a virtual national telehealth conference on Monday, May 16 and Tuesday, May 17.  Over the course of two days, experts and leaders in the field will examine the evolution of telehealth, discuss its place in an overall, integrated health care delivery model, and review the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to inform the future of telehealth.  To learn more about the conference, see its agenda, and register to participate, go here.

CDC – Board of Scientific Counselors, Center for Preparedness and Response – June 1 and 2

The Board of Scientific Counselors of the CDC’s Center for Preparedness and Response will meet virtually on Wednesday, June 1 at 1:00 p.m. and Tuesday, June 2 at 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (eastern).  This board is charged with providing advice and guidance to the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, the Assistant Secretary for Health, the Director of the CDC, and the Director of the Center for Preparedness and Response concerning strategies and goals for the programs and research within the Center for Preparedness and Response, monitoring its overall strategic direction and focus, and administration and oversight of peer review for its scientific programs.  Learn more about the board, the agenda for the meetings, and how to participate from this Federal Register notice.

CDC – Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee – June 2

The CDC’s Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) will meet virtually on Thursday, June 2 at 12:00 p.m. (eastern).  This virtual meeting is open to the public, limited only by the number of audio and web conference lines (300 audio and web conference lines are available).  Time will be available for public comment and registration is required.  Learn more about the work of the committee and how to join the meeting from this Federal Register notice.

CDC – Community Preventive Services Task Force – June 8-9

The CDC’s Community Preventive Services Task Force will meet virtually on Wednesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 9 beginning at 10:00 (eastern) on both days.  The task force works to identify community preventive programs, services, and policies that increase health, longevity, save lives and dollars, and improve Americans’ quality of life, and during its meetings it considers the findings of systematic reviews of existing research and practice-based evidence and issues recommendations.  Individuals interested in participating must register to do so and then will receive information about how to join the meeting.  Find the meeting’s agenda and registration information in this Federal Register notice.

HHS – National Vaccine Advisory Committee – June 15-16

The National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) 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.

FDA – Psychopharmacologic Drug Advisory Committee – June  17

The FDA’s Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee will meet virtually on Friday, June 17 at 8:45 (eastern).  The general function of this committee is to provide advice and recommendations to the FDA on regulatory issues.  Learn more about the work of the committee, how to submit comments beforehand, and how to participate in the meeting from this Federal Register notice.

CMS – Clinical Laboratory Codes and Fees Public Meeting – June 23

CMS will hold a public meeting to receive comments and recommendations on the appropriate basis for establishing payment amounts for new or substantially revised Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System codes being considered for Medicare payment under the Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule for calendar year 2023.  The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 23 at 9:00 (eastern).  To learn more about the meeting, about submitting comments and presentations for the meeting, and about joining the meeting virtually, see this Federal Register notice.

CMS – Medicare Advisory Panel on Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory Tests – July 18 and 19

CMS’s Medicare Advisory Panel on Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory Tests will meet virtually on Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19 beginning at 9:00 on both days.  The purpose of the panel is to advise HHS and CMS on issues related to clinical diagnostic laboratory tests.  Learn more about the panel and how to participate in the meeting from this Federal Register notice.