The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, February 10.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

Provider Relief Fund

  • The reconsideration window for Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 payments and American Rescue Plan rural hospital payments is now open for providers 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 about the process and how to apply for reconsideration from this Provider Relief Fund web page.  The deadline for applying for reconsideration is May 2 but providers that have not yet received a grant or notice of rejection will have 45 days from the date of rejection to file for reconsideration even if that is after the May 2 deadline.

White House

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Health Policy Update

  • CMS will introduce an April 2022 update of the Medicare MS-DRG grouper and Medicare code editor with new ICD-10 codes for COVID-19 vaccination status and ICD-10 codes for the introduction or infusion of therapeutics and vaccines for COVID-19 treatment.  Find the details here.
  • CMS has posted the latest edition of MLN Connects, its online newsletter with information about Medicare reimbursement matters.  The new issue includes items about a new HCPCS code for administering convalescent plasma in outpatient settings; availability of preview performance reports for LTCHs, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and skilled nursing facilities; COVID-19 training for frontline nursing home management and staff; and more.  Go here to see this week’s edition of MLN Connects.
  • CMS has written to state survey agencies to remind them of their obligations under the Social Security Act to survey the entirety of Medicare and Medicaid health and safety requirements.  The memo warns states of possible consequences if they fail to carry out the inspections for which they receive federal funding.  Find the memo here.


Department of Health and Human Services


Health Policy Update

  • HHS has issued guidance to health care providers on civil rights protections for people with disabilities.  In this guidance, HHS clarifies that federal civil rights laws apply to health care providers, including those administering COVID-19 testing, medical supplies, and medication.  These rules also apply to entities providing hospitalization, long-term care, intensive treatments, and critical care, such as oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilators.  Additionally, federal civil rights laws apply to state Crisis Standard of Care plans, procedures, and related standards for performing triage of scarce resources that hospitals are required to follow.  Learn more from this HHS news release and an accompanying agency FAQ.
  • HHS and its Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have announced the availability of $19.2 million in American Rescue Plan funding to support and expand community-based primary care residency programs.  Grant winners will use this funding to train residents to provide quality care to diverse populations and communities, particularly in underserved and rural areas.  Learn more about the new funding and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program through which the funding will be distributed in this HHS news release and go here to learn how to apply for the funding.  Applications are due March 31.
  • HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has begun accepting applications for $10 million in funding to be distributed through the Services Grant Program for Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women program to provide pregnant and postpartum women and their children with comprehensive substance use treatment and recovery support services across residential and outpatient settings.  In addition, for the first time this year, the program will extend services to fathers, partners, and other family members.  Learn more about the program, the funding, and how the money will be used in this HHS news release and go here for information about pursuing funding.  Applications are due April 4.
  • HHS seeks public comment on a proposed revision of the 2020 Public Health Service guideline assessing solid organ donors and monitoring transplant recipients for HIV and hepatitis B and C.   The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) implemented a policy change governing organ transplant candidate assessment and testing on March 1, 2021 to align OPTN policy with the new guideline recommendations but HHS has reviewed stakeholder comments on these changes and is asking respondents to review the proposed revision of the current guideline and provide assessments on updating the guideline, whether this change is achievable in the clinical setting, or if there are potential barriers to implementation.  Learn more from this Federal Register Comments are due March 7.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • The CDC has formally requested comment on its proposed clinical practice guideline, CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids—United States, 2022.  This clinical practice guideline updates and expands the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain— United States, 2016 and provides evidence-based recommendations for clinicians who provide pain care, including those prescribing opioids.  This is a voluntary clinical practice guideline that provides recommendations and does not require mandatory compliance.  Comments from stakeholders and interested parties are due by April 11.  Learn more from this Federal Register notice.
  • The CDC has published research on the effectiveness of wearing face masks and respirators in indoor settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The research found that consistent use of a face mask or respirator in indoor public settings was associated with lower odds of contracting COVID-19 and that use of respirators with higher filtration capacity was associated with the most protection and that N95 and KN95 masks and respirators provide the best protection.
  • The CDC has posted an infographic to help people determine whether they have had close contact with COVID-19.
  • The CDC has updated its guidance on breastfeeding and breast milk feeds in the context of COVID-19.
  • The CDC has updated its information about COVID-19 vaccines for people with allergies.
  • The CDC has updated its information about potential adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The CDC has announced that it is accepting nominations for the 2022 Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Lark Galloway-Gilliam for Advancing Health Equity Award Challenge (REACH Lark Award Challenge).  This biennial challenge recognizes extraordinary individuals, organizations, or community coalitions associated with the REACH program whose work has contributed to the implementation of culturally tailored interventions that advance health equity, reduce health disparities, and increase community engagement to address preventable risk factors.  Learn more from this Federal Register notice.  Nominations are due March 18.
  • The CDC has updated its information about vaccination records, COVID-19 vaccination cards, how individuals may use their COVID-19 vaccination cards, and how they can obtain a replacement for a lost card.  Go here for further information.

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has taken new steps to foster the development of non-addictive alternatives to opioids to manage acute pain, reduce exposure to opioids, and prevent new addiction.  Learn more from this FDA news release.

National Institutes of Health

  • Pregnant women with COVID-19 appear to be at greater risk for common pregnancy complications – in addition to health risks from the virus –  than pregnant women without COVID-19, suggests a study funded by the NIH.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

  • FEMA has published a “Plan of Action under the Voluntary Agreement for the Manufacture and Distribution of Critical Healthcare Resources Necessary to Respond to a Pandemic:  Plan of Action to Establish a National Strategy for the Coordination of National Multimodal Healthcare Supply Chains to Respond to COVID-19.”  Find the plan in this Federal Register notice.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

  • Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) play an important role in providing health insurance coverage to racial and ethnic minorities.  In a new issue brief, MACPAC uses data from the 2015-2018 National Health Interview Survey to compare the demographics, health status, and difficulties accessing care reported by adults and children covered by Medicaid by race and ethnicity, finding disparities in many key measures of access that vary among racial and ethnic groups.  Learn more from the new MACPAC issue brief “Access in Brief:  Experiences in Accessing Medical Care by Race and Ethnicity.”

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Congressional Research Service

  • The Congressional Research Service has updated its publication “The Provider Relief Fund:  Frequently Asked Questions.”
  • The Congressional Research Service has published a new issue brief titled “Organ Transplant Candidacy and COVID-19 Vaccination Status.”  The report comes in the wake of a series of recent media reports that highlighted a current policy among at least some transplant centersto deny potential transplant patients the ability to be added to a waiting list for an organ due to COVID-19 vaccination Find it here.

Stakeholder Events

CMS – February 17 and March 31

CMS will hold public listening sessions on transitional coverage for emerging technologies on Thursday, February 17 at 3:00 (eastern) and 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.

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.