The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 19.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

The White House

Provider Relief Fund

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services


  • CMS and the CDC are developing an emergency regulation requiring staff vaccinations within the nation’s more than 15,000 Medicare- and Medicaid-participating nursing homes.  In announcing this new policy, CMS notes that “About 62% of nursing home staff are currently vaccinated as of August 8 nationally, and vaccination among staff at the state level ranges from a high of 88% to a low of 44%.  The emergence of the Delta variant in the United States has driven a rise in cases among nursing home residents from a low of 319 cases on June 27, to 2,696 cases on August 8, with many of the recent outbreaks occurring in facilities located in areas of the United States with the lowest staff vaccination rates.”  Learn more from the CMS announcement.
  • CMS has published a special edition of its online newsletter, MLN Connects, that presents information about codes and payments for the additional doses of COVID-19 vaccinations authorized by the FDA last week for selected at-risk individuals.  The American Medical Association has published similar information.
  • CMS has invited eligible Medicaid managed care organizations to participate in a data-sharing pilot project to facilitate increased care coordination for individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid during the COVID-19 emergency.  This pilot project is open to a maximum of 20 Medicaid managed care organizations that enroll dually eligible beneficiaries.  The application deadline is August 30.  Learn more about the program here.

Health Policy News

  • The Most Favored Nation Model introduced by CMS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) sought to test a new way to lower prescription drug costs by paying no more for high-cost Medicare Part B drugs and biologicals than the lowest price that drug manufacturers receive in other, similar countries.  In the face of legal challenges that prevented implementation of the program as proposed, CMMI has announced that it will not implement the program without additional rulemaking.  Go here to learn more about the program and its change in status.
  • CMS has published the latest edition of its MLN Connects, its online newsletter.  This week’s edition includes features on updated web-based training on Medicare fraud and abuse prevention, detection, and reporting; webinars on Medicare ground ambulance data collection; updated instructional resources for inpatient rehabilitation facility and long-term-care hospital Quality Reporting Program documents; and more.

Department of Health and Human Services


Health Policy News

  • A study by HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has concluded that Medicare pays three times as much for the capital costs of new hospitals during their first two years of existence – an average of $1.3 million a year more – than it pays established hospitals for their capital costs.  The OIG recommended that CMS reevaluate this policy.  CMS concurred with the OIG’s recommendation.  Learn more from the OIG study.
  • HHS has awarded $19 million in grants to 36 recipients to strengthen telehealth services in rural and underserved communities and expand telehealth innovation and quality nation-wide.  Learn more about the specific grant recipients and the purposes for which they received awards in this HHS announcement.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


National Institutes of Health

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Stakeholder Events

Monday, August 23 – CMS

Advisory Panel on Hospital Outpatient Payment

Monday, August 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (eastern)

CMS’s Advisory Panel on Hospital Outpatient Payment will meet virtually to advise the agency about the clinical integrity of the Ambulatory Payment Classification groups and their associated weights and about supervision of hospital outpatient therapeutic services.  The advice provided by the panel will be considered as CMS prepares its annual updates for the hospital outpatient prospective payment system.

The public may participate in this meeting by webinar or teleconference.  Teleconference dial-in and webinar information will appear on the final meeting agenda, which will be posted here when available.