Archive for March, 2022


Federal Health Policy Update for Wednesday, March 30

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

Provider Relief Fund

  • The Provider Relief Fund last week distributed more than $413 million to more than 3600 providers across the country, the fourth round of Phase 4 payments since those payments began last November.  This is in addition to nearly $7.5 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural payments over the past four months.  HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which administers the Provider Relief Fund, has now processed 89 percent of the applications it received for Phase 4 grants and HHS reports that “Remaining applications require additional manual review and HRSA is working to process them as quickly as possible.”  Learn more about this latest round of Phase 4 Provider Relief Fund grants and find links to a state-by-state breakdown of payments and a list of all recipients in this HHS news release.
  • The Provider Relief Fund Uninsured Program, which has reimbursed providers at Medicare rates for testing uninsured individuals for COVID-19 and treating those diagnosed with the virus, has stopped accepting such claims

Medicaid as a Tool for Addressing Racial Health Inequities

Medicaid can be an important tool for addressing racial health inequities, the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests in a new issue brief.

Among the measures involving Medicaid that might be undertaken to address racial health inequities and addressing social determinants of health, the brief suggests (in words taken directly from the issue brief):

  • One significant action that would help close coverage disparities for people of color is adoption of the ACA Medicaid expansion in the 12 non-expansion states.
  • Other expansions of Medicaid eligibility could also address racial disparities in coverage and access to care.
  • Making it easier for eligible people to enroll in and maintain Medicaid coverage may also help close coverage gaps for people of color.
  • The Biden Administration and states may pursue equity-related initiatives through Section 115 waivers.
  • States can leverage managed care contracts to help address racial disparities and social determinants of health.
  • States can also adopt health plan and provider payment options to incentivize reductions in racial health disparities.
  • Expansions of Medicaid benefits and telehealth may increase access to care for all enrollees, including the disproportionate share of people of color covered by Medicaid.
  • It will be important to help prevent the end of the COVID-19 public

Hospitals, Insurers, City Government Launch Health Equity Effort

The pursuit of health equity is the subject of a new collaboration between health systems, health insurers, and a big city government.

The new effort, dubbed “Accelerate Health Equity,” will seek to bring “…together organizations across the region to produce tangible improvement in health inequities, and ultimately achieve measurable, positive changes in health outcomes in Philadelphia.”  Among the participants in the endeavor are AmeriHealth Caritas, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia, Drexel University, Independence Blue Cross, Jefferson Health, Main Line Health, Penn Medicine, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Temple Health, and Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic.

The group envisions its approach to pursuing health equity and addressing social determinants of health as consisting of three components:

  • Launching Pilot Programs: Individual pilot programs tied to identified areas that impact health outcomes.
  • Measuring Progress:   A publicly available digital health equity dashboard based on data provides an in-depth view of 16 health equity challenge areas and will also track progress of pilot programs.
  • Collaborating to Scale:  Pilot programs will be evaluated and information will be disseminated to inform health and service providers and quickly scale successful pilot programs to expand their reach and impact.

The 16 health equity challenges the group intends …

Telehealth Boomed During Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked tremendous growth in the use of telehealth services among Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Department of Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General.

During the first year of the public health emergency, with many previous limits on the use of telehealth temporarily waived,

  • more than 28 million Medicare beneficiaries used telehealth
  • beneficiaries used 88 times more telehealth services during the first year of the pandemic than in the previous year
  • beneficiaries used telehealth to receive 12 percent of their services
  • beneficiaries most commonly used telehealth for office visits
  • beneficiaries used telehealth for 43 percent of behavioral health services

Learn more about how Medicare beneficiaries turned to telehealth when their doctors became less accessible during the first year of the COVID-19 public health emergency in the HHS Office of the Inspector General data brief “Telehealth Was Critical for Providing Services to Medicare
Beneficiaries During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”…

Federal Health Policy Update for Tuesday, March 22

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

Provider Relief Fund

  • As of March 22 at 11:59 p.m. (eastern) the HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) COVID-19 Uninsured Program will stop accepting claims for testing and treatment due to lack of funds and on April 5 at 11:59 p.m. (eastern) the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program and COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund will stop accepting vaccination claims due to a lack of funds.  HRSA has released additional information about this significant change in federal COVID policy with the publication of two new documents:

o   HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program Shutdown FAQs

o   HRSA COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund Shutdown FAQs

Separately, HRSA advises that “Submitted claims will be paid subject to the availability of funds.”  This means that when the money is gone HRSA will no longer be able to pay claims.  The administration continues to encourage Congress to provide additional funding to support COVID-related activities and replenish this fund but it is not clear at this point if it will succeed in doing so.

  • Providers that received Provider Relief