Archive for June, 2022

 

Federal Health Policy Update for Thursday, June 30

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, June 30.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

White House

The White House has unveiled its “White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis.”

Monkeypox Update

  • The White House has announced the first phase of its national monkeypox vaccine strategy, a part of its monkeypox outbreak response.  The major components of the strategy include expanded efforts to vaccinate those most at risk, expanded testing supply and availability, and greater engagement with community leaders and stakeholders.  Learn more about the White House’s plan from this fact sheet.
  • HHS has announced an enhanced nationwide vaccination strategy to mitigate the spread of monkeypox.  The strategy includes vaccinating and protecting those at risk of monkeypox, prioritizing vaccines for areas with the highest numbers of cases, and providing guidance to state, territorial, tribal, and local health officials to aid their planning and response efforts.  HHS will provide 296,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine.  Of that amount, 56,000 doses will be made available immediately and an additional 240,000 doses will be made available in the coming weeks.  HHS expects more

Court Rejects Long-Running Medicare DSH Challenge

In a case that challenged a 2005 change in how the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services calculates Medicare disproportionate share (Medicare DSH) payments, the Supreme Court has, in a 5-4 decision, reversed a lower court ruling and upheld CMS’s policy of counting days of care for which Medicare does not pay in the Medicare fraction of the Medicare DSH percentage – a policy change widely viewed as disadvantageous to hospitals that care for larger numbers of low-income patients.

This means that Medicare exhausted days and days of care provided to Medicare enrollees with another source of third-party coverage count in the numerator and denominator of the Medicare fraction.  In most cases this results in a lower percentage of a hospital’s Medicare patients also being eligible for SSI and the lowering of that ratio, thereby reducing the amount of Medicare DSH payments a hospital receives.

For most hospitals this ruling has the effect of closing the door on a potential payment increase rather than reducing expected payments.

Learn more from the Fierce Healthcare article “Supreme Court sides with HHS over Medicare DSH rule dispute in blow to hospitals,” the SCOTUS blog analysis “Divided court sides with

Federal Health Policy Update for Monday, June 27

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:15 p.m. on Monday, June 27.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

White House

The White House COVID-19 response team has briefed the press about the administration’s latest efforts in the response to COVID-19.  Find a transcript of that briefing here and find the slides presented during that briefing here.

Supreme Court

In a case that challenged a 2005 change in how CMS calculates Medicare disproportionate share (Medicare DSH) payments, the Supreme Court has, in a 5-4 decision, reversed a lower court ruling and upheld CMS’s policy to count days of care for which Medicare does not pay in the Medicare fraction of the Medicare DSH percentage – a policy change widely viewed as disadvantageous to hospitals that care for larger numbers of low-income patients.  This means that Medicare exhausted days and days of care provided to Medicare enrollees with another source of third-party coverage count in the numerator and denominator of the Medicare fraction.  In most cases this results in a lower percentage of a hospital’s Medicare patients also being eligible for SSI and the lowering of that …

Hospitals to Feds: Help Us Fight Hackers

Hospitals and health systems are looking to the federal government to help them deal with cybersecurity breaches.

Those breaches, which at one time might only cost a ransom of $50,000, now often cost millions of dollars in damage – and in the case of one large health system, more than $100 million.

Insurance against such problems, moreover, generally pays only a fraction of the cost of the damage done.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, often through the latter’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, offer some assistance to hospitals, as does the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center, but the frequency of attacks has both providers and government scrambling:  through June of this year HHS’s Office of Civil Rights recorded 256 data breaches and hacks, up 72 percent from the same time period last year.

Learn more about the cybersecurity challenges hospitals face and the help they seek addressing them in the Politico article “Health systems want government help fighting off the hackers.”

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COVID Drugs Experiencing Arguably Inequitable Distribution

The distribution of COVID-19 drugs could be exhibit A in the argument that inadequate access to care is a major social determinant of health.

At least that’s a conclusion that might be drawn based on a new CDC study.

According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis, the rate at which COVID-19 drug therapies are being distributed “…were lowest in high vulnerability zip codes, despite these zip codes having the largest number of dispensing sites.”

The study observes that “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated long-standing inequities in the social determinants of health.”  Despite this, federal efforts to dispense COVID drugs in an equitable manner were not achieving their goals, and as a result, “…dispensing rates in high-vulnerability zip codes were approximately one half the rates in medium- and low-vulnerability zip codes.”

Why the disparity?  The study hypothesizes that

To access oral antiviral therapy, a patient must first receive a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), followed by a clinical assessment by a health care provider authorized to prescribe the drug (i.e., physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician assistants). Although 47.5% of dispensing sites are located in high-vulnerability zip codes as