Federal Health Policy Update for Friday, May 20

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:15 p.m. on Friday, May 20.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.

White House

  • The White House has announced that U.S. households may now order an additional eight free home COVID-19 tests at COVIDTests.gov.  Learn more from this White House fact sheet.
  • White House COVID-19 and public health officials have held a COVID-19 briefing.  Find a transcript of the briefing here and the slides presented during the briefing here.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • CMS has published a new manual to help states with the process of determining the eligibility of current participants in their Medicaid, CHIP, and Basic Health Programs after the formal COVID-19 public health emergency ends.  To learn how CMS is advising state governments about how to proceed with this undertaking, see its publication “Eligibility & Enrollment Processing for Medicaid, CHIP, and BHP During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Unwinding Key Requirements for Compliance.”
  • To help providers understand and navigate this same process, CMS will hold the first session of a monthly partner education series on Medicaid and CHIP continuous enrollment unwinding on Wednesday, May 25 at noon (eastern).  During the COVID-19 public health emergency the federal government eased rules to prevent people with Medicaid and CHIP from losing their coverage during the pandemic, but after the public health emergency ends, millions of people could lose their health coverage as individuals that no longer meet eligibility criteria are disenrolled from the program.  This call will provide background information on the Medicaid continuous enrollment requirements, efforts under way to connect people to coverage, strategies for engaging people with Medicaid and CHIP, and resources for partners to begin sharing information on preparing for the Medicaid and CHIP redetermination process with their audiences.  This will be the first in a monthly call series.  Go here to register.  CMS will provide registrants with a Zoom link.
  • CMS has posted a new edition of MLN Connects, its online newsletter on Medicare payment matters.  The new issue includes items on the quarterly update of the Medicare physician fee schedule; ICD-10 code updates and changes in National Coverage Determinations (NCD) that will take effect on October 1; updated coverage of pneumonia vaccines; new codes for chronic care management services; and more.  Find the latest edition of MLN Connects here.
  • CMS has posted the electronic clinical quality measure (eCQM) specifications for the 2023 reporting/performance period for eligible hospitals, critical access hospitals, hospital hybrid, outpatient quality reporting (OQR), and eligible clinician programs.  Go here for further information, including links to the specifications for the different provider types.
  • The CMS Digital Quality Measurement Strategic Roadmap Report and executive summary slide deck are now available on the eCQI Resource Center’s Digital Quality Measures Page.  These documents describe CMS’s goal of transitioning all quality measures used in its reporting programs to digital quality measures (dQMs) and provide expanded information on CMS’s strategy and actions to achieve digital quality measurement.
  • CMS has unveiled several updates to the Medicare.gov website that it believes will make it easier for users to navigate and find information to compare and select health and drug coverage and find providers.  The updated website features timely initiatives and messages on the home page and highlights key tasks and information most frequently sought by people with Medicare, people nearing Medicare eligibility, and their families.  Learn about the updated web site and its features from this CMS news release.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS and its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have announced a State Opioid Response grant funding opportunity that will provide nearly $1.5 billion to states and territories to help address the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic.  The State Opioid Response program will provide formula funding to states and territories to improve access to FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder and to support prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services for opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders.  The program also will support care for stimulant misuse and use disorders, including for cocaine and methamphetamine.  Learn more from this HHS news release and this notice about the funding opportunity.  Eligibility is limited to single state agencies and territories.
  • HHS has announced a funding opportunity of nearly $15 million for a three-year federal grant to establish a SAMHSA program to strengthen the delivery of behavioral health care to residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities.  This program will establish a “Center of Excellence for Building Capacity in Nursing Facilities to Care for Residents with Behavioral Health Conditions.”  Funding of up to $4.9 million a year for three years will be awarded to one grantee.  Learn more about the grant funding from this HHS news release.  For more information about the funding opportunity, including eligibility, see this notice of funding opportunity.  The application deadline is June 20.
  • HHS and SAMHSA have announced a behavioral health Recovery Innovation Challenge.  The goal of this challenge is to identify innovations developed by peer-run or community-based organizations and any entities that partner with them that advance recovery.  For this challenge, participants are encouraged to share details about the practices they are using to advance recovery.  Learn more about the Recovery Innovation Challenge from this HHS news release and the challenge’s web page.  The deadline for submissions is July 15 and the purse prize is up to $400,000.  The competition will offer up to 10 awards.
  • HHS and SAMHSA have announced $2 million in funding to establish a national center of excellence on social media and mental wellness.  The purpose of this center of excellence will be to develop and disseminate information, guidance, and training on the impact that social media use has on children and youth.  This center of excellence also will examine clinical and social interventions that can be used to mitigate risks.  The agencies will fund one award for $2 million a year for up to five years.  To learn more, see this HHS news release and this funding opportunity notice.  The deadline for applications is July 18.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • The CDC has issued its monthly report on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The CDC has updated its guidelines for health care providers and local and state health departments on collecting, handling, and testing clinical specimens for COVID-19.  The updated guidelines include new information about ordering swabs and media, assessing specimens obtained through self-collection, and transporting specimens through pneumatic tube systems.  Find the updated guidelines here.

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has amended its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, authorizing the use of a single booster dose for administration to individuals five through 11 years of age at least five months after completion of a primary series with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.  Learn more from this FDA news release.
  • The FDA has authorized the first self-administered test for use without a prescription by individuals with symptoms of respiratory viral infection consistent with COVID-19.  The test can identify and differentiate multiple respiratory viruses at the same time, including flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19.  The test is administered in the home and then sent to a laboratory for analysis.  Learn more in this FDA news release.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

  • MACPAC has posted an issue brief that describes the extent to which Medicaid beneficiaries experience certain social risk factors that affect health.  It also addresses the primary mechanisms – state plan benefits, contracts with managed care plans, and waivers and grants – that state Medicaid programs can use to deliver and finance social determinants of health interventions and a discussion of the statutory and regulatory limits on such activities.  See MACPAC’s perspective in the issue brief “Financing Strategies to Address the Social Determinants of Health in Medicaid.”
  • MACPAC has written to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a letter from HHS and CMS to the FCC seeking an FCC opinion on the permissibility of Medicaid program representatives and contractors, including local governments, managed care plans, and other entities, using text messages and automated calls to Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  See MACPAC’s letter here.

Stakeholder Events

CMS – Medicaid and CHIP Continuous Enrollment Unwinding Call – May 25

CMS will hold the first session of a monthly partner education series on Medicaid and CHIP continuous enrollment unwinding on Wednesday, May 25 at noon (eastern).  During the COVID-19 public health emergency the federal government eased rules to prevent people with Medicaid and CHIP from losing their coverage during the pandemic but at some point soon states will be required to restart Medicaid and CHIP eligibility reviews, at which time millions of people could lose their health coverage.  This call will provide background information on the Medicaid continuous enrollment requirements, efforts under way to connect people to coverage, strategies for engaging people with Medicaid and CHIP, and resources for partners to begin sharing information on preparing for the Medicaid and CHIP redetermination process with their audiences.  This will be the first in a monthly call series.  Go here to register.  CMS will provide registrants with a Zoom link.

CMS – New CMS Measures Management System Hub – May 25

CMS is launching a new Measures Management System (MMS) website, the MMS Hub, on May 24.  This new site transforms the 100-page blueprint into a resource for anyone interested or participating in the Measure Lifecycle process.  The MMS Hub includes new features, such as a news and event section, that better connects users to timely educational and stakeholder engagement opportunities.  CMS will hold a webinar on the new system on Wednesday, May 25 at 2:00 (eastern).  Go here to register to participate.  Learn about the Measures Management System 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.

CMS – Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System Public Meetings – June 7-June 10

CMS will hold virtual Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System public meetings on June 7 through June 10 from 9:00-5:00 (eastern) each day to discuss its preliminary coding, Medicare benefit category, and payment determinations for new revisions to the HCPCS Level II code set and to discuss preliminary Medicare benefit category and payment determinations for codes effective January 1, 2020 to April 1, 2022; continuous glucose monitor and related supplies and accessories coding and payment determinations; and additional items added by CMS to address Medicare benefit category or payment determinations.  Learn more about the meetings, how to register to speak, and how to join the meetings 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 – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Advisory Committee for Women’s Services – June 14

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Advisory Committee for Women’s Services will meet virtually on Tuesday, June 14 at 12:30 (eastern).  The meeting will include discussions on assessing SAMHSA’s current strategies, including the mental health and substance use needs of women and girls.  In addition, the committee will be addressing priorities regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the behavioral health needs of women and children and directions around behavioral health services and access for women and children.  Interested persons may present data, information, or views, orally or in writing, on issues pending before the committee.  Learn more about the meeting agenda, how to submit comments, and how to join the meeting from this Federal Register notice.

NIH – National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council – June 14 and 15

The NIH’s National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council will hold public meetings that also will be available virtually on Tuesday, June 14 and Wednesday, June 15 at noon on both days.  To see the meeting agenda and learn where the meeting will be held and how to join it virtually, see this Federal Register notice.

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

This event is now at capacity and is closed to new participants.  All training materials and videos will be made available on the CMS website.

HHS – National Vaccine Advisory Committee – June 15-16

The National Vaccine Advisory Committee 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.

NIH – Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council – June 23

The NIH’s Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council will meet virtually at noon (eastern) on Thursday, June 23.  The meeting’s agenda includes a report from the director of the Office of AIDS Research; an update from that office’s clinical guidelines working groups; updates from the NIH’s HIV-related advisory councils; presentations and discussions on data science and NIH-wide programs and initiatives; and public comment.  Learn more about how to submit comments and participate in this meeting from this Federal Register notice.

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