Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, October 16, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK:
FEHB & OPM
OPM Announces 2021 Health, Dental, and Vision Program Premiums: OPM has released rates for plan year 2021. The average rate increase is 3.6%. Federal News Network provides analysis.
Supreme Court Nominee Amy Cohen Barrett Faces Senate Judiciary Committee. Amy Cohen Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to fill the late Justice Ginsberg’s seat on the Supreme Court, faced questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Notably, she suggested that the Affordable Care Act may be able to withstand challenges from the Trump administration. Barrett declined to answer how she would rule on a host of hot issues during multiple marathon questioning sessions. However, she did indicate that she did not consider Roe v. Wade, the landmark case establishing a woman’s right to an abortion, to be invulnerable precedent.
The Battle Over COVID-19 Aid Continues in Congress. Conversations around the price tag for coronavirus aid continue in Congress after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly delivered a $1.8 trillion offer to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has held firm at a $2.2 trillion demand. President Trump appeared enthusiastic towards the idea of a large package, even saying that Congress should tackle an even bigger deal, prompting backlash from within his own party. Yet Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly rejected trillion-dollar packages, citing worries about federal debt, in favor of smaller targeted packages like the $300 billion deal that received a vote last month.
Kaiser CEO Promises Strategic Shift to Stronger Focus on Equity: Kaiser plans to bring ethnicity and race data into analysis of quality and care and to expand its focus on the impact of social determinants of health. The company still hasn’t fleshed out details, but they did recently release a COVID-19 Social Health Playbook and expanded their social health network to reduce homelessness, food insecurity, and other community needs.
Payer Competition Shrinks in Already Scarce Markets, AMA Survey Finds: More than half of markets considered highly concentrated in 2014 grew even more concentrated by 2019, according to an annual analysis from the American Medical Association. The payers with the biggest share in most markets were Anthem, Health Care Service Corp., UnitedHealth Group, Florida Blue, and Highmark.
Walgreens COO says Pandemic Has Been ‘Accelerator’ For VillageMD Plans: After a $1 billion partnership was announced to build hundreds of VillageMD primary care clinics next to Walgreens pharmacies, only a few have been stood up in Houston. Walgreens’ COO Alex Gourlay says that is about to change—within the next fiscal year at least 40 locations will open.
Teladoc Sues Amwell, Alleging Patent Infringement: Teledoc is accusing Amwell of patent infringement in a recently filed law suit. Teledoc recently purchased InTouch and, with it, over 130 patents. They allege that Amwell has willfully violated several of these patents.
The LAN Healthcare Resilience Framework: The Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network has released a resiliency framework for health care systems. Payer actions to promote resiliency include utilizing effects APMs, promoting equity in healthcare, and advancing whole person care through clinical integration.
Black Americans Are More Skeptical of a Coronavirus Vaccine: Half of Black Americans indicated in a nationwide survey that they would “probably not” or “definitely not” get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, many citing concerns that the vaccine will be properly tested and fairly distributed.
Coronavirus Cases are Rising in U.S., Sparking Worries the Next Big Wave Has Begun: Forty states have seen a week-to-week increase in infections, sparking concerns that a second wave has begun. The virus will likely spread more easily in the drier weather of the winter.
CMS Promises a Plan for Medicare to Cover Coronavirus Vaccine: Medicare doesn’t currently cover drugs approved under emergency use designations, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is working on a plan to ensure that Medicare members have access to the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine without cost-sharing. They are expected to provide details this month.
J&J Says Review of Illness That Led to Pause of Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Could Take Days: After a patient in clinical trials has fallen ill, Johnson & Johnson will halt its clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine. The company has indicated the pause could last for several days or more. About a month ago, AstraZeneca also suspended their trial for similar reasons and has not yet been able to restart.
Eli Lilly Faces FDA Crackdown for Manufacturing Issues at Plant Handling COVID-19 Antibody: The FDA, citing “inadequate control of computer systems,” has put a wrinkle in the drug maker’s efforts to get their COVID-19 antibody, which was just sent to the FDA last week, approved.