Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, October 23, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK
FEHB & OPM
Certain Unconscious Bias Training is OK for Federal Contractors, Labor Says: The Department of Labor is working to provide clarity around unconscious bias training for federal contractors. A recently released FAQ from the agency indicates that training can continue so long as it does not single out one race or sex as inherently racist or sexist. A request for information is expected to be released later this week to solicit feedback and information from federal contractors and subcontractors.
A Federal Employee’s Guide to Trump and Biden’s 2020 Campaign Platforms: A rundown of where the presidential candidates stand on issues that matter to federal employees including pay and benefits.
Pelosi Suggests COVID-19 Relief Deal Could Slip Past November Elections. After months of stalled talks between talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the White House, and Republican leadership, Pelosi suggested a coronavirus relief package may not happen before the Nov. 3 elections. While earlier this week Pelosi said she and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin were on a “path” to a deal, most discussions have been met with pushback in the Senate over the multimillion-dollar price tag. These exchanges follow a failed Tuesday vote on a “skinny” 500 million dollar Republican backed proposal, which was nearly identical to a Republicans proposal Senate Democrats rejected in September.
Democrats Prepare Sweeping Budget Plans if They Win in November. Democrats are considering using the budget to advance major investments in party priorities like infrastructure, clean energy, childcare, and more if they sweep Congress and the White House in November. Should Democrats take both chambers and the White House, they would be able to use budget reconciliation, a process used by both parties in recent years to enact large changes while evading the filibuster. Democratic lawmakers have signaled that while their first priority would be another multi-trillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus package, there are also talks on trillion-dollar infrastructure deals as well as a potential health care expansion if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans Advance SCOTUS Nomination after Democrats Boycott Committee Vote. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-0 to advance Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination after Democrats boycotted the vote, calling it a “sham.” Although every GOP senator was present for the vote, fulfilling the committee’s rule that 12 members must be present to report a nomination, the vote did not include the required two members of the minority party to be present in order to conduct committee business. Her nomination now heads to the full Senate for confirmation early next week. Barrett needs a simple majority of 51 votes to be confirmed by the Senate, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) is the only member of the Republican party who has indicated she will oppose Barrett.
CMS Expands Medicare Emergency Telehealth Coverage With 11 New Services: The Trump Administration is making another expansion of telehealth services that can be covered by Medicare including cardiac and pulmonary rehab.
The 3 Likely Issues That Will Top Congress’ To-Do List Next Year Regardless of Who Wins the Election: Regardless of election outcomes, surprise billing, drug pricing reform, and preexisting conditions will be top of mind for Congress.
Providers’ Rocky Road to Recovery Could Last into 2022: Approximately 20% of hospital executives recently surveyed indicated they are “extremely concerned” about financial viability until an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available. Most expect not to see regularity until 2022.
The Hazy Post-Pandemic Future of Telehealth: While telehealth usage has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, numbers are starting to level out. The telehealth industry has seen a major influx of investments, but there is still uncertainty about the level of integration once the pandemic is over. A recent article from Health Payer Intelligence highlights the key considerations for permanently integrating telehealth.
CDC Reports 300K More Deaths Than Expected This Year Likely Due to COVID-19: The CDC reported that nearly 300,000 more people have died this year than would be expected in a normal year, likely due to direct and indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The age group of 75-89 had approximately 95,000 more deaths than normal.
Distributing a COVID-19 Vaccine Across the U.S.- A Look at Key Issues: KFF identifies key challenges for the distribution of a COVID-19 pandemic including funding, logistics, communication, and addressing racial disparities.
Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker: The New York Times is tracking progress towards a coronavirus vaccine. This is a regularly updated tool with information on the approval process and the key players working towards development of a vaccine.
Studies Point to a Big Drop in COVID-19 Death Rates: With COVID-19 cases on the rise yet again, researchers are finding that mortality is dropping. A recent study of a health system found that mortality among hospital patients has dropped by 18 percentage points since the pandemic began.