Week Ending 7.10.2020

Weekly Policy Updates

Friday, July 7, 2020



Trump Officials Made ‘Misleading’ Statements about Changes to Federal Worker Management, Watchdog Says: House Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) penned letters to OPM, OMB, DOJ, and GSA requesting participation in transcribed interviews with agency officials about the OPM merger. Notes from an April 2019 call indicate that DOJ indicated at that time that the merger was illegal, but several agency officials have testified since that time that no such legal advice was given.

What are the Highest Rated Federal Employee Benefits?: FedSmith digs into data released in OPM’s Federal Employee Benefits Survey. Not surprisingly, the Thrift Savings Plan, Federal Employees Retirement System, and FEHB have the largest enrollments among the benefits offered to federal employees.

House Committee Clears NDAA with Federal Paid Parental Leave Fix: Congress is working to fix language in the original paid parental leave law, passed late last year, making it applicable to all federal employees.


Report: Telehealth Claims Lines up 8,336% in April Due to COVID-19: FAIR Health released its April 2019 data for its Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker indicating that, when compared to April 2019, telehealth visits were up 8,336%. The largest spikes were seen in the Northeast where claims lines were up 26,209%. Nationally, urban areas accounted for a greater portion of the increase than rural areas.

Verma: COVID-19 Proving the Need for Greater Interoperability: CMS Administrator Seems Verma indicated early this week that COVID-19 has uncovered inefficiencies in the healthcare system, one of the largest being interoperability. Better flow of data could aide in contract tracing efforts and the allocation of medical supplies.

Democrats Urge Administration to Force Full Payer COVID-19 Test Coverage: Congressional Democrats in both the House and Senate urged CMS to clarify that health insurance must cover return-to-work COVID-19 testing.

Congress Agrees on Need for COVID-19 Relief—Not What It Should Include. Although congressional leaders are in the early stages of drafting a fifth coronavirus relief bill, Democrats and Republicans are at odds over the size and scope of the package, raising questions about their ability to get it done before August recess. On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the Trump administration’s calls to limit the next coronavirus relief package to $1 trillion, arguing that Congress will need to approve at least double that amount amid a surge in cases. Senate Republicans have largely ignored the House’s HEROES Act for weeks since it passed the chamber but have expressed a willingness to consider some of Democrats’ ideas, such as another round of direct payments to millions of Americans.

Rural Health Systems Among Top Recipients of PPP Loans: Fierce healthcare provides a breakdown of PPP funding, highlighting that rural health systems received a much needed injection of emergency funds.

o In a related note, Healthcare Dive provides a breakdown of the doctors’ offices and hospitals that received over $150,000 of funding. Of the $521 billion in PPP funding that have been doled out so far, almost $67.4 billion has been provided to the healthcare and social assistance sector.

As Coronavirus Cases Top 3 Million, Fauci Warns Against Misreading a Falling Death Rate: Dr. Fauci warns Americans not to take false comfort in lowering COVID-19 death rates and urges us all to continue to take precautions.

Analysis: How a COVID-19 Vaccine Could Cost Americans Dearly: Kaiser Health Network unpacks the potential cost of providing a COVID-19 to all Americans.

Providence, Humana Back Ad Campaign Urging Patients to Stop ‘Medical Distancing’: A coalition of providers, payers, and healthcare organizations recently launched a campaign to encourage patients not to put off important medical care during the pandemic.

Policy Updates

Supreme Court Sides with Trump Administration on Rules to Create More Exemptions to ACA Birth Control Mandate: The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, July 8, 2020 that HHS has the ability to create a religious and moral exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.

Biden, Sanders Unity Task Forces Release Policy Recommendations: Joe Biden’s presidential campaign rolled out policy recommendations this week with a joint task force including supporters of Bernie Sanders. Recommendations include a public option to achieve universal coverage, a plan to address rising drugs prices, climate change, and criminal justice reform proposals. The public option would provide access to a Medicare-administered benefit on the individual market exchanges. Low-income individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid would be auto-enrolled into the public option.

House Appropriators Stay Silent on Federal Pay for 2021. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government passed a draft budget bill for fiscal year 2021. The bill was silent on federal pay, which increases the likelihood that a planned raise for civilian employees next year will advance. Earlier this year, the Trump administration’s budget plan included a one percent across-the-board federal pay raise for civilian employees next year, with no further locality pay adjustments. The bill’s silence essentially defers to the Trump budget’s recommendation.

Industry Updates

Walgreens Strikes Deal with Primary-Care Company to Open Doctor Offices in Hundreds of Drugstores: Walgreens plans to have primary care offices in hundreds of its retail locations after inking a deal with VillageMD.

Walmart Entering the Insurance Game?: In August, retail giant Walmart will begin selling Medicare plans in Texas.

New Hospital Rankings Show ‘Elite’ Facilities Struggle with Health Equity, Inclusivity: A new ranking of hospitals from the Lown Institute shows that many renowned institutions struggle to address health inequities in their communities. An inverse relationship was found between inclusivity and patient outcomes.

CVS Reportedly Creating Group Purchasing Organization for PBM Business: CVS plans to launch a group purchasing organization, called Zinc, for its pharmacy benefit management business. According to a recent report by Nephron Research, the new arrangement could make it more difficult for PBM customers to audit and allow CVS to retain a larger portion of rebate profits.

#COVID #ParentalLeave #HealthIT #Telehealth #OPMReorg #ACA #BirthControl #PublicOption #DrugPricing #CriminalJusticeReform #HealthEquity #FEBS

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