Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, July 17, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK ENDING 7.17.2020
FEHB & OPM
Push Made for 3 Percent Raise as Key Spending Bill Starts to Move: Ten House Democrats have asked leaders to include a 3 percent federal employee raise in current spending bills. President Trump has recommended a 1% raise. If Congress specify a raise, the President’s recommendation is used as a default.
Trump Administration to cancel Presidential Rank Awards this Year: The Trump Administration has opted to cancel the Presidential Rank Awards and associated bonuses, citing economic uncertainty. The awards are considered the highest honor for career civil servants.
One Agency Help Prevent Politicizing the Federal Workforce- and the White House Wants it Abolished: The Office of Personnel Management has served as the federal government’s chief human resources agency since 1978. When created by Congress, the Agency was intentionally positioned outside of the White House in order to protect civil servants from political influence in their work. The Trump Administration has made repeated efforts to abolish the Agency.
Coronavirus Hospital Data Will Now be Sent to Trump Administration instead of CDC: HHS has confirmed that hospital data related to coronavirus will now be sent to the Trump Administration instead of first being routed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many worry this change could lead to less transparency.
COVID-19 and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Risk, Employment, and Household Composition: Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, authors in Health Affairs explore potential explanations for the racial-ethnic disparities in COVI-19 outcomes.
Early Impact of CMS Expansion of Medicare Telehealth During COVID-19: CMS Administrator Seems Verma writes for the Health Affairs blog outlining the expansions to telemedicine made in response to the pandemic and the impact on beneficiaries.
House and Senate Remain Far Apart on COVID-19 Relief: Next week, Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their own roughly $1 trillion proposal. The plan is far narrower than the $3 trillion-plus bill pushed through the House by Democrats two months ago. Apart from cost, the parties are still far apart on key issues, including whether or how to extend a boost in unemployment insurance benefits set to expire in the coming days. Although Congressional leaders privately believe they’ll reach a deal at some point, it may take several weeks of negotiations to strike an accord, and the deadline of August recess is quickly approaching.
Insurers Ask Congress for Funding to Keep People Covered: Health insurance companies are calling on Congress to provide more funding to help people keep coverage, citing the more than 44 million who have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus crisis started. On Friday, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote a letter to congressional leaders making a range of requests for the next coronavirus response package. Requests include increasing government subsidies under the ACA, adding more funding for coronavirus testing, providing financial assistance to employers to help them keep employer-sponsored health coverage for their workers, and picking up the full cost of CORBA coverage to workers who lose their jobs.
House Appropriations Committee Passes Health Bill: On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee approved the labor, health and human services, and education funding bill for 2021, which included $24.43 billion in emergency funds largely linked to the COVID-19 crisis. The labor bill is expected to pass on the House floor along with the other spending bills by the end of the month, but the deadlock in the Senate could mean that Congress will have to punt past the September 30 deadline for passing the bills. Without a stopgap measure, the government would shut down. Congress may choose to put off the bills until after the election or into next year depending on the outcome of the election.
First Data for Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Show it Spurs an Immune Response: Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine led patients to produce antibodies that can neutralize coronavirus, according to the first published data from an early-stage trial. Phase 3 of the trial will begin on July 27, which more than 30,000 patients.
Some warn, however, not to get too excited about the prospect of a vaccine by the end of the year. Merck CEO Frazier says COVID-19 Vaccine Hype a ‘Grave Disservice’ to the Public, citing massive scientific and logistical obstacles.
Lots of conflicting information exists, as officials in the Trump Administration report that the government’s “Warp Speed” could be churning out vaccines in as soon as 6 weeks.
Patients Want to Keep Using Virtual Care After COVID-19 Pandemic Ends, Survey Finds: Accenture recently conducted an international survey of oncology, cardiology, and immunology patients and found that 60% of those that used telehealth services during the pandemic want to use the platform again in the future.
U.S. District Court of DC will Hear 1557 case: Oral arguments in the lawsuit against the recently published Section 1557 final rule will be heard in DC on August 3, 2020 at 2pm. (Whitman-Walker Clinic v US Department of Health and Human Services)
CVS Health: The 2020 Path to Better Health Study: In March 2020, CVS Health conducted a consumer survey of more than 1,000 participants and 400 providers. Results indicate that consumers are seeking a more accessible, affordable, and technology-enabled health care experience. Among providers, 40% indicated that telehealth is valuable in communicating with patients, up from 22% in last year’s survey.