Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, August 14, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK
FEHB & OPM
Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP): OPM announced new seven-year awards for dental and vision plans for federal employees, uniformed service members, retirees, and their dependents. OPM is awarding dental contracts to seven nationwide dental plans and five regional dental plans. There will be five nationwide vision carriers. OPM added two new dental carriers (UnitedHealthCare (nationwide) and HealthPartners (regional)) and one new vision carrier (MetLife).
ONC Head Touts the Value of HIEs in Pandemic Response: The head of the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. Donald Rucker, spoke at the ONC Tech Forum this week on the value of state Health Information Exchanges in sharing administrative and clinical data amongst providers in real time and near real time. He cited the role of HIEs in hurricanes, earthquakes and natural disasters, we well as the coronavirus pandemic. He signaled an expanded role for HIEs in the near future.
Competition launched to accelerate CT scan use in COVID treatment: The XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance and the New England Complex Systems Institute have announced the COVID-19 CT Scan Collaborative, a competition for the development of methods for the early detection of COVID-19 using CT Scans. Collaborative will award $1.8 million to competing teams who exponentially advance clinical detection and diagnosis in application to the pandemic outbreak. Prizes will be awarded for the greatest impact on the outbreak based upon improving case detection and management of treatment to prevent disease progression.
Trump Admin, Moderna Strike 100M Vaccine Dose Deal: The Trump Administration has agreed to pay the drug developer and manufacturer, Moderna, $1.5 billion for 100 million doses on its coronavirus vaccine, once the vaccine is approved for use by the FDA. The vaccine would be provided to the American public free of charge.
New CMS Value Based Payment Model for Rural Hospitals and ACOs: CMS announced a new payment model, Community Health Access and Rural Transformation, that will enable rural ACOs that are funded via prepayment or capitation to waive Medicare Part B fees and fund services such as transportation and telehealth. A second track, which will be launched next year, will award $75 million in grants to 15 lead organizations in rural communities to develop and fund services that improve access and assist with provider transformation.
CMS Proposing Changes to Medicare Star Ratings: CMS is a proposing several changes to the Hospital Compare tool used to rate hospitals on quality and access. A key change would be to group peer hospitals, enabling a comparison of hospitals that operate in similar conditions.
Missouri voters opt for Medicaid Expansion: Fifty three percent of Missouri voters agreed to the state adopting Medicaid expansion made available under the Affordable Care Act. An estimated 230,000 additional Missourians will receive coverage as a result.
Congressional COVID-19 Relief May Not Arrive until September: As of Thursday, the White House and top Democrats concede that a coronavirus relief deal is still out of reach, leaving little hope that relief will arrive by the month’s end. The parties have no plans to meet in the coming days, with Democrats insisting they won’t sit down with White House officials until the GOP agrees to spend at least $2 trillion, double the size of the GOP’s initial proposal, and Republican officials unwilling to raise the overall price tag. The Senate is now expected to recess until Labor Day, and the House had already left for the rest of August and the first two weeks of September. Lawmakers in both chambers will be given 24 hours notice if they need to return to the Capitol to vote on any agreement.
Kaiser to spend $63M supporting contact tracing: Kaiser Permanented has agreed to spend $63 million to support California’s contact tracing efforts. The funding will support community health teams in communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic and an estimated 500 additional clinical personnel to supplement existing public health staff.
New Assessment of Telediagnosis: The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality issued a report on the diagnostic efficacy and safety using telehealth. Entitled “Telediagnosis for Acute Care: Implications for the Quality and Safety of Diagnosis,” the report canvasses expert opinions and recent research on the risks and rewards of medical diagnosis from a distance.
One Fourth of Medicare Members Lack Access to Telehealth: Two recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association report that approximately one quarter of Medicare members lack access to equipment and/or connections necessary for telehealth. The population that lacked access was much more likely to have a low income.