Inside this Edition
Coalition Releases Policy Priorities to Address the Impact of Social Isolation and Loneliness | MACPAC Holds March Meeting | Bill Introduced to Expand Dental, Vision, and Hearing Coverage in Medicaid and Medicare | Departments Resume All Federal IDR Process Payment Determinations | | CDC Releases 2021 Data Showing Increase in Maternal Deaths | Administrative Action | Congressional Action | Medicare | Medicaid | Research
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Coalition Releases Policy Priorities to Address the Impact of Social Isolation and LonelinessYesterday, the Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness released their 2023-2024 Policy Priorities. The Priorities reflect the work of the Foundation for Social Connection’s Scientific Advisory Council (SAC)— notably the Systems approach of Cross-sector Integration and Action across the Lifespan (SOCIAL) Framework. The SOCIAL Framework includes sector-specific reports across the lifespan and at the individual, interpersonal, organizational, and community levels which align with the Coalition’s priorities. The overarching Policy Priorities include:
- Increasing public awareness regarding social isolation and loneliness and their effect on health, belonging, well-being, and resilience.
- Enhancing social services and supports to address social isolation and loneliness and promote social connection.
- Advancing health services and supports to address social isolation and loneliness and promote social connection.
- Leveraging innovative solutions that foster connection and social integration.
- Advancing research to establish the prevalence of social isolation, loneliness, and connection.
MACPAC Holds March MeetingThe Medicaid Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) held its March public meeting to discuss a number of issues related to Medicaid payment policy. Specifically, the Commission held sessions on:
- Additional Analyses of Potential Recommendations for Countercyclical Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Allotments
- Considerations for Providing Pre-Release Medicaid Services to Adults Leaving Incarceration
- Update on Unwinding the Continuous Coverage Requirements and Other Flexibilities
- Focus Group Findings: Experiences of Full-Benefit Dually Eligible Beneficiaries in Integrated Care Models
- Panel on State Flexibilities to Coordinate Care in the Absence of Full-Risk Capitation
- Managed Care External Quality Review (EQR): Study Findings
- CMS Proposed Rule on Disclosures of Nursing Facility Ownership
Bill Introduced to Expand Dental, Vision, and Hearing Coverage in Medicaid and MedicareYesterday, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) announced they are introducing new legislation to expand coverage of routine and necessary dental, oral, vision, and hearing care services through Medicare and Medicaid. The Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act would repeal the current Medicare statutory restriction on coverage for these services and incentivize more states to adopt the optional coverage of these services by raising the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to 90%. In their announcement, the Senators note that limited access to these services has resulted in worse health outcomes for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and increased risk of social isolation and cognitive decline. The Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness (CESIL) highlighted the influence of hearing loss on social isolation and loneliness in their recently released 2023-24 Policy Priorities.
Departments Resume All Federal IDR Process Payment DeterminationsToday, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) instructed certified independent dispute resolution (IDR) entities to resume making payment determinations for disputes involving items or services furnished on or after October 25, 2022. As a result of the Texas Medical Association, et al. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services (TMA II) decision, the Departments instructed certified IDR entities to hold all payment determinations until the Departments issued further guidance. The Departments revised the standards governing a certified IDR entity’s consideration of information when making payment determinations in to reflect the opinion and order of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in TMA II. Guidance for certified IDR entities’ payment determinations for items and services furnished on or after October 25, 2022 is posted here. Updated guidance to disputing parties regarding disputes involving items and services furnished on or after October 25, 2022 is posted here.
CDC Releases 2021 Data Showing Increase in Maternal DeathsYesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new nationwide data showing a sharp increase in maternal mortality rates. This report updates a previous one that showed maternal mortality rates for 2018–2020. In 2021, 1,205 women died of maternal causes in the United States compared with 861 in 2020 and 754 in 2019. This translates into a maternal mortality rate of 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to a rate of 23.8 in 2020 and 20.1 in 2019. Rates for Black women were also 2.6 times as higher compared to white women. The increases from 2020 to 2021 for all race and Hispanic-origin groups were significant.
- Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources (HRSA), announced the availability of approximately $25 million to expand primary care, including mental health services, in schools. For the first time, applicants are required to add or expand mental health services to receive school-based funding. The new opportunity builds on the $30 million HRSA has awarded since September 2021 to increase access to health center services in schools. The $25 million funding opportunity supports the mental health pillar of President Joe Biden’s Unity Agenda and the Administration’s strategy to address the mental health crisis.
- On Monday, Eisai announced that the U.S. Veterans’ Health Administration (VHA) will provide coverage of Leqembi, Biogen’s new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Eisai noted in their announcement that the VHA plans to allow coverage of the treatment to any veteran who meets the eligibility criteria indicating they have mild Alzheimer’s dementia. In 2022, an estimated 167,954 Veteran’s Administration patients were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia, although it is not yet known how many would be eligible to receive this treatment. This announcement comes after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently declined to cover the drug outside of clinical trials, which has only achieved accelerated approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its FY 2024 Budget Justification for its proposed $7.2 billion total budget for the fiscal year (fact sheet here). The budget is an increase of $372 million, or 10 percent, over its FY 2023 funding level and includes $3.3 billion in user feeds. The budget makes significant investments to enhance food safety, advance medical product safety, strengthen its public health capacity, and modernize its facilities.
- Last week, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to discuss current and future struggles facing the caregiving workforce in the United States as well as the social and economic benefits that could come from increasing wages for home and community-based services (HCBS). Chairman Casey introduced a new bill, the HCBS Access Act, which would aim to eliminate, over time, lengthy waiting lists for home care services. The committee also discussed the Better Care for Better Jobs Act, which would enhance Medicaid funding for home care services and strengthen the caregiving workforce. The hearing summary can be found here.
- Last week, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with U.S. Representatives Kevin Hern (R-OK) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), reintroduced the Access to Prescription Digital Therapeutics Act of 2023. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation aims to increase access to Prescription Digital Therapeutics (PDTs) and expand Medicare coverage to include PDTs. PDTs are products, devices, or applications that primarily use software and have a cleared or approved indication for the prevention, management or treatment of a medical disease, condition or disorder. The treatments are tested for safety and efficacy in randomized clinical trials, evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and prescribed by health care providers.
- Recently, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a Request for Information (RFI) on the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which is up for reauthorization this year. PAHPA funds programs that enable the federal government to respond to natural disasters and threats from emerging infectious diseases and chemical or biological agents. It must be reauthorized every five years and is set to expire on September 30, the end of fiscal year 2023. Comments can be submitted via email to PAHPA2023Comments@help.senate.gov and are due by close of business Wednesday, March 29, 2023.
- On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announced 27 prescription drugs for which Part B beneficiary coinsurances may be lower from April 1 – June 30, 2023. As a result of the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) inflation rebate provisions, Medicare beneficiaries who take these drugs may save between $2 and $390 per average dose starting April 1, depending on their coverage. The beneficiary coinsurance will be 20 percent of the inflation-adjusted payment amount.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), issued initial guidance detailing the requirements and parameters—including requests for public comment—on key elements of the new Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program beginning in 2026 (fact sheet here). The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) authorizes Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices for certain high-expenditure, single-source Medicare Part B or Part D drugs, meaning only those drugs for which there is no generic or biosimilar competition. Comments can be submitted via email to IRARebateandNegotiation@cms.hhs.gov and are due by April 14, 2023.
- On Thursday, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) released its March 2023 report covering Medicare payment policy to Congress. The 12-chapter report evaluates Medicare payment issues and recommendations from Congress. Notably, MedPAC shared a comparison of per-enrollee spending in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program to traditional fee-for-service Medicare. The report highlighted the following key areas: 1) Increased payments to MA due to coding differences. 2) The need for additional support for safety net providers. 3) Recommendations for increasing physician payment. 4) The growth of drug prices in Medicare Part D.
- On Tuesday, CMS shared the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Justification of Estimates for the Appropriations Committees. CMS notes that the FY 2024 budget request reflects a level of funding that allows CMS to focus on base operations, as well as improve its traditional activities throughout its various programs, including program operations, federal administration, survey and certification, and research. In addition, the FY 2024 budget request reflects CMS’s key initiatives related to ending the opioid epidemic, advancing health equity, and ensuring nursing home safety, quality, and transparency. CMS requests funding for its annually appropriated accounts, including Program Management (PM), discretionary Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC), Grants to States for Medicaid, and Payments to the Health Care Trust Funds.
- On Wednesday, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) published its March 2023 Report to Congress on Medicaid and CHIP. MACPAC is statutorily bound to submit reports to Congress by March 15 and June 15 of each year. The report contains four chapters of interest to Congress: (1) Medicaid race and ethnicity data collection and reporting, (2) principles for assessing Medicaid nursing facility payment programs, (3) strengthening evidence under Medicaid drug coverage, and (4) MACPAC’s statutorily required review of hospital payment policy for the nation’s safety-net hospitals.
- The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) published a White Paper titled “Advancing Health Technology Assessment Methods that Support Health Equity.” The white paper recommends methods for health technology assessment (HTA) in the United States to improve health equity for racial, ethnic, and other socially disadvantaged groups. The paper presents several key recommendations, including: 1) Selecting health care technology interventions for assessment 2) Engaging patients and patient groups in the HTA process 3) Evaluating the diversity of participants in clinical trials, among other recommendations.
- The Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness released their 2023-2024 Policy Priorities. The Priorities reflect the work of the Foundation for Social Connection’s Scientific Advisory Council (SAC)— notably the Systems approach of Cross-sector Integration and Action across the Lifespan (SOCIAL) Framework. The overarching Policy Priorities are: 1) Increasing public awareness regarding social isolation and loneliness and their effect on health, belonging, well-being, and resilience. 2) Enhancing social services and supports to address social isolation and loneliness and promote social connection. 3) Advancing health services and supports to address social isolation and loneliness and promote social connection. 4) Leveraging innovative solutions that foster connection and social integration. 5) Advancing research to establish the prevalence of social isolation, loneliness, and connection.
- Recently, FAIR Health released a report titled “A Window into Primary Care: An Analysis of Private Healthcare Claims,” which analyzes primary care utilization patterns by geography and compares differences in physician versus non-physician care, allowed amounts, telehealth utilization, and behavioral health utilization. The study highlights regional gaps in primary care usage and how this can lead to worse patient health outcomes. Notably, the analysis found that nearly 30% of all patients receiving medical services between 2016 and 2022 did not see a primary care physician (PCP). The study also found that non-physicians treated greater percentages of patients with diagnoses related to mental health or acute respiratory diseases than physicians did.