What’s Ahead: This Week

Hearings –

  • Tuesday, January 9
    • Senate Finance Committee, “Hearing to Consider the Anticipated Nomination of Alex Michael Azar II, of Indiana, to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.”
    • Senate HELP Committee, “The Opioid Crisis: An Examination of How We Got Here and How We Move Forward.”

 Notable Policy Events –

  • Thursday, January 11 – Friday, January 12
    • Medicare Payment Advisory Committee (MedPAC), “January Public Meeting.” Additional information: http://bit.ly/2m5fB3d


Weekly Wrap-Up: Notable Health Care Developments From Last Week

 Legislative Activity –

  • On January 3, the Senate unanimously passed the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act (S. 925), which would improve the ability of health care professionals to treat veterans through the use of telemedicine. The bill now moves to the House for consideration. Press release: http://bit.ly/2m1UO0s
  • On January 4, Senate Rural Health Caucus Chair Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced the State Offices of Rural Health Reauthorization Act of 2018 (S. 2278), which would provide grants to improve healthcare in rural areas. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qvHLsQ Bill text: http://bit.ly/2qsJDTb
  • On January 5, Congressional Budget Office released a revised cost estimate of the Keep Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act of 2017 (S. 1827), which would extend federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for five years, finding that the legislation would increase the federal deficit by only $0.8 billion over 10 years, which is $7.5 billion less than the original estimate. Analysis: http://bit.ly/2mcDDJs

ACA Market Stabilization & Implementation –

  • On January 3, CMS released a summary report on the result of the medical loss ratio data submitted by health insurance companies to CMS for group and individual market health insurance coverage in 2016, finding that employers received approximately $447 million in rebates in the small group market and $191 million in the large group market, while consumers received $103 million in rebates in the individual market. Report: http://go.cms.gov/2qsXo4q
  • On January 4, Department of Labor released a proposed rule that would expand access to association health plans for small businesses and self-employed individuals. Comments are due by March 6. Press release: http://bit.ly/2lWMbEl Proposed rule: http://bit.ly/2lXKFlg

Medicare –

  • On January 2, CMS announced the launch of an updated data submission system for clinicians participating in the Quality Payment Program, available on qpp.cms.gov. Press release: http://go.cms.gov/2qiR1jS
  • On January 5, CMS released data on Medicare Shared Savings Program accountable care organizations for performance year 2018, finding there are now 561 participants in the model. Data: http://bit.ly/2mcRkZ3

Mental Health and Substance Abuse –

  • On January 2, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a final rule amending the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records regulation, 42 CFR Part 2. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qdBMsC Final rule: http://bit.ly/2qhgryg
  • On January 4, SAMHSA announced it is accepting applications for up to $34 million in grants over the next five years for the Offender Reentry Program, which is intended to expand substance use disorder treatment and related recovery and reentry services to certain sentenced adult offenders/ex-offenders. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qrPCYg
  • Also on January 4, SAMHSA announced it has begun to take steps in implementing the several recommendations from the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qmQQEh
  • On January 5, SAMHSA announced it is accepting applications for up to $18.5 million over the next three years for Networking, Certifying, and Training Suicide Prevention Hotlines and Disaster Distress Helpline cooperative agreements. Applications are due by February 5. Press release: http://bit.ly/2m4HLvf
  • Also on January 5, SAMHSA announced it is accepting applications for up to $2.5 million over five years in grants for the Historically Black College and Universities Center for Excellence in Behavioral Health. Applications are due by February 12. Press release: http://bit.ly/2m3bg0h

Veterans Health –

  • On January 3, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced several actions to improve the timeliness of payments to community providers, including by creating rapid response teams, and by increasing the number of claims processed by 300 percent. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qlaZKI
  • On January 5, VA released a Request for Information (RFI) regarding its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, through which the VA provides certain medical, travel, training and stipend benefits to designated family caregivers of eligible veterans and service members who were seriously injured in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2011. Comments are due by February 5. RFI: http://bit.ly/2m3rx5F

Health IT

  • On January 2, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a proposed rule updating the Rural Health Care Program, which provides subsidies to rural providers for broadband upgrades. The rule also proposes to increase the current cap on funding. Comments are due by February 20. Proposed rule: http://bit.ly/2qlKe9k
  • On January 5, HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released a draft Trusted Exchange Framework, which proposes policies, procedures, and technical standards for advancing interoperability, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. Comments are due by February 18. Press release: http://bit.ly/2m2LpWe Blog post: http://bit.ly/2m2u2VF Framework: http://bit.ly/2m15In8 Additional Information: http://bit.ly/2m31HOW

 Drug and Device Regulation –

  • On January 3, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidance for industry that is intended to streamline and improve aspects of the submission and review of generic drug applications. Comments are due by March 5. Press release: http://bit.ly/2qkqEKm Notice: http://bit.ly/2qo62kC Draft guidance:  http://bit.ly/2qs6RsF

 Misc. –

  • On January 4, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data finding that while the overall infant mortality rate in the U.S. is lower than a decade ago, there is wide variability in mortality rates by state. Report: http://bit.ly/2m2LBVz