Current Report Articles
Federal Focus

Federal Focus (July 3, 2020) – CDC Begins Preparations for New Swine Flu Viruses
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month said it is taking steps to prepare for the possible spread of H1N1 swine influenza viruses. The group of viruses, labeled “G4” Eurasian avian-like H1N1 viruses, are believed to be highly adaptable for human infection. CDC said it is taking a number of actions to monitor and prepare against this emerging public health threat, including the following:

  • Coordinating with public health partners in China, including requesting a virus sample
  • Assessing the risk of the virus causing a pandemic using CDC’s Influenza Risk Assessment Tool
  • Evaluating whether an existing candidate vaccine virus against a closely related flu virus (called “G5”) would protect against this virus
  • If needed, creating a new candidate vaccine virus specific to G4 viruses
  • Studying whether existing flu antiviral drugs offer protection against this group of viruses

CMS Selects Hospitals for eCQM Validation
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services selected the hospitals for validation of electronic clinical quality measures for fiscal year 2022 payment determination. The calendar year 2019 quarters eligible for validation for FY 2022 payment determination are first quarter 2019 through fourth quarter 2019. The list of selected hospitals is available on QualityNet. Additional information is available.

HHS Partners with Morehouse to Fight COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority and Vulnerable Communities
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health announced the selection of the Morehouse School of Medicine for a new $40 million initiative to fight COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority, rural and socially vulnerable communities. The Morehouse School of Medicine will enter into a cooperative agreement with OMH to lead the initiative to coordinate a strategic network of national, state, territorial, tribal and local organizations to deliver COVID-19-related information to communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

ONDCP Offers Webinar Addressing Concurrent Opioid and CNS Depressant Medications
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is highlighting the availability of clinical tools for safe prescribing of opioids and central nervous system depressants. During this webinar, federal officials will share the risks associated with the co-use of opioids and CNS depressants. Safe prescribing includes appropriate patient selection, medication selection and dosage, as well as coordination of prescriptions between multiple providers to limit the co-prescribing of opioids and CNS depressant medications to only clinically necessary situations. The webinar will be held Tuesday, July 21 at noon CST. Register by Tuesday, July 14.

AAMC Projects Significant Physicians Shortage
New research from the Association of American Medical Colleges finds the potential shortfall of physicians is expected to range from 54,100 to 139,000 by 2033. The area of most significant shortage is among primary care physicians, where a deficit of between 21,400 to 55,200 providers is expected. Demographics within the physician community and among the population are contributing to the problem, including physician retirements and an aging population's growing demand for health services. COVID-19 is influencing the workforce at the same time, hastening some retirements and disrupting physician education. Although the report does not specifically cover the role of physician extenders like APRNs and PAs, the policy changes driven by COVID-19 may lead to sustainable changes that could mitigate the influence of the physician shortage in the future.

CMS Suspends Nursing Home Waiver on Staffing Data
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released new guidance for nursing homes on quality measure data reporting and staffing. The agency announced it is suspending a waiver, which will require facilities to resume submitting staffing data. In addition, star ratings and quality data on the Nursing Home Compare website will reflect data collected through Dec. 31, 2019, and will be held constant beginning July 29, 2020.

CMS Proposes CY 2021 Payment and Policy Updates for Home Health Agencies
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the proposed home health payment and policy updates for calendar year 2021. CMS projects that the update will increase payments to home health agencies by 2.6 percent or $540 million. The proposed rule also includes policies to implement Medicare enrollment for qualified home infusion therapy suppliers and updates to the CY 2021 home infusion therapy services payment rates paid under the CY 2021 physician fee schedule. CMS is proposing to permanently finalize amendments to the home health regulations outlined in the March 30, 2020, policy and regulatory provisions in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Interim Rule. This will allow home health agencies to continue to utilize telecommunications technologies in providing care to beneficiaries under the Medicare home health benefit. Comments about the proposed rule will be due 60 days after the date of filing in the Federal Register.

MLN Connects Provider eNews Available
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issues updates to MLN Connects Provider eNews. eNews includes information about national provider calls, meetings, events, announcements and other MLN educational product updates. The latest issue provides updates and summaries of the following:

  • Medicare diabetes prevention program: become a Medicare enrolled supplier
  • Preview reports: review your data by July 18
    • IRF
    • LTCH
  • Trump administration issues call to action based on new data detailing COVID-19 impacts on Medicare beneficiaries

CMS Releases Specifications Manual for National Hospital Inpatient Quality Measures Version 5.9
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services posted version 5.9 of the Specifications Manual for National Hospital Inpatient Quality measures to QualityNet. Version 5.9 is for implementation with acute inpatient discharges from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2021.