Current Report Articles
Federal Focus

Federal Focus (July 31, 2020) – 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:

CMS Offers Recording on Use of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources® Standard
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recorded a presentation on how the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources® standard can be used to advance technology to reduce quality reporting burden and increase interoperability for our health care community. The recording and slides for the webinar, Advancing Technology for Quality Reporting at CMS: Burden Reduction and FHIR, are available. The presentation discusses the journey to FHIR® for quality, the benefits of FHIR, implementation plans for electronic quality reporting using FHIR, roadmap goals and stakeholder readiness. CMS also recently collaborated with Health IT Vendors to conduct a pilot implementation of FHIR for quality with a vision to streamline the future of quality submissions across our programs and will share pilot results and next steps.

CMS invites feedback by responding to a FHIR Readiness Poll by Friday, Aug. 31. The deadline was extended from Aug. 8.

CORH Releases Vulnerable Rural Hospital Assistance Program Application And FAQs
The Center for Optimizing Rural Health provides targeted in-depth assistance to rural hospitals and their communities. Each year, CORH works with a cohort of 30 hospitals. The FORHP-funded Vulnerable Rural Hospital Assistance Program application portal, along with FAQs about the program, has been released.

CORH understands how disruptive COVID-19 has been to hospitals. If you are unable to meet the application deadline of Friday, July 31, please send an email with your interest to Include the hospital name(s), the state(s), CAH or PPS (designation), and the number of beds. To learn more about the technical assistance program for rural hospitals, visit CORH's website.

HHS Extends Public Health Emergency
Last week, Alex Azar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, officially extended the national public health emergency authorization for COVID-19 by 90 days. Continuation of the emergency allows an extension of the regulatory changes adopted to help providers manage the crisis. Among other issues, the extension will allow providers continued reimbursement for telehealth and states to collect the enhanced Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage of 6.2%.

Trump Issues Executive Orders on Prescription Drugs
Friday, July 24, President Donald Trump signed four executive orders related to drug pricing and access. Among the changes included in the orders are requirements for pharmacies to pass Medicare Part D program savings along to enrolled seniors and for Federally Qualified Health Centers to pass along their 340B discounts on insulins and epinephrine to patients. In addition, the orders would finalize drug importation rulemaking, authorize the reimportation of drugs made in the U.S., create personal drug reimportation plans through authorized pharmacies and peg Part D pricing to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

July 2020 Hospital Compare Data Updates Now Available
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services updated data on the Hospital Compare website and data with new quality information for the following measure groups:

  • Patient experience of care
  • Timely and effective care,
  • Complications and deaths including surgical complications, infections and 30-day death rates,
  • Unplanned hospital visits,
  • Payment and value of care.

CMS also updated data for the following quality reporting programs:

  • American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program
  • Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model
  • Prospective Payment System-Exempt Cancer Hospital Quality Reporting Program

Additional details are available.

HHS Issues Report on Surprise Billing
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report on surprise billing. It calls for congressional action to implement the surprise billing principles proposed by the Trump administration in May 2019. The report was mandated by a June 2019 Executive Order on transparency of health care prices and quality.

HHS Issues Report on Medicare Telemedicine During COVID-19 Pandemic
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an issue brief on the use of telemedicine in Medicare during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, 43.5% of Medicare primary care visits were delivered via telemedicine; in February, the percentage was only 0.1%. Rural providers had smaller increases in telemedicine growth than their urban counterparts. The report’s authors suggest that the growth of telemedicine was fueled by patient and provider readiness as well as the imperatives of COVID-19 infection control.

BKD to Host CMS Price Transparency Webinar
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finalized regulations that require hospitals to post on the internet shoppable standard charges and charges for all services in a machine readable format. Standard charges are defined as the gross charges, discounted cash prices, payer-specific negotiated charges, and de-identified minimum and maximum negotiated charges. BKD, LLP, is hosting a webinar Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. with further details. Registration is required.

AJPH Paper Examines Rural and Urban Public Health Delivery Systems
The American Journal of Public Health published a paper analyzing data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Public Health Systems examining rural-urban differences in the scope of public health delivery system activities and organizational networks from 2014 through 2018. It provides geographic breakdowns on various characteristics including poverty, unemployment, trends for public health activities and more