The Daily Scan

August 21, 2018

Last Updated: 8:50 AM EST

Legislation

  • President Trump urged the Senate last night to pass the STOP Act. This bill amends the Tariff Act of 1930 to make the Postmaster General the consignee (i.e., the entity financially responsible for the receipt of a shipment) for merchandise, excluding documents, imported through the mail into the United States. The Postmaster General must designate licensed customs brokers to file required documents or information for such shipments. Trump tweeted: "It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China. We can, and must, END THIS NOW! The Senate should pass the STOP ACT – and firmly STOP this poison from killing our children and destroying our country. No more delay!" (Twitter.com, Congress.gov)

 

  • U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an amendment to H.R. 6157, the Senate appropriations package for Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, that would stop taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood and other entities that perform abortions. “One of the top priorities for a Republican Congress that professes pro-life values on the campaign trail should be to stop taxpayer funding for abortion providers. This is our chance to turn our words into action, stand up for the sanctity of life, and speak out for the most innocent among us that have no voice,” said Dr. Paul. The amendment contains the same language preventing such spending as the FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill that passed the U.S. House Appropriations Committee in July, and it does not block health care providers that do not perform abortions from continuing to receive federal funding for women’s health services. Affected entities that stop performing abortions would be eligible to have their funding restored. (Paul.Senate.gov: Press Release, Amendment)

 

  • Today, August 21, marks 100 days since the release of President Trump’s American Patients First Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs. According to a press release from HHS, "In the 100 days since May 11, HHS has taken dozens of actions on the four strategies contemplated in the blueprint: increased competition, better negotiation, incentives for lower list prices, and reducing out-of-pocket costs. Together, these actions have helped bring into focus a vision for a more competitive pharmaceutical marketplace. Within these first 100 days, 15 drug companies have reduced list prices, rolled back planned price increases, or committed to price freezes for the rest of 2018. Cutting list prices and rolling back proposed increases in particular are an unprecedented recognition of the fundamental changes going on in drug markets.” (HHS.gov)

Regulation

  • A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Indian Health Service (IHS) shows sizable vacancy rates for clinical care providers in the eight IHS geographic areas where the agency provides substantial direct care to American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) people. The overall vacancy rate for providers—physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives, physician assistants, dentists, and pharmacists—was 25 percent, ranging from 13 to 31 percent across the areas. As a result of the study, GAO recommends that IHS should obtain, on an agency-wide basis, information on temporary provider contractors, including their associated cost and number of full-time equivalents, and use this information to inform decisions about resource allocation and provider staffing. (GAO.gov)

 

Medicare & Medicaid

  • Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded $8.6 million in funding to 30 states and the District of Columbia to provide State insurance regulators with the opportunity to enhance States’ ability to strengthen their respective health insurance markets through innovative measures that support market reforms and consumer protections under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). States can use the funds for activities such as conducting economic analyses and market scans of the State’s health insurance market to improve and expand the number of affordable healthcare coverage options under new flexibilities offered to states by CMS guidance and regulations; and examining plan policies, procedures and claims related data related to access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment services, including opioid treatment services. (CMS.gov)

 

  • A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed that from 2013-2015, Medicare improperly paid hospitals million of dollars for Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy Planning Services. To resolve the issue, OIG recommends that CMS (1) implement an edit to prevent improper payments for IMRT planning services that are billed before (e.g., up to 14 days before) the procedure code for the bundled payment for IMRT planning is billed, which could have saved as much as $25.8 million during our audit period and as much as $5.4 million in the 2 years after our audit period, and (2) work with the Medicare contractors to educate hospitals on properly billing Medicare for IMRT planning services. (OIG.HHS.gov)

Private Sector

  • Anthem, Inc. announced yesterday an arrangement with Walmart to advance the companies’ mutual goals of reducing healthcare costs and providing consumers with increased access to over-the counter (OTC) medicines and services that can improve their health. The Anthem-Walmart program, launching in January 2019, will enable consumers who are enrolled in Anthem’s affiliated Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to use OTC plan allowances to purchase OTC medications and health-related items, such as first aid supplies, support braces, and pain relievers at Walmart’s 4,700 stores and on Walmart.com. The new collaboration is expected to improve access to these items while significantly reducing the out-of-pocket costs for those enrolled in Anthem’s affiliated MA plans. (AnthemInc.com)

 

 

 

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