National News and Federal Legislative Updates

National News and Federal Legislative Updates

Today’s update touches on a number of healthcare news stories we are seeing at the federal level.

Taking lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden Administration unveiled the strategy the U.S. has planned to prevent (and, if necessary, respond) to global biological threats over the next five years.

The strategy sets out three goals to guide the United States affirmative agenda to advance global health security:

  • The First goal is to strengthen global partnerships. The United States has reportedly expanded its formal global health security partnerships from 19 countries to 50.
  • The second goal of the plan is to commit to achieving health security, which includes transforming financing for global health security.
  • The third goal is to improve links between different health security programs. This includes better integration of global health programs and better integration with other programs such as humanitarian and disaster response, food security, water sanitation, and hygiene.
  • The hope is that, by meeting the goals of this strategy, the world will be better prepared for the next pandemic.

In other news, a recent blog post from the American Hospital Association (AHA) critiqued the national discussion on healthcare price transparency. The post argues that although hospitals report more transparency data than other healthcare entities, calling upon hospitals to release even more data will not “solve the pressing issues” that face the healthcare industry. The blog post argued that existing hospital reporting is extremely costly, time-consuming, and ever-changing and that commercial insurers and drug companies are not held to the same data reporting standards.

In other news, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra spoke at a Senate hearing and urged states to expand Medicaid to improve rural health outcomes. Becerra stated that HHS is doing what it can, so women get good care before delivery, during delivery, and after delivery. Becerra also emphasized the need to ensure the agency’s COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities continue.

Relatedly, Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith also expressed concerns about maternal care deserts caused by hospital closures in her state at the same Senate hearing last week. Senator Smith noted that Mississippi experiences some of the worst maternal health outcomes in the country and often leads the country in infant mortality.

Finally, a recently published study in Health Affairs Scholar reports that telehealth remains underused, and remote patient care is either rarely billed to Medicare or rarely occurs. For example, in 2020, e-visits accounted for just under 1 percent of all managed service codes submitted to Medicare at the height of the pandemic, which later fell to half a percent in 2021 and 2022. The study reports that overall, telehealth remains underutilized, and claims its findings can help alleviate concerns regarding the potential overuse of portal messages and e-visit billing.

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