THIS WEEK’S DOSE
With the elections only a few weeks away, both parties are focusing on broad messaging to voters, with Democrats touting reproductive health and access concerns and Republicans keeping up the drumbeat on the state of the economy and inflation. We expect little action in Congress until both chambers return in November.
Lawmakers Write to DEA, SAMHSA on Opioid Treatment Flexibilities. On October 14, Reps. Kuster (D-NH) and Trahan (D-MA) sent a letter to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) requesting the extension of temporary telehealth flexibilities for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
The letter states that telehealth flexibilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed providers to respond to opioid use disorder, including the ability to quickly start buprenorphine to address withdrawal symptoms. The letter also notes that the currently unpredictable future of coverage for audio-only telehealth for buprenorphine initiation creates additional barriers for patients and uncertainty for healthcare professionals.
The lawmakers request that DEA and SAMHSA take the following actions:
- Consider that telehealth flexibilities be granted in accordance with the declaration of a public health emergency for the opioid crisis
- Evaluate long-term policy for flexibilities based on the utilization and effectiveness of audio-only telehealth in relation to medication-assisted treatment
- Detail a projected timeline regarding rulemaking for audio-only telecommunications for the initiation of buprenorphine for treatment of opioid use disorder.
Medicare 340B Payment Update. As we reported last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is ending the nearly 30% Medicare outpatient drug payment cut for 340B hospitals for the remainder of 2022. Medicare Administrative Contractors are now indicating that this payment cut reversal will apply for all 2022 claims, not just for claims processed on or after September 28—the date the cuts were ordered to end. Additional clarity is expected in the final Outpatient Prospective Payment System rule for 2023, which is due to be released in the coming days. Our team will continue to provide updates on this front.
President Releases National Biodefense Strategy. On October 18, President Biden signed the National Security Memorandum-15 (NSM-15) and launched the National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan for Countering Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness, and Achieving Global Health Security.
The strategy seeks to ensure that the United States is prepared for outbreaks from any source—whether naturally occurring, accidental or deliberate in origin—and sets forth objectives related to the following:
- Detecting pandemics and other biological threats
- Preventing outbreaks from becoming epidemics and preventing biological incidents before they happen
- Preparing for pandemics and other biological incidents
- Rapidly responding to outbreaks when they occur
- Recovering from a pandemic or biological incident.
To support the strategy, NSM-15 takes steps to strengthen the coordination of biodefense efforts by centralizing oversight of policy coordination at the White House, and by prioritizing biodefense and the strategy’s implementation in agencies’ annual budgets, among other efforts.
According to a White House fact sheet, the Administration is already implementing key actions in the strategy with existing funding, although fully achieving the strategy’s objectives will require congressional support to provide additional resources. Such resources include a requested $88 billion over five years for pandemic preparedness and biodefense, which the Administration is seeking to have included in the end-of-year funding bill during the upcoming lame duck session.
- CMS published an FAQ document and new presentation on the unwinding of the COVID-19 public health emergency as it relates to Medicaid.
- The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through SAMHSA, announced a new funding opportunity for states to develop and transform certified community behavioral health clinics to address the country’s mental health crisis.
- The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on public health preparedness, focusing on the need for HHS to address Strategic National Stockpile requirements and inventory risks.
- The GAO also issued two reports focused on maternal health: a report on outcomes and disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a report on the availability of hospital-based obstetric care in rural areas.
- The US Surgeon General released a Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being, outlining the foundational role that workplaces should play in promoting the health and well-being of workers and communities, and offering guidelines for organizations to develop, institutionalize, and update policies, processes, and practices that best support workers’ mental health and well-being.
NEXT WEEK’S DIAGNOSIS
Congress remains in recess until after the midterm elections on November 8. Regulatory updates are expected soon, including the release of final payment rules for physicians and hospital outpatient services.
For more information, contact Debra Curtis, Kristen O’Brien or Erica Stocker.
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