Tuesday Tidbits

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The Hill reports on the House leadership’s strategy for the COVID-19 relief bill.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday sought to heighten the pressure on Republicans to move a new round of coronavirus relief, announcing that the House will return to the Capitol next month to vote on another aid package if a bipartisan agreement is struck before the elections. * * *

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that most lawmakers will likely return to their districts when the scheduled session ends on Oct. 2, leaving party leaders seeking to hash out an agreement with the White House. If such a deal emerges, then members would be called back to Washington. In that sense, the dynamics would look very similar to those surrounding the long August recess, when the Capitol was virtually empty.

We must remember in this regard that the House can now vote virtually.

The House Problem Solvers Caucus which is truly bipartisan has offered its own COVID-19 relief proposal. The New York Times explains that

Lawmakers had acknowledged that the plan was unlikely to become law. But in unveiling it, the group sought to signal to Ms. Pelosi and the lead White House negotiators — Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary — that there was ample common ground to be found in talks that have been dormant for weeks.

Health Payer Intelligencer reports that UnitedHealthcare has teamed up with Canopy Health to offer a concierge style health plan known as the California Doctors Plan to San Francisco area employers. “The payer projects that members will save up to 25 percent compared to other health plan premiums. Also, plan members will have no copay for primary care services and urgent care.” The FEHBlog enjoys reading about creative plan designs.

The HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has announced today that

the National Steering Committee for Patient Safety released Safer Together: A National Action Plan To Advance Patient Safety, which is the result of 2 years of work by 27 steering committee members who represent a diverse group of organizations and individuals, including healthcare systems, Federal agencies, provider associations, accrediting organizations, and patient advocates. Our goal was to provide healthcare system leaders with renewed momentum and clearer direction for reducing medical harm. Especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, this national action plan and a companion implementation resource guide provide the latest implementation tactics, tools, and resources in a format that’s ready for immediate implementation. These important new resources are built on four foundational areas: culture, leadership, and governance; patient and family engagement; workforce safety; and learning systems.

This worthy initiative is certainly worth a gander.

In COVID-19 news

  • The National Institutes of Health have determined that substance use disorders (SUD) are linked to COVID-19 susceptibility.

By analyzing the non-identifiable electronic health records (EHR) of millions of patients in the United States, the team of investigators revealed that while individuals with an SUD constituted 10.3% of the total study population, they represented 15.6% of the COVID-19 cases. The analysis revealed that those with a recent SUD diagnosis on record were more likely than those without to develop COVID-19, an effect that was strongest for opioid use disorder, followed by tobacco use disorder. Individuals with an SUD diagnosis were also more likely to experience worse COVID-19 outcomes (hospitalization, death), than people without an SUD.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) will begin working with Siemens Healthineers to help standardize international antibody tests for COVID-19. This will include defining the proper concentrations of antibodies in the bloodstream—mapped to the novel coronavirus’s specific proteins—that could one day be used to establish the clinical threshold for a test to correctly determine whether a person is immune to the disease.

Finally, HHS’s Office for Civil Rights which enforces the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules announced four settlements with different healthcare provider organizations over allegations of their non-compliance with HIPAA Privacy Rule requirements to give individuals access to their own health records.

“Patients can’t take charge of their health care decisions, without timely access to their own medical information,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “Today’s announcement is about empowering patients and holding health care providers accountable for failing to take their HIPAA obligations seriously enough,” Severino added.

How true.

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