Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

The Wall Street Journal reports that Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin continue to negotiate over another COVID-19 relief bill. “On Monday afternoon’s call with Democrats, Mrs. Pelosi said the two sides were still discussing how much money to provide state and local governments, child-care facilities and how to structure a national plan for testing and contact tracing of the virus.” The negotiations need to conclude soon if Congress is to have time to consider and pass the compromise bill before the national election which is two weeks from tomorrow.

Healthcare Dive offers a helpful overview of last week’s HLTH conference. Of note:

A slew of government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS and Operation Warp Speed, are working together to generate a vaccine distribution plan in tandem with private sector partners.

Plans for distribution are ongoing but shift as the frontrunners in the vaccine race do, experts say. Different vaccines require different processes. For example, there may be additional costs to store a coronavirus vaccine at cold temperatures, or because some of the candidates require two doses.

“All those things we’re working through to try and understand,” Alan Lotvin, president of CVS’ pharmacy benefit management arm Caremark, said Monday. “It’s going to be different for every vaccine.”

Walgreens, for example, is in regular conversations with five manufacturers in the last stages of clinical tests, the federal government and other retail partners to coordinate a distribution strategy, Gourlay said.

And CMS plans to release a rule before the end of the month for how Medicare will cover an eventual COVID-19 vaccine without cost-sharing, Verma said.

The Healthcare Dive article also discusses back to work technology presented at HLTH. In that regard, HR Daily advisor offers advice on how employers and managers can offer mental health guidance to their remote employees. For example,

Knowing that isolation is a big challenge, companies should look for ways to help their staff feel connected. “Working at home can prove challenging under the best of circumstances,” says Jeanne Hurlbert, PhD, President of Hurlbert Consulting. “Forming virtual work teams can help combat those challenges.”

“Teams can connect by phone or, ideally, through video conferencing, once or twice a day—and this can help to increase productivity. That allows them to provide instrumental support to each other,” Hurlbert adds. “And if your employees remain in the workplace, the same principles hold. The bonus? Our research shows that workers with more coworker connections enjoy higher job satisfaction.”

A friend of the FEHBlog shared this National Institutes of Health press release about “a groundbreaking study that will aim to address gaps in reaching communities most heavily affected by the opioid epidemic with proven, evidence-based interventions for opioid use disorder (OUD),” which as we have seen remains a national public health emergency.”

An estimated 1.6 million people had OUD in 2019; of these, only 18.1% received medication treatment for opioid misuse. To address this gap, in May 2019, the NIH announced plans to invest more than $350 million to support the multi-year HEALing Communities Study, a multi-site research study that will test the impact of an integrated set of evidence-based practices on reducing opioid-related overdose deaths by 40% in three years in communities hard-hit by the opioid crisis.

Study research sites include the University of Kentucky, Lexington; Boston Medical Center; Columbia University, New York City; and Ohio State University, Columbus. The study will track communities as they work to increase the number of individuals receiving medication-based treatment for OUD, increase treatment retention beyond six months, provide recovery support services, expand the distribution of naloxone, a medication to reverse opioid overdose, and reduce high-risk opioid prescribing.