Midweek Update

FYI this is the 3,001st FEHBlog column since 2006. My how time does fly.

The Wall Street Journal reports tonight that

Democratic leaders signaled Wednesday they were prepared to reduce their demands for the next round of coronavirus relief, fueling hopes that an agreement could be reached with Republicans by year’s end to boost struggling businesses and households.

Congressional leaders have been mired in disagreements for months. In a sign that the partisan standoff was easing, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said that a new, bipartisan $908 billion relief proposal released Tuesday should serve as the starting point for talks with GOP leaders and the White House. 

If a compromise is reached, those COVID-19 relief provisions would be included in the omnibus spending bill for the current federal fiscal year which must pass before December 12. The only alternative would be to pass a short term funding bill in order to punt the COVID-19 relief provisions into the next Congress which begins on January 3, 2021.

The Journal explains that “Few lawmakers want to linger in the Capitol beyond what is necessary. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said Wednesday that congressional leaders hoped to finish up by the end of next week to give lawmakers time to quarantine before Christmas.” How 2020 is that?

The Centers for Disease Control released updated guidance today on COVID-19 quarantine periods (approaches to reducing the quarantine period for 14 to 10 days) and domestic holiday travel (don’t do it).

A friend of the FEHBlog shared this interesting Health and Human Services infographic on COVID-19 testing in our country.

This friend also pointed out this news about

A free online course developed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on the basics of contact tracing has enrolled more than one million people over the past six months, teaching hundreds of thousands of individuals around the world how to deploy an epidemiological tool considered critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The six-hour course, COVID-19 Contact Tracing, is hosted by Coursera and is open to anyone. Since its launch in May, it has attracted participants from every U.S. state and territory as well as more than 150 countries around the world. To date, more than 520,000 people have completed the course.

Pretty cool effort.

The Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research informs us about its partnership with Google to develop

a new online tool to help patients plan for medical visits. The new Google visit planning tool is built on the same evidence behind AHRQ’s QuestionBuilder app. It makes it easy for patients and those who care for them to privately list and prioritize their questions in preparation for a medical visit. When people use Google to search for a healthcare provider, they will have the option to create their own private visit plan.

Asking the right questions—and making sure you understand the answers—has always been at the heart of AHRQ’s “Questions Are the Answer” public education initiative. Launched in 2007 through a series of public service announcements with the Ad Council, the Questions Are the Answer message highlights the vital role patients and families play as part of their healthcare team.

That’s a helpful tidbit for health plans to share with their members.