Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

Bloomberg reports that “[COVID-19 relief bill] talks over the weekend and on Monday have not made enough progress to release final details yet, according to congressional aides.” “Senate Republican leaders made clear Monday evening that the package must have liability reforms [to protect businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits] that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell supports in order for Republicans to consider any state and local aid [which is a Democrat priority]. Accordingly as Forbes reports, “The House [of Representatives] will vote on a one-week stopgap spending bill Wednesday, pushing back a looming December 11 government shutdown deadline to give lawmakers more time to come to an agreement on a new coronavirus relief package.”

The FEHBlog is attending the American Bar Association’s virtual Washington Health Law Summit (“WLS”) which runs from today through Wednesday. (Ermer & Suter is a bronze sponsor.) He heard one of the speakers tout the Health Care Cost Institutes’s Healthy Marketplace Index.

Using nearly 2.5 billion commercial claims from 2013 to 2017, HCCI tracks drivers of health care spending across 124 U.S. cities through the Healthy Marketplace Index (HMI) project. Our full report presents an interactive exploration of each HMI metric and a deep dive into each metro area. Collectively, they comparing how spending drivers varied across and even within cities, as well as over time

HMI is easy to navigate, and the information is on point but somewhat dated. Not bad for free though.

TechRepublic courageously offers seven predictions for how technology will shape healthcare next year. One of the predictions is continued demand for telehealth. One of the WLS speakers sagely commented about the public health importance of mental health services provided by telehealth She noted that while four out of five doctors in medical / surgical practices join health plan networks, only one out of five psychiatrists and psychologists join those networks. Telemedicine makes the in-network psychiatrists and psychologists more widely available. That’s an important consideration.

Another WLS speaker predicted that Congress will pass a big infrastructure bill next year that will include healthcare priorities such as expanding reliable internet access in rural areas of the country in order to facilitate telehealth there.

Fierce Healthcare reports that

While the continued climb of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is pushing many Americans’ resiliency to the limits, there are signs that some are adapting to the challenging circumstances, a new study from Cigna shows.

Daniel Ober, M.D., chief medical officer for Cigna Global Health Benefits, told Fierce Healthcare that because the U.S. never really entered a lull in the pandemic that allowed it to reopen the way some other regions did, many Americans have “adapted somewhat” to life under COVID-19. For example, people who are unwilling to wear masks in public, as is recommended by experts, are largely an exception to the rule, not the norm, he said. “We’re adapting to this new normal and will continue to do so,” he said.

It’s nice to read encouraging news on this first Monday in a while without big COVID-19 vaccine news. The FDA committee considers the Pfizer BioNTech application for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.