Tuesday Tidbits

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

STAT News reports that “Nancy Messonnier, a top federal health official involved in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, predicted on Tuesday [in an interview with STAT] that delays in the administration of the shots would improve soon.” (On the bright side, the CDC has begun to update its COVID-19 vaccinations site daily. Around 275,000 initial doses were administered yesterday.) Furthermore

During the discussion Tuesday, Messonnier said she hoped the supply of vaccine would expand greatly in the spring, a time when the shots could be made more widely available to the general public, not just people with certain jobs or health conditions. But making the vaccine is only one step: successfully inoculating the vast majority of the population will require major efforts to educate the public, to build out accessible sites where people can easily get vaccinated, and to ensure individual people show up when it’s their turn to get the shot.

Health Payer Intelligence updates on how three large payers “extended temporary COVID-19 benefits in 2021.” Technically the COVID-19 public health emergency period expires on January 21, 2021, but unquestionably the federal government will extend that period for another 90 days before then.

Under the Affordable Care Act, effective January 1, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force A and B recommendations made two years earlier become eligible for health plan in-network coverage with no member cost-sharing. If you pick out from the USPSTF list those recommendations that received an A or B grade in 2019, you will find ten recommendations that are eligible for “no additional cost” coverage in 2021. Fierce Healthcare provides insights into how health plan members can take advantage of one of those 2019 recommendations -“The USPSTF recommends that clinicians offer preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with effective antiretroviral therapy to persons who are at high risk of HIV acquisition.”

On the OPM front, Federal News Network lets us know that

Federal employees who forfeited vacation time in excess of the usual annual leave carryover limit at the end of 2020 may be able to get some of those days back for use later this year, thanks to a policy in the new annual defense authorization law. The Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday issued detailed guidance covering the new annual leave policy and instructed agencies to implement it.

On the mergers and acquisitions front —

  • Fierce Healthcare reports that “Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan officially combined Jan. 1. The deal, announced in August 2019, comes about a decade after the organizations attempted to merge in 2011. * * * The combined Massachusetts organization will serve 2.4 million members. Both the Tufts and Harvard Pilgrim brands will be in the market for a period of time, the organizations said.”
  • Healthcare Dive reports that health insurer “Centene has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Phoenix, Arizona-based Magellan Health for $2.2 billion, or $95 per share, the payer said Monday. Magellan will operate independently under the Centene umbrella. Executives said the combination will result in one of the nation’s largest behavioral health platforms as the two will provide behavioral services to about 41 million members in the U.S. The deal also boosts Centene’s already established footprint in government sponsored health plans with the addition of 5.5 million lives and another 2.2 million to add to its pharmacy benefit management platform.