Tuesday Tidbits

Happy National Doctors’ Day “It is a day to celebrate the contribution of physicians who serve our country by caring for its’ citizens.”

The American Hospital Association reports that

Anticipating possible congressional action to extend the moratorium on the 2% sequester cut to all Medicare payments, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today said it has instructed Medicare administrative contractors to hold all claims with dates of service on or after April 1, 2021, for a short period. The MACs will automatically reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied if necessary, the agency said. 
The Senate last week passed a bill that, among other health care provisions, would eliminate the 2% cut to all Medicare payments, known as sequestration, until the end of 2021. The House is expected to take up the Senate-passed bill the week of April 13 when it returns to Washington D.C.

Bloomberg News informs us that

The World Health Organization’s chief said a mission to study the origins of the coronavirus in China was too quick to dismiss the theory of a lab leak, with the U.S. and other governments joining in criticism of the investigation.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the probe didn’t adequately analyze the possibility of a lab accident before deciding it’s most likely the pathogen spread from bats to humans via another animal. In a briefing to member countries Tuesday, he said he is ready to deploy additional missions involving specialist experts.

“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation,” Tedros said in a statement. The WHO chief has consistently said all lines of inquiry are open, but Tuesday’s comments mark the first time he’s speculated about the possibility of an accidental escape.

The American Medical Association offers a podcast in which Christopher J.L. Murray, MD, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington offers his perspective on the future course of COVID-19 in the U.S. this year.

A physician and health economist whose career has focused on improving health globally by improving health evidence, Dr. Murray outlined these three challenges to making herd immunity a reality and preventing another wave of illness this fall or winter:

Vaccines will not be as effective at preventing infection from the SARS-Co-V-2 B.1.351 variant that emerged in South Africa or the P.1 variant that emerged in Brazil, or future variants.

Not enough individuals will receive the vaccine to achieve herd immunity.

Those who had previous COVID-19 infections from one variant may not have protection from being reinfected with a new variant.

When vaccines were approved, everyone thought the U.S. would get to herd immunity by late summer or the fall because the number of people who have been vaccinated combined with the 20% of Americans who had already been infected and had immunity would push America to the level needed for herd immunity, preventing another wave next winter, Dr. Murray said.

“But if it turns out there isn’t cross-variant immunity, then the only way to get to the point where you don’t have a third wave next winter is through vaccination,” he said.

In related news, Kaiser Health News reports that “A new poll of attitudes toward covid vaccinations shows Americans are growing more enthusiastic about being vaccinated, with the most positive change in the past month occurring among Black Americans.”

Closing tidbits —

  • Fierce Healthcare identifies the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “payment models the Biden administration has pulled for review or delayed.”
  • Health Payer Intelligence discusses large insurer platforms designed to help their self-funded customers coordinate their health benefit offerings.