Monday Roundup

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On the OPM front, Govexec informs us that

The Office of Personnel Management on Monday announced that it agrees with the vast majority of recommendations posed by a recent study on the future of the agency and is incorporating much of that report’s findings into its strategic plan and budget requests.

In March, the National Academy of Public Administration released its long-awaited report on how to modernize OPM * * * .

OPM said that many of NAPA’s recommendations have already been incorporated into the agency’s fiscal 2022-2026 strategic plan and will be used as the agency develops its fiscal 2023 budget request, which is due to the Office of Management and Budget in October. The new strategic plan will not be public until February 2023, coinciding with the release of President Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget proposal.

In a statement, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said she will ensure the agency is focused on implementing policies that reaffirmed OPM as a strong and independent leader in governmental human resources.

Good luck with that effort. It seems like yesterday that OPM released its last five year strategic plan.

On the Delta variant front, The Wall Street Journal reports today that

A surge in Covid-19 deaths caused by the highly contagious Delta variant is hitting working-age people hard while highlighting the risks for people who remain unvaccinated.

Federal data show Covid-19 deaths among people under 55 have roughly matched highs near 1,800 a week set during last winter’s surge. These data show weekly tallies for overall Covid-19 deaths, meanwhile, remain well under half of the pandemic peak near 26,000 reached in January. * * *

Older Americans still account for the most Covid-19 deaths, but their higher vaccination rates have helped hold down the numbers. About 54% of the overall U.S. population and 63% of eligible people ages 12 and above are fully vaccinated, while the average among nursing homes is 84% for their residents, federal data show.

On the COVID vaccination front —

  • David Leonhardt in the New York Times offers helpful information for folks who have received the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • Medscape tells us that “Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be authorized for ages 5-11 by the end of October, according to Reuters.”

On the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate front —

Federal News Network reports that

Federal employees have until Nov. 22 to be fully vaccinated in accordance with the president’s new mandate, the Biden administration said Monday.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, led by the White  House COVID-19 Response Team, the Office of Personnel Management and General Services Administration, offered up a few more details on what agencies and employees should expect from the president’s new vaccine executive order.

“Federal executive branch employees must be fully vaccinated, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to a reasonable accommodation,” the task force said in a series of updated “model safety principles” released Monday. “Agencies must work expeditiously so that their employees are fully vaccinated as quickly as possible and by no later than Nov. 22, 2021.”

The task force said it’s preparing additional guidance on how agencies should implement the president’s new executive order and will issue it “soon.”

Govexec tells us that “The U.S. Postal Service is not committing to implementing any COVID-19 vaccine mandate—full or partial—for its workforce, with an agency spokesman saying officials will first need to see the fine print of new requirements President Biden has issued.”

On the health equity front —

  • Healthcare Finance News reports that seventeen national healthcare organizations sent a letter “urging Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to move forward on alternative payment models as part of its strategy to achieve health equity. [T]he groups [letter] underscored how APMs routinely leverage multidisciplinary approaches to care, assess social risk, partner with community organizations to increase access to nonmedical services and leverage data to improve disparities in patient outcomes.”
  • Health IT Analytics discusses the value including social determinants of health data in artificial intelligence applications. “According to New York University researchers, machine learning can accurately predict cardiovascular disease and guide physicians to select treatment options. However, by factoring social determinants of health into the equation, providers can better serve diverse groups.”

In other healthcare news —

  • HHS’s “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is awarding more than $123 million in funding through six grant programs to provide multifaceted support to communities and health care providers as the Nation continues to combat the overdose epidemic.”

Policymakers have introduced proposals to combat high and rising hospital prices, but focusing on high-concentration markets likely misses the mark.

The majority of high-price hospitals are active in markets that meet federal definitions of low or moderate concentration, according to a recently published commercial claims review.

As such, price regulation policy proposals that specifically target concentrated hospital markets would only impact a minority of hospitals charging the highest prices for their services, Harvard-affiliated researchers wrote in Health Affairs.

Policymakers would instead be more effective if they focused their interventions directly on limiting high provider prices without regard to a hospital’s surrounding market, researchers wrote.

“Policymakers could start with modest approaches, such as capping the highest prices, tracking outcomes and gradually pushing the caps downward, and monitoring trade-offs between savings and any unintended consequences for access or quality,” they wrote.

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