Monday Roundup

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From the Capitol Hill front, Roll Call reports

President Joe Biden and top Democrats have agreed to a GOP demand to disentangle a stalled COVID-19 response package from a separate supplemental request for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine so the latter can move more quickly.  * * *

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t reject the outlines of the Democrats’ offer in brief remarks Monday. “It may adjust some in the process, but we need to do it quickly,” McConnell told Punchbowl, while adding he was pleased that COVID-19 funds and an immigration-related dispute that tangled up the pandemic relief bill would be handled separately.

A separate, bipartisan $10 billion aid package for the ongoing pandemic response effort has been held up for a month due to a dispute over the so-called Title 42 program that allows migrants to be turned away at the border to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Biden has proposed to end the Trump-era program as of May 23, which Republicans and several Senate Democrats have said they oppose without alternatives in place to stem the expected surge of migrants.

From the Omicron and siblings front, the Centers for Disease Control has updated its long Covid website. The CDC explains

What You Need to Know

Post-COVID conditions can include a wide range of ongoing health problems; these conditions can last weeks, months, or years.

Post-COVID conditions are found more often in people who had severe COVID-19 illness, but anyone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience post-COVID conditions, even people who had mild illness or no symptoms from COVID-19.

People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected may also be at higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions compared to people who were vaccinated and had breakthrough infections.

There is no single test for post-COVID conditions. While most people with post-COVID conditions have evidence of infection or COVID-19 illness, in some cases, a person with post-COVID conditions may not have tested positive for the virus or known they were infected.

CDC and partners are working to understand more about who experiences post-COVID conditions and why, including whether groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are at higher risk.

From the SDOH front, STAT News tells us

Widely used physician guidelines that ignore patients’ race and ethnicity could be doing more harm than good when it comes to catching diabetes in people of color. New research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday, suggests that people from certain racial and ethnic groups should be screened for diabetes at lower body mass index than non-Hispanic white people — a recommendation that contradicts recent guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force.

It’s an admittedly tricky proposition, to reaffirm the role of race and ethnicity at a time when medicine is trying to rid itself of race-based tools — such as an algorithm used to assess kidney function — that have contributed to the large health disparities in the United States. The paper’s authors recognized as much in interviews with STAT.

They argue, however, that using a one-size-fits-all approach to screening, when diabetes is two to four times more prevalent and more deadly in Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, is likely to result in underdiagnosis of the disease, and widen health gaps.

From the healthcare business front, Fierce Healthcare informs us

Telehealth giant Amwell saw telehealth visits grow to 1.8 million in the first quarter of 2022, up 16% compared to the tail end of 2021 and up about 11% from 1.6 million virtual care visits during the same time last year.

The total number of active providers using its virtual care platform grew to around 102,000 during the quarter, up 25% compared to 81,000 a year ago. * * *

Amwell has been making significant investments in its new virtual care platform, Converge. Announced in April, Converge makes all of Amwell’s products and programs, plus third-party applications, available in one place. * * *

The company is in the process of migrating its customers over to the new platform. About 10% of the company’s virtual visits occurred through Converge in the first quarter, up 40% compared to the fourth quarter, said Ido Schoenberg, chief executive officer. The first wave of upgrades will focus on hospital systems and then move to health plans, executives said. 

“The market increasingly appreciates that automation is a compelling new element of digital healthcare and they require a trusted partner to provide integrated automation into their care delivery workflows,” he told analysts during the company’s first-quarter earnings call Monday.

Healthcare Dive meanwhile looks back at large health insurers’ reports on first-quarter 2022 earnings.

FedWeek compares annuitant eligibility rules for FEHB vs. FEDVIP and concludes that FEDVIP has more flexible rules. Why not?, considering that FEHB provides a government contribution while FEDVIP is enrollee pay-all. It’s still worth knowing the differences.

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