Friday Factoids

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From Washington DC

  • The Wall Street Journal reports
    • “President Biden said negotiators were closing in on a deal to cut spending and raise the $31.4 trillion debt limit, seeking to overcome final hurdles on issues regarding the budget as well as requiring more people to work to receive federal benefits.
    • “He said talks are “very close” to reaching an agreement and that he was hopeful that there could be a breakthrough as soon as later on Friday. “I hope we’ll have some clear evidence tonight, before the clock strikes 12, that we have a deal,” he said as he departed the White House for Camp David on Friday evening.
    • “Negotiators are hoping to strike a deal soon in order to set up votes on the legislation next week. The Treasury Department, which is currently using extraordinary measures to avoid exceeding the debt ceiling, estimated Friday that the government could run out of money to pay its bills if Congress doesn’t act by June 5.
    • “Treasury had previously put the deadline as early June, saying it could come as soon as June 1. Any legislation would likely take at least several days to pass both the House and Senate.
  • Govexec tells us
    • “The federal government’s HR agency on Wednesday unveiled new guidance aimed at standardizing and revitalizing employee assistance programs across the federal government, an effort officials said would prioritize employee wellness and improve productivity.
    • “Like many private sector employers, federal agencies often offer employees access to employee assistance programs, which provide services related to maintaining one’s mental and physical health, as well as resources related to substance use issues.
    • “The Office of Personnel Management, spurred by a provision of President Biden’s management agenda tasking agencies with promoting “awareness of employee well-being and [supporting] initiatives that extend beyond the workplace,” underwent a year-long effort to design a “standardized approach” to employee wellness programs, consulting with focus groups, health experts and vendors who provide assistance programs to employers.
    • “The result is a 19-page guidance document for agencies to reassess their assistance program offerings and, if necessary, expand them.
  • The FEHBlog wonders why OPM silos its various benefit programs rather than integrate them to get more bang for the buck.

From the healthcare costs front —

  • Milliman has released its 2023 Medical Index. Milliman estimates the healthcare cost for a hypothetical family of four enrolled in a hypothetical PPO plan is $31,065, a 5.6% increase over 2022.
  • The Medical Group Management Association issued its 2023 Physician Compensation and Productivity Benchmarks.
    • “Productivity remained relatively flat or only slightly increased relative to pre-pandemic benchmarks, with the biggest change in work RVUs posted in dermatology, hematology/oncology, and family medicine (without OB). 
    • “The growth in median total compensation for primary care physicians (PCPs) doubled from 2021 (2.13%) to 2022 (4.41%), but was outpaced by inflation at 7% and 6.5%, respectively. 
    • “Surgical and nonsurgical specialists saw their change in median total compensation cool slightly in 2022, dropping from 3.89% for surgical specialists in 2021 to 2.54% in 2022, and from 3.12% for nonsurgical physicians in 2021 to 2.36% in 2022. 
    • “APPs [advanced practice providers]— who saw the biggest change in median total compensation from pre-pandemic levels — saw their 2022 growth ebb slightly to 3.70%, down from 3.98% growth in 2021.” 

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Beckers Hospital Review points out
    • “There are 293 rural hospitals at immediate risk of closure due to inflation, staffing shortages and other financial stress, according to the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform
    • “Hospitals at immediate risk of closure have lost money on patient services for multiple years, excluding 2020 during the pandemic, and aren’t likely to receive sufficient funds to cover the losses with public assistance ending, according to the report. These hospitals also have low reserves and more debt than assets.”
  • MedCity News relates
    • “The pandemic prompted a great need for technology-enabled care delivery, so the regulations surrounding reimbursement for these services were tossed out the window in 2020. Now that the public health emergency has ended, the healthcare industry has to figure out how it is going to pay for digital health services going forward.
    • “It’s clear that services like telehealth and remote patient monitoring have potential to provide value, but hospitals and digital health companies need to show payers clearer evidence of the outcomes these care modalities can produce, panelists argued during a Wednesday session at MedCity News’ INVEST conference in Chicago.” 
  • STAT News adds market perspective on the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of Paxlovid, announced yesterday.
    • “The full approval for treating adults at high risk of progression to severe disease will help Pfizer expand its marketing campaign. U.S. officials plan to work through much of the government’s Paxlovid inventory, which is available for free at pharmacies around the country, before moving to a normal commercial market for the drug. Pfizer has sold the U.S. government nearly 24 million courses at around $530 a course, but it is not clear yet what price the company will charge.”

From the interoperability front —

  • The Pharmacy Times tells us
    • “Integrating Immunization Information Systems (IIS) vaccination records into claims data (collected by health insurers) increased the number of people identified as being vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the results of a study published in JAMA Network Open. Having accurate COVID-19 vaccination data is important for future COVID-19 vaccine studies that capture efficacy and safety, according to the study.
    • “When claims data were supplemented with IIS vaccination records, the proportion of participants with at least one vaccine dose rose from 32.8% to 48.1%. And when IIS vaccine records were included with claims data, the percentage of people who completed a vaccine series increased from 24.4% to 41.9%, varying by state.”
  • Per FCW
    • The Food and Drug Administration is looking to develop standardized “supersets of data” and improve data interoperability, analysis and management across the agency, an official said on Wednesday. 
    • The agency is planning to gather information and seek public input on the use of real-world data in its decision-making processes, according to Jose Galvez, deputy director for the office of strategic programs of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. 
    • Galvez said at the Professional Services Council 2023 FedHealth Summit that the FDA is set to release a Federal Register notice “very shortly” to gain industry input on evaluating new types of data analysis.