Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • Bloomberg reports,
    • “House lawmakers worked over the weekend on a stopgap measure needed to fund the US government beyond a Nov. 17 deadline, Speaker Mike Johnson said.
    • “While Johnson didn’t mention the proposed length of the extension in a Fox News Sunday interview, he has floated a Jan. 15 timeline since being elected speaker in October.
    • “The extension “would allow us time” to continue the appropriations process, which involves bringing 12 spending bills to the House floor for passage, the Louisiana Republican said.”
  • The FEHBlog watched the House Rules Committee pass a rule on the financial services and general government appropriations bill (HR 4664), which means that the bill will be brought to the House floor this week.
  • From the other side of Capitol Hill,
    • “Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, today released the Chairman’s Mark of a legislative package to expand mental health care and substance use disorder services under Medicaid and Medicare, reduce prescription drug costs for seniors at the pharmacy counter, extend essential Medicaid and Medicare provisions that will expire this year, and increase Medicare payments to support physicians and other providers.
    • “The Committee will hold a markup on the legislation on Wednesday, November 8, at 10 a.m.
    • “The Chairman’s Mark can be found here. A section by section can be found here. A CBO analysis can be found here.
    • “Amendments and additional information will be posted here on Tuesday, November 7, after 12 p.m.”
  • The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced,
    • “The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released governmentwide results of the 2023 OPM Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) today. The OPM FEVS is the largest annual survey of government employees in the world that tracks how federal employees view their current work environment, including workforce management, policies, and new initiatives. OPM FEVS is an unmatched government data asset that collects employee feedback from more than 80 executive agencies to assist in driving improvement and supporting the workforce to serve the American people.   
    • “This year’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey highlights that federal employees remain remarkably resilient, increasingly engaged, and value diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the workplace,” said Kiran Ahuja, Director of the Office of Personnel Management. “These encouraging results provide opportunities for agencies to build momentum and support their workforce to leverage workplace flexibilities, continue advancing DEIA, and remain motivated to continue delivering for the American people.”  
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed a new Medicare Advantage Program rule that covers multiple topics.
  • Health Payer Intelligence adds,
    • “Medicare Advantage beneficiaries experience higher quality care and better health outcomes than fee-for-service beneficiaries, according to a report from Harvard and Inovalon.
    • “Researchers used Inovalon’s claims data to assess care quality for people enrolled in Medicare Advantage and those with Medicare fee-for-service between 2015 and 2019.”
  • Healthcare Dive reports,
    • “Healthcare employment growth fell across the board during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some sectors have had more difficulty rebounding than others, according to a new study — especially skilled nursing facilities, which face a controversial federal push for more staffing.
    • “Employment in hospitals increased 0.4% per quarter before the pandemic, but that growth rate shrunk to 0.03% during COVID-19, according to the study published in JAMA. By comparison, employment at skilled nursing facilities was already declining before COVID, dropping at a rate of 0.2% per quarter. During the pandemic, the rate of job losses accelerated to 1.1%.
    • “The Biden administration is seeking to impose mandatory nursing staffing minimums at skilled nursing facilities, or SNFs. The nursing home industry largely opposes the rule, arguing there are not enough workers available to meet the staffing mandate.” 

From the public health and research front,

  • The FEHBlog took the RSV vaccine today. The pharmacist who administered the injection told him the RSV vaccine are expected to be a once-every-decade experience for adults like the Tdap vaccine.
  • American Hospital News informs us,
    • “The more than 11,000 patients who received care during the first 16 months of the Acute Hospital Care at Home initiative had a low mortality rate and minimal complications related to escalations back to the brick-and-mortar hospital, according to a study reported Friday in JAMA Health Forum. CMS launched the initiative in November 2021 to address the COVID-19 public health emergency and concerns about hospital bed capacity. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 extended the CMS initiative through December 2024.
    • “The law also requires hospitals to provide additional data to CMS to monitor the quality of care, and for CMS to undertake a comprehensive study of the AHCAH initiative by September 30, 2024,” the authors note. “This study, data review, and additional monitoring will be important for identifying best practices that support safe and effective inpatient-level care delivered in the home environment.”
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “U.S. hospitals made gains to reduce healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) but saw patient experiences further deteriorate in the latest release of an independent watchdog’s twice-yearly safety report.
    • “According to The Leapfrog Group, the sector has significantly reduced the incidences of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) after reaching five-year highs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • “Specifically, 66% of the almost 3,000 general hospitals polled by the group improved their performance on at least one of the three HAIs. Nineteen percent improved across all three of the infection measures, while 16% either worsened or made no improvement.
    • “Now that we have pre- and post-pandemic data for patient safety measures, we are encouraged by the improvement in infections and applaud hospitals for reversing the disturbing infection spike we saw during the pandemic,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, said in a release.”
  • Here is a link to the Leapfrog Group report.
  • Beckers Hospital Review adds, “A comparison of data from CMS and The Leapfrog Group suggests that a hospital’s strong performance in one national quality rating system does not necessarily mean it will be a top performer in another.”
  • The New York Times Magazine gives us a story about the use of bariatric surgery on teenagers.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Reuters reports,
    • “Cigna is working with an investment bank to evaluate options for its Medicare Advantage business, which could fetch several billions of dollars in a potential divestment, the sources said.
    • “The discussions with interested parties, including other companies and private equity firms, are at an early stage, and Cigna may decide to keep the business, the sources added, requesting anonymity because the matter is confidential.”
  • Per Beckers Hospital Review,
    • “Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente reported $156 million in operating income (0.6% margin) for the third quarter, up from a $75 million operating loss (-0.3% margin) in the third quarter of 2022. 
    • “For the three months ended Sept. 30, Kaiser’s health plan, hospitals and their respective subsidiaries posted $24.9 billion in revenue and $24.7 billion in expenses, compared to $24.3 billion and $24.3 billion, respectively, in the same period of the prior year. 
    • “Net income for the third quarter was $239 million, up from a net loss of $1.5 billion in the third quarter of 2022.”
  • and
    • “As operating margins inch upward, hospitals are trending to profitability. But their performance still isn’t at pre-pandemic levels. 
    • “For the first three quarters of 2023, hospital operating margins were up 19% and operating EBIDA was up 11% compared to the same period last year, according to Kaufman Hall’s October National Hospital Flash Report. Net operating revenue per calendar day saw a 6% increase and even inpatient revenue was up 3%. Compared to 2020, year-to-date operating margins in September were down 2% and operating EBIDA margins were down 9%.”