Weekend Update

From Washington, DC

  • The House of Representatives and the Senate continue to engage in Committee business and floor voting this week. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reminds us
    • The [current continuing resolution (CR)] measure extends the “laddered” approach from the previous CR, with the first set of appropriations bills expiring on Friday, March 1: Agriculture, Energy-Water, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD (these were previously set to expire Jan. 19). The second set of appropriations bills would expire a week later, on Friday, March 8: Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Financial Services-General Government, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, Legislative Branch, and State-Foreign Operations bills (these were previously set to expire Feb. 2).”
  • On February 1, The Government Accountability Office
    • issue[d] a new revision of the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards, also known as the “Yellow Book,” which supersedes the 2018 revision of the standards. The Yellow Book is the book of standards and guidance for government auditing—outlining the requirements that make for effective, quality audits when reviewing government programs and spending. It’s used by our federal government auditors here at GAO, as well as federal, state and local auditors; inspectors general; and auditors of entities that receive government awards. 
  • The February 1 WatchBlog post takes a closer look at this important guidance and GAO’s updates.
  • Independent auditors base their audits of experience rated FEHB plans on the Yellow Book and related OPM guidance.
  • Last Tuesday, the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare (AAAHC) released its updated FEHB Accreditation Handbook. Employee organization plans in the FEHB Program are accredited by AAAHC.
  • Reg Jones, writing in FedWeek, offers primers on annual leave and sick leave for federal and postal employees.

From the public health front,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • “Medical centers are starting programs to identify patients’ chances of cognitive decline and recommend ways to delay or prevent it. Most patients are in their 40s to 60s; some clinics take patients as young as 18. Insurance covers some services, otherwise tests and visits can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
    • “Doctors in these clinics counsel patients to make personalized lifestyle changes, such as building resistance training into workouts or eating more leafy greens. They also recommend medications to treat conditions linked to Alzheimer’s risk, such as statins for high cholesterol. There’s no guarantee of preventing the disease or other forms of dementia, however, and some doctors are skeptical of these programs. * * *
    • “If every primary-care doctor in every primary-care practice did prevention well, then this program may not need to exist,” says Dr. Zaldy Tan, who heads the new Memory & Healthy Aging Program at Cedars-Sinai. “But we know that that doesn’t happen.” 
  • MedTech Dive tells us,
    • Medical devices patients can use at home, such as infusion pumps and ventilators, are the top health technology hazard of 2024, a nonprofit patient safety organization said Wednesday.
    • ECRI named at-home devices as the top hazard in response to examples of harms such as medication errors with the use of infusion pumps that suggest products “may be too complex for laypeople to use safely and effectively.”
    • The group identified inadequate or onerous device cleaning instructions as the second biggest hazard of the year, reflecting evidence that reprocessing failures can spread infections.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Per BioPharma Dive,
    • “Arch Venture Partners, one of the biotechnology sector’s most prolific company creators, is raising a new $3 billion fund, according to a regulatory filing.
    • “The fund, which would be Arch’s 13th, is being put together less than two years after the firm closed a similar-sized $3 billion raise that was its largest to date. Plans were outlined in a filing Arch made this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The form was signed by Arch managing director and CFO Mark McDonnell.
    • “Arch declined to comment on the filing.”
  • The New York Times reports
    • “A sharp shift in health care [spending?] is taking place as more than one-third of American adults now supplement or substitute mainstream medical care with acupuncture, meditation, yoga and other therapies long considered alternative.
    • “In 2022, 37 percent of adult pain patients used nontraditional medical care, a marked rise from 19 percent in 2002, according to research published this week in JAMA. The change has been propelled by growing insurance reimbursement for clinical alternatives, more scientific evidence of their effectiveness and an increasing acceptance among patients.
    • “It’s become part of the culture of the United States,” said Richard Nahin, the paper’s lead author and an epidemiologist at the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health. “We’re talking about the use for general wellness, stress management use, sleep, energy, immune health.”
    • “And for pain management. The use of yoga to manage pain rose to 29 percent in 2022 from 11 percent in 2002, an increase that Dr. Nahin said reflected in part efforts by patients to find alternatives to opiates, and the influence of media and social media.”
  • Fortune Well adds,
    • “According to the Global Wellness Summit’s 2024 trends report from the Global Wellness Institute, which combines research and insights from experts in the field—including scientists, CEOs, and academics—the wellness market is surging. And it’s not expected to slow down anytime soon. 
    • “The U.S. tops the global list of countries for spending on wellness, amassing an annual market of $1.8 trillion, up 14% since 2020. On average, people in the U.S. spend $5,321 per year on wellness, coming in 5th behind the Seychelles, Switzerland, Iceland, and Aruba.”