The House of Representatives is engaged in committee work this week which will be followed by three weeks of district work. The Senate will engage in a floor voting, including a confirmation vote on the Secretary of Labor nominee Martin Walsh tomorrow, as well as committee work.
Healthcare Dive reports that
- The House passed a bill Friday to extend the pause on Medicare sequester cuts until Dec. 31. The cuts have been on hold for a year but are set to go back into effect at the end of March.
- The bill passed on a 246-175 bipartisan vote and also exempts the latest $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill from budget rules that would have imposed additional cuts on Medicare payments to providers.
- “We now look forward to working with the U.S. Senate to achieve relief from the pending Medicare sequester cuts before they go into effect,” the American Hospital Association said in a Friday statement.
Medicare sequester cuts tend to boomerang on private sector health plans, including FEHB plans.
Following up on Friday’s Stats and More, the FEHBlog compared new weekly COVID-19 cases and deaths per 100,000 by age groups as of January 2, 2021, and last Wednesday March 17, 2021.
Because the March 17 new deaths rates are not visible in this chart, here are those numbers that the FEHBlog copied from the CDC’s website for last week’s new death statistics by age group
|Week ended 3-17-2021||18-24||25-34||35-54||55-64||65-79||80+|
|New Deaths per 100,000||0||0||0||0||0.01||0.03|
That, my friends, illustrates the work of the COVID-19 vaccines over the past two and half months. The Wall Street Journal reports today
Both the production and administration of shots have picked up in recent weeks. Now, some 2.5 million people in the U.S. are vaccinated daily on average, up from about 500,000 in early January, though many who want a vaccine still can’t get it.
The increased output should be enough to fully vaccinate 76 million people in the U.S. in March, another 75 million in April and then 89 million more in May, according to estimates from Evercore ISI analysts. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses.
By midsummer, 75% of Americans 12 years old and above should be vaccinated, according to Morgan Stanley. The vaccines aren’t currently authorized for anyone younger than 16, but companies may have results this spring for studies of the shots in adolescents 12 and older, which, if positive, could lead to vaccinations for that age group. The companies are also starting to test the vaccines in children younger than 12, but results of those studies aren’t expected until late this year.
Keep your sunny side up.
In other healthcare news:
- Katie Keith in the Health Affairs Blog informs us that the impact of American Rescue Plan’s new ACA marketplace subsidies will be made known to consumers on April 1, 2021.
Enhanced subsidies are available for the entire 2021 plan year to anyone who qualifies and enrolls in marketplace coverage. This includes individuals who enrolled during the 2021 open enrollment period (and have had coverage since January 2021), individuals who enrolled before the American Rescue Plan was enacted (during special enrollment periods in 2021), and individuals who will enroll during the rest of 2021.
Consumers will be able to see the availability of the enhanced subsidies at HealthCare.gov beginning on April 1. But the process to “claim” these enhanced subsidies will look slightly different for new consumers versus existing consumers. (This process will also vary for consumers in states with their own marketplaces, which may adopt policies and timelines that differ from those for HealthCare.gov.)
Just like any other year, individuals can choose to receive all or some of the enhanced PTC in advance (i.e., have it paid to the insurer on their behalf each month) or wait to receive PTC at tax time in 2022 (i.e., while paying full premiums to the insurer each month). Because the cost of health insurance is so high for so many people, most marketplace enrollees opt for advance PTCs to reduce the amount they owe in monthly premiums.
The federal ACA marketplace and many state ACA marketplaces are in the middle of a special Open Season that run until May 15, 2021.
- The HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Director concluded Patient Safety Week with reflections available at this link. Among the observations were the following:
The quest to learn more about what contributes to diagnostic inaccuracies and delays has already been a focus area for AHRQ. We began investing in diagnostic safety and quality research in 2007 and have helped build interest around the topic. Diagnostic error harms too many and costs too much .
When I think about options for tackling the issue of diagnostic safety, I’m reminded of the progress we’ve made with our successful Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Program. AHRQ’s HAI Program is dedicated to understanding the problems that can harm patients, identifying what works to prevent infections, and then developing, testing, and refining tools to put that knowledge into practice on the front lines of care. AHRQ has achieved a great deal working alongside clinicians, patients, and other stakeholders focused on HAI prevention throughout government and the private sector.