Friday Stats and More

Friday Stats and More

Based on the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID-19 Data Tracker website, here is the FEHBlog’s chart of new weekly COVID-19 cases and deaths over the 14th week of 2020 through 18th week of this year (beginning April 2, 2020, and ending May 5, 2021; using Thursday as the first day of the week in order to facilitate this weekly update):

and here is the CDC’s latest overall weekly hospitalization rate chart for COVID-19:

The FEHBlog has noticed that the new cases and deaths chart shows a flat line for new weekly deaths  because new cases greatly exceed new deaths. Accordingly here is a chart of new COVID-19 deaths over the period (April 2, 2020, through May 5, 2021):

The Wall Street Journal observes and the charts evidence that

The U.S. may finally have turned a corner in the Covid-19 pandemic, according to epidemiologists and public-health officials.

Newly reported coronavirus cases have declined for three straight weeks, and the seven-day average of Covid-19 PCR tests that returned positive is hovering around 4%, one of its lowest points in the pandemic. Hospitalizations have been declining and reported deaths have fallen every week since late March.

The decrease in nearly every key metric comes as the U.S. meets a benchmark in its vaccination campaign. More than 40% of the adult population is now fully vaccinated, which many public-health experts say is an important thresholdwhere vaccinations gain the upper hand over the virus.

Here is a weekly COVID-19 vaccinations chart over the period December 17, 2020, through May 5, 2021, which also uses Thursday as the first day of the week:

The Centers for Disease Control observes

Following a rapid acceleration in vaccination rates, we are now seeing U.S. vaccination progress slow. This is not surprising considering the prior focus on vaccinating people at increased risk. Also, people eager to be immunized when they became eligible may have already secured their vaccine in line with increased supply. While more than 8 in 10 people 65 years and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, only around 1 in 3 people ages 18-29 have. All age groups currently eligible for the vaccine can benefit from the protection it provides themselves and others, especially as more states are easing prevention measures

Also from the COVID-19 vaccination front:

  • The Society for Human Resources Management provides helpful guidance to employers on how to help achieve herd immunity.
  • The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will vote on Wednesday May 12 on whether to extend Pfizer’s emergency use application for its COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 12-15.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that “AstraZeneca PLC could skip asking the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine, according to people familiar with the matter—and instead pursue the more time-intensive application for a full-fledged license to sell the shot.”
  • Law professor Richard Epstein weighs in on the hot topic of “Intellectual Property and the COVID-19 vaccines.”

From the healthcare business front

  • Healthcare Dive reports on Cigna’s 1st quarter 2021 results. The health insurer “beat Wall Street expectations in the quarter, and increased its forecast for the full year, signaling optimism for the remainder of 2021 despite the ongoing uncertainty.”
  • Fierce Healthcare reviews several health insurers’ first quarter 2021 results.

In other news —

  • The FEHBlog understands why according to Becker’s Payer Issues, 95% of insurers “are worried about meeting No Surprises Act requirements by [the January 1, 2022] deadline. Congress created an overcomplicated law. Hopefully the regulators can straighten it out in time.
  • The American Hospital Association questions the Lown Institute report on low value hospital care that the FEHBlog mentioned earlier this week.
  • Health Payer Intelligence brings us up to date on electronic attachments to HIPAA standard claims transactions, the one HIPAA requirement that HHS has not been able to tackle successfully.
  • Strangely, a British website helpfully summarizes the path of Kiran Ahuja to become OPM Director. “At her hearing, Ahuja said: “I believe people are, and should be, at the centre of all policy decisions, and… I would carry forward this guiding principle while working in service to the American public.” It remains to be seen whether the Senate, in a time of division, accepts that Ahuja can be the unifier the US public service needs.” My bet remains on confirmation.

Thursday Miscellany

Photo by Mel on Unsplash

Today the U.S. Office of Personnel Management released guidance to federal agencies on American Rescue Plan Act “provisions authorizing emergency paid leave (EPL) for covered Federal employees in specified qualifying circumstances through special funds.” The Federal News Network offers information on how federal employees can apply for EPL.

From the COVID-19 front, the Wall Street Journal reports that Astra-Zeneca now expects to file an emergency use application for its COVID-19 vaccine with the Food and Drug Administration in the middle of next month.

“One especially time-consuming task has been compiling British data from almost four months of vaccinations in the U.K., including efficacy, virus-transmission and safety statistics, people close to the process say. That has added to the complexity of AstraZeneca’s submission and is expected to lengthen any FDA review. Other shots that the FDA has authorized had large-scale human trial data but little or none from real-world rollouts outside of controlled studies.”

No good deed, etc.

From the patients safety front, the Leapfrog Group released its Spring 2021 hospital safety grades yesterday. The two hospitals closest in proximity to the FEHBlog’s residence are graded A and B. Beckers Hospital Review helpfully points out the 27 hospitals with straight A scores and F scores. Meanwhile, Healthcare Finance reports that

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday released the overall hospital quality star ratings that now include new methodology in five measure groups.

CMS rated over 4,500 hospitals from one to five stars, with five representing the highest quality rating.

Of 4,586 hospitals, 13.5%, or 455 hospitals, received five stars; 988 received four stars; 1,018 received three stars; 690 received two stars; and 204 received one star.

For more than a quarter of hospitals, 1,181, no information was available.

This compares to January 2020 data, when of the 5,340 hospitals listed, 396 received five stars; 1,132 received four stars; 1,108 got three stars; 710 received two stars; and 226 got one star. Another 1,761 had no rating information available.

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control released a new study setting a “Baseline to Measure Quality of Antibiotic Prescribing in U.S. Hospitals.”

Since 2015, when the prescribing data were collected, CDC has been working diligently with partners like the American Hospital Association and others to implement stewardship efforts and programs in acute care.

CDC will continue building on this progress and important work in the coming years as a part of the newly released Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria National Action Plan. Good luck with that effort.

In healthcare business news:

  • Healthcare Dive informs us that ” Virtual care powerhouse Teladoc reported a wider-than-expected net loss in the first quarter, but beat Wall Street estimates on revenue with a topline of $454 million, up 151% year over year, driven by growth in specialty offerings and multi-product contracts. * * * CEO Jason Gorevic contended he is unworried about mounting competition in the lucrative telehealth space, banking the company’s heft and variety of clinical services will fend off entrenched rivals and new entrants like Amazon.”
  • Fierce Healthcare advises “Do not expect the Biden administration to pull away from price transparency even though the administration wants to pull a requirement for hospitals to post Medicare Advantage rates, experts say. The proposal included in a hospital inpatient payment rule released late Tuesday is more aimed at easing administrative burdens for hospitals still struggling due to the pandemic, several experts said. “The repeal of this requirement more falls into the bucket of easing hospitals’ burden as opposed to the agency’s stance on hospital price transparency,” said Caitlin Sheetz, head of analytics and a director for the consulting firm ADVI, in an interview with Fierce Healthcare.
  • Fierce Healthcare also reports that “Anthem has completed its acquisition of home health benefits manager MyNEXUS, the insurer announced Thursday morning. MyNEXUS offers comprehensive home-based nursing management to health insurers, providing integrated clinical services to some 1.7 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in 20 states. The company’s platforms largely automate the visit and authorization, which allows members to access care more quickly, according to the announcement. MyNEXUS will be folded into Anthem’s Diversified business group.”

In benefit design news, Health Payer Intelligence offers a thoughtful article describing key considerations for implementing diabetes management programs.