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Democratic, Republican Conventions Illuminate Health Policy Priorities

As the Democratic and Republican National Conventions (DNC) come to a close, both parties highlighted policy positions with major implications for the healthcare system.

Joe Biden made COVID-19 a central campaign rallying point as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination last Thursday night, pledging that as president he would distinguish himself from President Donald Trump’s response by quickly instituting a federal strategy with a nation-wide facemask mandate, increased testing and daily briefings by scientists. Biden’s healthcare agenda is also expected to focus substantially on preserving and enhancing the coverage and care delivery provisions of the Affordable Care Act, with consideration to potentially develop a government-backed public insurance option. Additional Biden campaign policy positions that are especially relevant for those with serious illness include:

  • Passing the Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act, which will provide critical funding for states to continue and expand access to home- and community-based services
  • Providing support for family caregivers, including by creating a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation supported by AARP, working to enact at the federal level the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which requires that hospitals equip family caregivers with instructions and information when their loved ones are discharged, and expanding funding to give caregivers greater access to needed respite care.
  • Bolstering the long-term services and supports (LTSS) system by, among other things, increasing the current home care workforce by at least 600,000, expanding LTSS worker training programs for entry-level and ladder jobs, and authorizing new, large scale, CMMI-funded 4-year demonstration programs to test innovative models of post-acute care and LTSS delivery (for example, models that incorporate telemedicine, or offer housing or nutrition benefits)

Additionally, in the lead up to the RNC, President Trump’s re-election campaign released an agenda offering a high level overview of the Administrations core policy priorities if re-elected for a second term.

The agenda lists several existing health policy issue areas for the Administration, such as lowering prescription drug pricing and ending surprise billing. Other healthcare priorities listed in the agenda include lowering insurance premiums, protecting Social Security and Medicare, covering all pre-existing conditions, providing health care and services to veterans, and “putting patients and doctors back in charge of our health care system”.

The President plans to offer more detail on his policy agenda during his remarks at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, and a more detailed health policy platform may be seen in the coming weeks. C-TAC supports protecting patients living with advanced illness, and will continue to monitor and analyze proposals for their impact on the serious illness stakeholder community as each party releases additional information about their health policy agendas.

Other Updates:

Trump Administration Launches National Training Program to Strengthen Nursing Home Infection Control Practices

Tuesday, CMS announced that it is implementing an unprecedented national nursing home training program for frontline nursing home staff and nursing home management. The training is designed to equip both frontline caregivers and their management with the knowledge they need to stop the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in their nursing homes. The training announced will be available immediately to staff of America’s 15,400 Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes and focuses on critical topics like infection control and prevention, appropriate screening of visitors, effective cohorting of residents, safe admission and transfer of residents, and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) – all critical elements of stopping the spread of COVID-19. To learn more, click here to read a press release prepared by CMS.

HRSA Awards Almost $12 Million in Grants to Rural Telehealth Initiatives

Federal officials have announced almost $12 million in grants aimed at expanding access to telehealth services in rural parts of the country. The awards are part of more than $35 million being issued to 50 rural organizations in 33 states by the Health and Human Services Department’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and are in line with President Donald Trump’s August 3 Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access. Specifically, the HRSA is awarding $8.8 million to 30 organizations in 23 states through the Telehealth Network Grant Program (TNGP), which aims to improve emergency care services in rural areas by expanding access to care providers through telemedicine platforms. For more information, see the mHealth Intelligence article here.

CMS Interim Final Rule Requires New Reporting and Testing Requirements for Nursing Homes, Other Providers

CMS announced regulatory changes that will require nursing homes to test all staff members for COVID-19 and to offer testing to residents as well. Notably, the regulatory changes will require nursing homes that use point-of-care testing devices to report diagnostic test results as required by the CARES Act. The new rules also require hospitals to provide COVID-19 related data to HHS.CMS is accepting comments on the interim final rule through October 24, 2020.

House Approves 2021 HHS Funding with Home-based Care Provisions

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to allocate $96 billion for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), with provisions that could offer support to hospice and home care providers as well as patients and family caregivers. The House bill, which also contains funding for the departments of Education and Labor, will proceed to the Senate for its consideration and will likely be subject to change. Following resolution of any differences between the House and Senate versions, the bill would still have to go to the White House for approval. The bill also allocated $193 million for support service to family caregivers, including creating access to respite care, counseling, training and education and support groups. This provision represents an $8 million increase from the prior year’s appropriations.

For more information about C-TAC’s policy priorities and initiatives, click here. If you have any questions about our advocacy efforts, please contact Policy & Advocacy Manager Davis Baird at DBaird@theCTAC.org.

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