The Blog to Transform Advanced Care

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Each week, C-TAC compiles the latest legislative and regulatory updates affecting the serious illness care field, combined with insider analysis from our policy experts. Here’s what you need to know for the week ahead:

President Biden Announces New Steps to Boost Vaccine Supply

On January 27, President Joe Biden announced measures designed to support his goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days. The administration will increase the overall weekly vaccine supply to states, Tribes, and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses for the next three weeks. They will also provide allocation estimates for the upcoming three weeks to give state and local leaders greater certainty regarding supply levels.

Additionally, on February 2,the Biden Administration announced that they will begin shipping vaccines directly to local pharmacies starting on February 11th. The program is intended to ease access and will begin in 6,500 locations that will receive a total of 1 million doses before eventually expanding.

C-TAC is encouraged by these measures to increase the supply of vaccines for communities across the nation. We encourage states, Tribes, and territories to ensure that those providers working in home- and community-based medical and social settings are included in vaccine prioritization tiers, given their essential role in providing care for people with serious illness.

Study Warns that Eliminating Audio-Only Telehealth Payment Could Exacerbate Inequities

A new analysis from the RAND Corporation published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association highlights pandemic-era data that points to the potential negative impact eliminating coverage of audio-only telehealth services would have on underserved low-income communities.

Using information from more than 500 clinic locations across California that serve mostly low-income patients, the study found that 48.5% of primary care visits occurred via telephone and only 3.4% occurred via video (48.1% were in person). During the public health emergency, CMS and other payers have been paying for audio-only interventions, but it is still uncertain if these changes will remain in place in any form after the pandemic ends. The study authors note that “While there are important concerns about the quality of audio-only visits, eliminating coverage for telephone visits could disproportionately affect underserved populations and threaten the ability of clinics to meet patient needs.”

Biden Releases Executive Order Aimed at Increasing Access to Care Through Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act

On January 28, President Joe Biden released an Executive Order (EO) on “Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act” (ACA). Notably, the EO revoked the January 2017 Executive Order to repeal the ACA, and the October 2017 Executive Order to expand access to association health plans, short-term, limited-duration insurance, and health reimbursement arrangements. The EO also focused on expanding access to care by reopening the Federal ACA Marketplaces and directing federal agencies to reassess state Medicaid waivers that limit access to care, including work requirements.

C-TAC supports the administration’s efforts to improve access to high-quality and affordable care, especially for underinsured and un-insured Americans. We will work with our regulatory partners to ensure that these measures support people with serious illness and their families.

President Biden Aims to Enhance Public Health Workforce in Executive Order

President Biden signed an EO that establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and is designed to ensure a sustainable public health workforce during the pandemic and beyond. The EO mandates that the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of HHS, and the Secretary of Labor facilitate the provision of free COVID-19 testing for those who lack insurance coverage, and clarify group health plans’ and health insurance issuers’ obligations to provide coverage for COVID-19 testing.

A strong workforce is a key component of high-quality serious illness care and a major policy priority for C-TAC. We are encouraged by the administration’s focus on promoting a sustainable healthcare workforce that can support the sickest and most vulnerable among us during the COVID-19 pandemic and future crises.

Senators Rosen, Rubio Re-Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Study the Full Health Impacts of COVID-19

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have introduced a bill supporting research that would improve our understanding of the long-term health effects of COVID-19. The Ensuring Understanding of COVID-19 to Protect Public Health Act would direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a longitudinal study on mild, moderate, and severe cases of COVID-19 to ensure we gain a full understanding of both the short and long-term health impacts of the novel coronavirus, including on communities of color and other diverse populations.

COVID-19 is a serious illness and C-TAC commends Sen. Rosen and Rubio on taking bipartisan action that can help us understand its long-term impacts and better support the sickest and most vulnerable among us. To learn more, click here.

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