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Daily News

February 26, 2020

President Donald Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the administration’s coronavirus response efforts during a White House press briefing on Wednesday (Feb. 26), and Pence said the White House will bring in additional personnel to support the efforts.

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The federal government’s new policy of penalizing legal immigrants if they are deemed likely to use Medicaid took heat Wednesday (Feb. 26) from two federal appellate judges, who invoked the coronavirus outbreak to emphasize the importance of encouraging people to seek preventive health care.

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Democrats pounced on HHS Secretary Alex Azar after he refused Wednesday (Feb. 26) to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for everyone.

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After criticizing stakeholders in recent weeks for not getting onboard HHS’ upcoming interoperability rules, HHS Secretary Alex Azar adopted a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday (Feb. 26), telling a House panel he has engaged directly with health IT company Epic about its issues with the regulation and hopes to be “reflective of those concerns” as much as the department can.

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HHS Secretary Alex Azar stressed Wednesday (Feb. 26) that HHS will not approve any state Medicaid waivers that would block grant coverage for pregnant women, low-income parents, children or people with disabilities.

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Senate appropriators on Tuesday (Feb. 25) grilled HHS Secretary Alex Azar on whether the White House’s $2.5 billion supplemental funding request is enough to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and to beef up the U.S. supply of masks, ventilators and other personal protective equipment given other cuts sought by the White House.

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Sanofi’s plans to open up a new company in Europe focused on making and marketing active pharmaceutical ingredients to third-party drug manufacturers would be a boon to the pharmaceutical supply chain and make it less susceptible to region-specific challenges, according to Michael Ganio, director of pharmacy, practice and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

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Days before HHS requested $2.5 billion from Congress to develop drugs and equipment for the coronavirus response, a group of 46 House Democrats cautioned the administration against awarding companies exclusive licenses for coronavirus drugs invented with taxpayer money, and they said the administration “must use every tool of the federal government to ensure a coronavirus vaccine is affordable and accessible.”  

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CMS Administrator Seema Verma says the agency is moving on to a new phase in its quest to improve quality measurement, with a focus on electronic quality measurement.

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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and CMS released a wide-ranging list of proposals to reduce the burdens that health information technology such as electronic health records pose to physicians and other frontline providers -- including recommendations to better automate prior authorization.

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Democratic presidential candidates on Tuesday (Feb. 25) blasted the Trump administration for requesting fiscal 2021 funding cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

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The Democratic presidential candidates on Tuesday night (Feb. 25) again attacked the cost of Sanders’ single-payer system and touted their plans to improve rural health in the final televised debate before Super Tuesday.   

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February 25, 2020

HHS Secretary Alex Azar confirmed Tuesday at a Senate appropriations health subcommittee that the Trump administration proposed in its fiscal 2021 budget to eliminate the enhanced federal match for states that expanded Medicaid.

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CMS tells Inside Health Policy that it has no plans to outsource the call center operations for Medicare or exchange consumers to another country, responding to a letter from Democratic lawmakers who worried language in a recent request for information (RFI) implied the agency was considering outsourcing the functions.

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Senate Commerce Committee Chair Roger Wicker (R-MS) is circulating draft legislation that would ban surprise medical bills from air ambulances by shielding patients from out-of-network charges while allowing the air ambulance provider and insurer to enter a dispute resolution process.

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Senate Commerce Committee Chair Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced legislation to ban surprise medical bills from air ambulances by shielding patients from out-of-network charges while allowing the air ambulance provider and insurer to enter a dispute resolution process.

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Beneficiary advocates point to a new analysis that verifies long-standing concerns that patients who buy lower premium short-term limited duration (STLD) are at financial risk should they need to use their coverage, and they are using the analysis to re-up their calls for federal and state action to limit or ban the plans.

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Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) again warned HHS Secretary Alex Azar to slow down the administration’s two proposed interoperability rules at a Senate Appropriations health subcommittee hearing Tuesday (Feb. 25).

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Researchers in Health Affairs blog posts called on CMS to integrate behavioral health into the Primary Care First demo and to align that demo with the separate Medicare Independence at Home demo now that the primary care model has been delayed for a year.

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February 24, 2020

Federal immigration officials on Monday (Feb. 24) began enforcing new rules that will deny green cards and some visas to immigrants who are in poor health or deemed likely to rely on Medicaid.

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