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Daily News

March 25, 2021

A bipartisan group of representatives introduced a bill Wednesday (March 24) that would allow Medicare Advantage plans to count diagnoses from audio-only telehealth services towards risk adjustment for at least plan years 2020 and 2021 and allow providers to be reimbursed at the same rate for audio-only telehealth and in-person care during the public health emergency.

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HHS will stop distributing Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab as a single therapy across the United States due to increased spread of COVID-19 variants that are resistant to bamlanivimab when it’s administered by itself, the department announced Wednesday (March 24).

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Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb believes Congress needs to craft legislation that lays out a framework under which cannabidiol can be included in foods and dietary supplements, as FDA likely won’t be able to push regulation out fast enough to keep up with the industry’s growth.

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In preparation for a Senate hearing that will highlight lower foreign drug prices, a coalition that includes drug makers and patients is reminding Democrats that their 2020 party platform opposes using a metric that is key to drug-value assessments: quality-adjusted life years (QALY).

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The Washington state senate recently passed a bill to partner with other states and nonprofit organizations to make generic drugs for state employees and programs, but Washington does not plan to build state drug making facilities like California is considering.

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The Senate Wednesday confirmed the first transgender federal appointee, former Pennsylvania HHS Secretary Rachel Levine, to serve as assistant secretary for HHS. GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski joined all Democrats in the 52-48 vote.

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March 24, 2021

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Monday (March 22) reintroduced legislation to let Medicare negotiate drug prices, and the bill has 32 Democratic senator cosponsors, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has frustrated Democrats on other policies.

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Former FDA head Scott Gottlieb urged drug makers to take the lead and start investing in innovative technologies to facilitate prescription-to-over-the-counter switches, rather than waiting for FDA to issue regulations that lay down the rules of the road.

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The Biden administration has until April 26 to weigh in on whether it thinks the Supreme Court should take up insurers’ suit challenging the Trump-era decision not to pay the full amount of cost-sharing reduction payments owed insurers since 2017, despite the “silver loading” workaround.

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Advocates are pushing to advance health equity for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through policies like COVID-19 vaccine prioritization, increased access to home- and community-based services and better coverage and delivery of care.

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Democratic Representatives urged hold-out states to expand their Medicaid programs, discussed new ways to nudge states to do so and touted the American Rescue Plan’s incentives at a House Energy & Commerce health subcommittee hearing Tuesday (March 23) on strengthening the Affordable Care Act.

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March 23, 2021

Nestled in the House Energy & Commerce Committee plan to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicaid coverage are several bipartisan proposals meant to improve children’s health care, like permanently extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program funding and requiring state Medicaid programs reimburse primary physicians at the same rate as Medicare.

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The American Hospital Association is hoping the Senate will pass an extension of the Medicare sequester moratorium in the next few days and CMS will take that as a signal to hold off on any provider pay cuts until after the House passes the Senate version of the legislation.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said everything is on the table for the next legislative package that is expected focus on infrastructure improvements and include health care provisions like a permanent increase to the Affordable Care Act tax credits -- and she said the package likely will be paid for by tackling prescription drug prices.

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AstraZeneca came under fire Tuesday (March 23) after the National Institutes of Health called the company out for publicly sharing outdated information about its COVID-19 vaccine.

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Americans will now have until Aug. 15 to buy Affordable Care Act coverage through healthcare.gov, CMS announced Tuesday (March 23), which gives consumers more time to access the increased tax credits available under the American Rescue Plan Act.

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The Center for Medicaid and CHIP will meet with stakeholders Thursday (March 25) to get their input on upcoming guidance regarding the pay bump for home and community-based services included in the American Rescue Plan, which requires states to beef up those services to access the extra funds.

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American Medical Association CEO and Executive Vice President James Madara said he thinks price transparency is coming to the entire health care system, including private-practice physicians, during a panel at the American College of Healthcare Executive’s conference on Monday (March 22).

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Amy Abernethy, FDA principal deputy commissioner and acting chief information officer, will leave the agency by the end of April, according to an interagency memo from Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

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Science and policy experts say HHS should stop distributing Eli Lilly’s FDA-authorized COVID-19 monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab throughout the United States as FDA has found the therapy is less effective against new strains of COVID-19 compared than are other emergency authorized antibody cocktails.

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