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Daily News

March 22, 2021

Newly sworn-in HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is kicking off his tenure with a trip to Nevada to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday (March 23).

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Health policy experts at Georgetown University say that as the Biden administration crafts rulemaking on the new law that bars most surprise billing and sets up an arbitration process to resolve payment disputes officials should glean lessons from states that have already implemented independent dispute resolution systems.

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Members of the American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association urged lawmakers to extend the timeline of the IMPACT Act, change prior authorization requirements and withdraw CMS’ review choice demonstration for inpatient rehabilitation hospitals during an advocacy conference last Wednesday (March 17).

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AstraZeneca on Monday (March 22) announced that it will seek emergency use authorization for its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, which raised questions about whether a potential authorization could create a vaccine surplus in the United States and allow the Biden administration to share additional doses with other countries.

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Acting FDA chief Janet Woodcock wants the medical research sector to move toward more pragmatic clinical studies where investigations of repurposed drugs would be run primarily off of health records, and to focus on conducting more community-based research that would enable more diverse clinical trials.

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March 19, 2021

Georgia and Arkansas told the Biden administration they would sue if CMS revoked their Medicaid work requirement waivers -- which didn’t stop the administration from revoking Arkansas’ program along with New Hampshire’s.

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The House on Friday (March 19) passed 246-175 legislation to extend the Medicare sequester moratorium through the end of the year and keep the cost of the American Rescue Plan from leading to further cuts, but the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate and some Medicare experts question the fiscal wisdom of continuing to put off the 2% sequester cut that has been on hold during the pandemic.

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The House Energy & Commerce Committee health panel will discuss legislation aimed at incentivizing additional states to expand their Medicaid programs at a hearing next Tuesday (March 23) to mark the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.

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The House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Monday (March 22) on a wide- ranging infrastructure bill that includes funding to upgrade hospitals, renovate clinical labs, boost state and local public health facilities, build community health centers, update teaching and behavioral health centers, and expand broadband needed for telehealth.

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HHS is postponing a Trump-era final rule that, if allowed to go into effect, would have required agency regulations to be reviewed every 10 years or be automatically tossed out.

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A top FDA official told Congress on Thursday (March 18) that FDA could feasibly authorize updates or changes to COVID-19 vaccines without requiring clinical studies in humans in the hopes of speeding the premarket regulation process to mitigate the spread of new strains of the virus.

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Once COVID-19 vaccine booster shots become available, people with compromised immune systems and other preexisting health conditions likely will need to be first in line to get the shots since their antibody levels will wane faster than those of otherwise healthy people, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told lawmakers during a Senate health committee hearing Thursday (March 18).

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March 18, 2021

All eyes are on the Supreme Court after the Biden administration revoked Arkansas’ and New Hampshire’s Medicaid work requirement waivers Wednesday (March 17) in a move that experts have said would make the case moot and could lead to its dismissal.

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Insurers participating in Covered California have agreed to help move their off-exchange individual plan enrollees into the marketplace so they can benefit from the new Affordable Care Act subsidies available under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and will not reset the deductibles, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said Thursday (March 18) in a webinar with reporters and key stakeholders.

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A federal Indiana court’s decision to temporarily halt the 340B administrative dispute resolution process because of the Trump HHS’ unusual rulemaking procedures will have little near-term effect because the Biden administration has yet to fill the ADR panels, an industry lawyer said.

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The preliminary injunction in favor of Eli Lilly’s lawsuit against a 340B rule could help pharmaceutical benefit managers in a separate legal challenge to HHS’ Medicare Part D rebate-ban rule.

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The Biden administration hopes to donate 4 million of the 7 million releasable doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the United States, to Mexico and Canada, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday (March 18).

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), other Democratic senators and witnesses questioned the role of private equity ownership and mishandled federal funds in the pandemic’s toll on nursing homes at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday (March 17), and Warren plans a deeper probe into the issue.

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House Democrats hope in addition to averting a Medicaid fiscal crises in the territories in October, they’ll be able to come up with longstanding federal funding solutions -- such as eliminating the Medicaid cap for territories and changing territories’ federal Medicaid matching funds calculation to what’s used for states.

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The Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra as HHS secretary in a 50-49 mostly party-line vote Thursday (March 18), with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) being the only Republican senator to support Becerra’s nomination and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) not voting.

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