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  • Screening for Colorectal Cancer – Stool DNA Testing – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has decided to cover CologuardTM – a stool DNA test – as a colorectal cancer screening test for people aged 50 to 85 years.  The test will be covered only for those who have no symptoms or symptoms of colorectal cancer and have an average risk for developing the disease.  Medicare Part B will cover the CologuardTM test once every three years for people who meet certain criteria.  Read the full final decision. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.  It is an important issue for the Medicare population.  The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75 years.
  • Hospice & respite care –  Palliative care may be a good option for someone experiencing pain, stress and other symptoms due to a serious illness. Hospitals are increasingly starting palliative care programs.  Palliative care offers: pain and symptom control; communication and coordination; emotional support; and family/caregiver support. Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or part of the palliative care treatment and medical services.  Medicare may cover some treatments and medications that provide palliative care, including visits from doctors, nurse practitioners, and social workers. Medicare does not use the term palliative, so coverage is provided under hospice and respite care benefits.  Hospice care is end-of-life care provided by a team of health care professionals and volunteers.   Medicare only pays for hospice benefits if patients have six months or less to live and agree to waive treatment that prolongs life.  Hospice care is usually given at home.  Doctors can include a variety of services in the plan of care for palliative care (for comfort) for a patient’s terminal illness and related condition(s).  Once someone chooses hospice care, Medicare won’t cover any of the following: treatment and/or prescription drugs intended to cure a terminal illness; care in an emergency room, inpatient facility care, or ambulance transportation, unless it's either arranged by the hospice team or is unrelated to the terminal illness.  Learn more about Medicare’s coverage of Hospice & respite care
  • Portable bed rails – Portable bed rails can provide support to older adults who need them, but they can also pose safety hazards.  They can be used in a number of different settings, including the home, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. While all hospital beds are regulated by FDA as medical devices, portable rails can either be regulated by FDA as medical devices or by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as consumer products, depending upon their intended use.  Currently, there are no regulatory standards for the design or manufacturing of adult portable bed rails that are not medical devices. In June 2013, FDA and CPSC formed a working committee and invited manufacturers and organizations to participate in the development of voluntary standards for adult portable bed rails.  Until formal regulation are established, users are encouraged to check bed rails regularly to make sure they remain firmly installed, that the patient is using them for the intended purposes and to watch for areas of possible entrapment.  Learn more about Safety Standard for Portable Bed Rails: Final Rule, 16 CFR Part 1224, CPSC Docket No. CPSC-2011-0019. Also visit the FDA’s new web page on bed rail safety and learn about the potential hazards. 
  • FDA Taking Closer Look at 'Antibacterial' Soap – Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a proposed rule that will require manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial soaps and body washes are safe and more effective than plain soap and water.   The FDA says there is no evidence that antibacterial chemicals, such as triclosan and triclocarban, used in liquid soaps and washes help prevent the spread of germs. There is a concern that routine use of these antibacterial chemicals is contributing to a surge in drug-resistant germs, or superbugs, that render antibiotics ineffective.  The rule will not apply to hand sanitizers, hand wipes, or antibacterial soaps that are used in health-care settings such as hospitals and clinics.  FDA will take comments on its proposal before finalizing it in coming months.  Read the FDA’s announcement: FDA Taking Closer Look at 'Antibacterial' Soap
  • Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act of 2013 – H.R.3090 – Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act institutes a number of legal protective measures to ensure that incidents of abuse are properly reported and reduced.  It directs states to incorporate elder abuse screening, prevention training, and reporting protocols into the health and wellness services that receive money from the government.  If signed into law, the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act would expand the federal definition of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.  It has been referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce. 
  • House Committee Chairmen Offer Plan to Fix Medicare Doctor Payments – The leaders of two key congressional committees have agreed on a framework to reform the Medicare payment formula for physicians.  The proposed framework will move physicians from the traditional system in which they are paid for quantity and instead use financial incentives to emphasize the quality of care provided.  There are three phases:

     

     

    • Phase 1: Repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) and provide a period of predictable, statutorily-defined payment rates.
    • Phase 2: Reform Medicare’s Fee for Service (FFS) payment system to better reflect the quality of care provided.
    • Phase 3: Reform Medicare’s FFS payment system to also account for the efficiency of care provided.

     Included, is a plan to combine some existing Medicare physician quality programs into a new initiative starting in 2017 that would offer doctors additional pay based on their performance on value-based criteria, such as making more same-day appointments for urgent needs and enhancing their use of electronic medical records.  Read to SGR Repeal and Medicare Physician Payment Reform  or the Overview of SGR Repeal and Reform Proposal to learn more. 

  • Improving Health Care for Veterans –  The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 authorized Veterans Affairs to establish a wide range of new services to support certain caregivers of eligible Post 9/11 Veterans.   Between 2010 and 2012, health center program grantees increased the number of veterans to 251,188, an increase of 11%.  A few benefits of the law include: health care coverage, travel expenses, including lodging and per diem while accompanying Veterans undergoing care, respite care, and mental health services and counseling.  Additional provisions of the law include:

     

     

    • provide support for the caregivers of seriously injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 
    • improve services for 1.8 million women veterans, and
    • expand the availability of health care for veterans and services preventing veterans from becoming homeless.

     The law allows the VA to carry out demonstration projects on alternative ways to expand care for rural veterans by partnering with Medicare/Medicaid, DHHS community health centers, and others.  Read the full law here

  • Comprehensive Dental Reform Act – Legislation to expand dental coverage to millions of Americans through Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs has been introduced in the House.  This legislation seeks to address barriers many Americans face in accessing oral health care services.  If passed, the law will ensure people have dental coverage and access to safe and high-quality oral health care. By extending comprehensive dental coverage, vulnerable populations such as children from low income families, the elderly and members of racial and ethnic minority groups are able to receive treatment of oral disease while it is still manageable. In addition to expanding dental coverage, the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act seeks to raise awareness of the importance of oral health and expand the dental workforce to accommodate the millions more Americans who will become eligible for dental coverage in 2014. See the full bill here.
  • Seniors Cautioned to Pay Close Attention to Details As Enrollment Begins in Medicare Plans – The seven-week enrollment period for next year’s Medicare prescription drug and managed-care plans began October 15. The Medicare open enrollment period, which ends Dec. 7, is for Medicare beneficiaries only.  All people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2014.Seniors are being encouraged to carefully review their policies and learn about any changes in  costs, coverage and benefits that will take effect next year.    The Medicare open enrollment period is a time when there’s a higher risk for fraudulent activities.  It’s against the law for someone who knows that you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan. Senior Medicare Patrol programs are teaching seniors with Medicare how to detect and report fraud, and protect themselves from fraudulent activity and identity theft.  Learn more about Medicare’s Open Enrollment period.
  • USPSTF Issues Draft Recommendation Statement on Screening for Lung Cancer –  The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) posted its draft recommendation statement on screening for lung cancer.  Based on the available evidence, USPSTF recommends screening people who are at high risk for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans, which can prevent a substantial number of lung cancer related deaths.  USPSTF determined there is a reasonable balance of benefits and harms by screening people who are 55 to 80 years old and have a 30 pack year or greater history of smoking, who are either current smokers or have quit in the past fifteen years.  The Task Force is providing an opportunity for public comment until August 26, 2013.
  • CMS imposes first Affordable Care Act enrollment moratoria to combat fraud –  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) announced temporary suspensions on the enrollment of new home health provider and ambulance supplier enrollments in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the Miami, Chicago, and Houston metropolitan areas. Under the suspension, existing providers and suppliers can continue to deliver and bill for services, but no new provider and supplier applications will be approved in these areas for all three programs. The temporary suspension will last six-months.  The Affordable Care Act allows CMS to expand efforts to prevent and fight fraud, waste and abuse.  During the suspension, CMS will monitor the impact, including the risk of fraud schemes moving to different services or geographic areas. CMS may lift the suspension earlier or extend it another six months. The goal of the temporary suspension is to fight fraud and protect taxpayer dollars, while ensuring patient access to care. Learn more here.
  • New Certified Health IT Mark announced – Health information technology (HIT) makes it possible for health care providers to better manage patient care with secure sharing of health information.  A new mark for certified electronic health records (EHR) technology was revealed by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The mark is a visual cue that the product – whether a complete EHR, an EHR module or another type of health IT product – meets ONC’s certification criteria.  The mark will appear on EHR products that have been certified by an ONC-Authorized Certification Body (ONC-ACB) and will indicate that the product meets the 2014 Edition Standards and Certification Criteria. The ONC HIT Certification Program ensures that EHR technologies meet standards and certification criteria to help providers and hospitals achieve Meaningful Use (MU) objectives and measures established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). When the mark is associated with a certified "Complete EHR" it means that the EHR technology can be used without modification to achieve Meaningful Use.  Read the full announcement
  • HHS releases 2013 Alzheimer’s disease plan update –  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease: 2013 Update. The update shares the progress towards accomplishing the goals set in 2012. The original plan set out to find ways to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease; enhance care for Alzheimer’s patients; expand support for people with dementia and their families; and carefully track data to support these efforts.  The updated plan goes further and identifies additional action steps that HHS and its partners will take. These include a unified Alzheimer’s disease training curriculum for primary care providers, expanded detection of elder abuse and neglect through aging networks and a Dementia Capability Toolkit to improve dementia services. The Plan was developed collaboratively by experts in aging and Alzheimer’s disease from federal, state, private and non-profit organizations.  Read more here.  
  • The Independence at Home Demonstration – The Independence At Home Demonstration (IHD) program encourages primary care practices to provide a complete range of in-home primary care services to chronically ill Medicare patients.  The IHD is voluntary for Medicare beneficiaries.  Under the demonstration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will partner with primary care practices led by physicians or nurse practitioners to evaluate a payment incentive and service delivery model that uses home-based primary care teams to reduce expenses and improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries. Participating practices will make in-home visits tailored to an individual patient’s needs and coordinate their care. Up to 10,000 Medicare patients with chronic conditions will be able to get most of the care they need at home.  The demonstration began on June 1, 2012, and will conclude May 31, 2015. CMS will track the beneficiary’s care experience through quality measures. Learn more about the Independence at Home Demonstration
  • Finalizing standards for Health Insurance Navigators – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a proposed rule outlining the standards for Navigators, the in-person assisters in Federally-facilitated and State Partnership Marketplaces. Navigators will provide unbiased information to consumers about health insurance, the new Health Insurance Marketplaces, qualified health plans, and public programs including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CMS will ensure that all consumers who need Marketplace customer service can receive it from trained professionals. Navigators will provide accurate and impartial assistance to consumers shopping for coverage in the new Marketplace, including consumers who are not familiar with health insurance, have limited English proficiency, or are living with a disability. The final rule also outlines the standards for certified application counselors to ensure that they provide quality, sound, consumer-protective assistance. Read the full story: Finalizing policies to ensure Navigators will help consumers enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace  Remember open enrollment in the Marketplace begins Oct. 1, 2013, with coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014.  Access the final rule. (Please note this link will change once the rule is published in the Federal Register on 7-17-2013).  To learn more about helping consumers apply and enroll in health coverage through the Marketplace, click here .
  • Anti-Smoking Policies Will Prevent 7 Million Deaths Worldwide by 2050: Study – According to a new study, anti-tobacco policies will prevent smoking and save lives. The study reported that tobacco control measures enacted in 41 countries between 2007 and 2010 will prevent about 7.4 million premature deaths by 2050. The measures the countries implemented include: protecting people from tobacco smoke, offering smokers help to quit, warning people about the dangers of tobacco, banning tobacco ads, promotion and sponsorship, and raising taxes on tobacco. Tobacco use is a major preventable cause of premature death and disease worldwide.  People die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking or secondhand smoke exposure. Read more here.  
  • States’ Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs – The Administration for Community Living (ACL) seeks comments on recent changes to Long-Term Care Ombudsmen (LTCO) programs designed to strengthen and clarify how they implement their programs.  The proposed changes provide greater clarity in order to help state agencies, stakeholders, and ombudsmen (people who investigate complaints and mediate settlements) better serve the public. The proposed changes address topics such as consistent approaches to resolving complaints on behalf of residents; appropriate role of ombudsmen in resolving abuse complaints, and conflicts of Interest.  The federal Older Americans Act authorizes LTCO programs to resolve problems and advocate for the rights of people residing in nursing facilities, assisted living, board and care, and similar adult care facilities. The Ombudsman Programs are federally funded and today exists in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.   Because elder abuse is expected to rise alongside the country’s aging population, and because older victims of even modest forms of abuse have dramatically higher morbidity and mortality rates than non-abused older people, it is essential that programs that support residents of long-term care facilities are strengthened.  The AoA-funded National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center provides training and technical assistance to state and local ombudsmen. Thousands of local ombudsman staff and volunteers work in hundreds of communities throughout the country as part of the statewide ombudsman programs, assisting residents and their families and providing a voice for those unable to speak for themselves.  ACL encourages public comment on the proposed changes. Click here to view the proposed rule. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on June 18, 2013. The public comment period will last 60 days. Read the full press release here: HHS seeks comments on proposed changes to better support residents of adult care facilities
  • $2.5 Million Invested in Innovative Housing Strategies to Help Aging –  The AARP Foundation is pleased to announce $2.5 million in investments to fund three housing organizations that serve the vulnerable population of individuals over 50. Each investment will create or preserve homes for residents who are measurably low-income and over 50 years of age.  The Foundation’s Program Related Investment (PRI) aims to create new models of housing that are scalable and replicable; result in an increase of affordable and adequate housing to fill the gap in surrounding rural housing and rental housing; and finally, to increase the number of affordable and/or adequate units of housing.  At least 13 million people, aged 50+, struggle to obtain affordable and/or adequate housing. All of these projects aim to build, retrofit or purchase safe and affordable housing that not only helps older residents avoid high housing cost burdens, but also addresses their need for community either by helping them age in place or create a new community based a non-institutional model.  Read the full press release here: AARP Foundation Invests $2.5 Million
  • Bill Introduced to Cover Obesity Treatment under Medicare – Members of the House and Senate introduced the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (H.R. 2415/S.1184) on June 18th.  The bill comes soon after the recent decision by the American Medical Association to recognize obesity as a disease. It is intended to make it easier to cover obesity treatments that range from counseling for those affected by it to medication.  For individuals affected by obesity, the impact that it has on their annual medical costs can be substantial. Health care costs related to obesity total nearly $200 billion each year. The bill would allow Medicare coverage of prescription weight-loss drugs and require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to highlight Medicare coverage of behavioral counseling for obesity.  If passed, the bill would help lower health care costs and prevent chronic diseases by addressing America’s growing obesity crisis.  Nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and 42 percent of Americans are projected to become obese by 2030.  The bill will provide Medicare recipients and their healthcare providers with meaningful tools to treat and reduce obesity by improving access to obesity screening, counseling services, and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management.  Learn more about the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2013 .
  • USPSTF Releases Hepatitis C Screening Recommendations – The new Recommendation Statement on screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV) issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) this week represents a critical step toward achieving the prevention, care and treatment goals outlined in the federal government’s Viral Hepatitis Action Plan. Based on the latest evidence, the Task Force recommends hepatitis C screening for adults at risk of infection, including people who currently use injection drugs or have in the past, as well as people who received a blood transfusion before 1992. The Task Force also recommends one-time hepatitis C screening for all adults born between 1945 and 1965. The Task Force recommendation notes that screening should be voluntary. Before screening, patients should receive an explanation of hepatitis C infection and the meaning of positive and negative test results, have an opportunity to ask questions, and the chance to decline testing.  The new USPSTF Recommendation Statement aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Recommendations for the Identification of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Persons Born During 1945–1965, issued in 2012. These aligned recommendations from USPSTF and CDC send a clear signal to health care professionals, policymakers, and the public that screening for HCV is effective and should be conducted.  Read the complete new USPSTF HCV screening recommendations or the consumer fact sheet about the new recommendation.  Learn more USPSTF Releases Hepatitis C Screening Recommendations
  • Health Center Budgeting and Accounting Requirements – The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has released Policy Information Notice (PIN) 2013-01: Health Center Budgeting and Accounting Requirements.  The purpose of this PIN is to provide clarification regarding how budget and accounting requirements will be applied to health centers funded under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHS).  This PIN clarifies the requirements that apply to section 330 grant funds versus other non-grant funds and the need for budgeting and accounting for each within the approved health center scope of project.  This PIN applies to all health centers funded under the Health Center Program authorized in section 330 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act (42 U.S.C. 254b) (“section 330”).  Beginning with applications for Fiscal Year 2014 funding, HRSA is requiring that along with a total budget which includes a budget breakdown of all health center scope of project funding, applicants must also submit a budget showing which costs are supported by the section 330 grant and which projected costs are supported by other sources of non-grant funds. Health centers are expected to produce accounting records that support section 330 grant fund expenditures and demonstrate compliance with policies and procedures.  A section of this draft PIN is new and is available for public comment. Specifically, Section V.B. (Accounting for Health Center Scope of Project Funding, Health Center Non-Grant Funds) is open for comment. . Comments should be submitted to OPPDBudgetPIN@hrsa.gov by close of business August 30, 2013.  If you have any questions or require further guidance regarding the policies detailed in this PIN, please contact the Bureau of Primary Health Care, Office of Policy and Program Development at OPPDBudgetPIN@hrsa.gov.  The PIN is available at: Health Center Budgeting and Accounting Requirements
  • VA, DoD and HHS Partner to Expand Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members and Families – Recently, the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Defense (DoD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the progress made to date on initiatives called for in President Obama’s August 31, 2012, Executive Order (E.O.). The E.O. directed VA, DoD, and HHS to take a number of steps to ensure that Veterans, Service Members, and their families receive the mental health services and support they need. Working together, the Departments are expanding the public health approach to providing optimal support for the mental health needs of Veterans, Service Members and their families.  To date they are:

     

     

    • Increasing the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line by 50 percent to help ensure that Veterans in crisis can readily reach help.
    • Establishing 15 pilot projects in seven states where VA is working with community-based mental health providers to help Veterans access mental health services in a timely way.
    • Increasing VA mental health services capacity through VA hiring of nearly1,400 mental health providers and over 248 new peer specialists.
    • Implementing a national suicide prevention campaign to connect Veterans and Service Members to mental health services.

    The Departments are actively working on additional deliverables called for in the Executive Order, including the development of a National Research Action Plan. The Departments released an interim report, found here, outlining progress on this initiative. Learn more about what the Departments are doing. 

  • Safeguarding America’s Pharmaceuticals Act of 2013 –  The House passed the Safeguarding America's Pharmaceuticals Act (SAPA), H.R. 1919. The bill will strengthen the ability to trace counterfeit pharmaceuticals back to their source.  It also establishes a more comprehensive, national policy to secure the nation’s prescription drug supply chain. SAPA would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish national standards for monitoring the movement of prescription drugs through the drug distribution system (the network of companies that produce, handle, distribute, and dispense drug products). SAPA establishes labeling safeguards to ensure that all members of the supply chain are informed of where a product has been and where it comes from.  SAPA comes at key time when there are more than four billion prescriptions filled each year, and stories about counterfeit drugs are on the rise.  Enforcement of the act will assist in ensuring that when an individual takes a prescribed medication, the medication is real and will not impose harm. The Act protects consumers by securing America’s prescription drug supply chain from illegal counterfeit drugs.  The Safeguarding America's Pharmaceuticals Act H.R. 1919 now goes to the Senate for consideration.  Read more about the Safeguarding America’s Pharmaceuticals Act of 2013.
  • HHS Launches ‘Information is Powerful Medicine’ Campaign – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched the Information Is Powerful Medicine campaign.  The campaign contributes to Department-wide efforts guided by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) to improve health outcomes for all people living with HIV/AIDS. Through printed materials and online resources, the campaign provides important messages about the right to see and get a copy of personal medical records (called the right to access), a cornerstone of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. The campaign presents information on the HIPAA Privacy Rule in clear, understandable language because trust in the privacy of health information is of critical importance for people living with HIV.  Learn more about the Information Is Powerful Medicine campaign and Health Information Privacy.  Read the press release
  • New USPSTF HIV Testing Recommendation –  The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a new Recommendation Statement on screening for HIV. USPSTF gave a “Grade A” recommendation for routine HIV screening for all people aged 15 to 65, as well as younger adolescents and older adults who are at an increased risk for HIV infection. It also gave a “Grade A” recommendation for HIV screening for all pregnant women, including those in labor whose HIV status is unknown. Implementation of these recommendations will aid substantially in efforts to improve the HIV treatment cascade and achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  The “Grade A” recommendation is important because under the Affordable Care Act, private health insurance policies created after March 23, 2010 are required to offer all preventive services that have been given an “A” or “B” recommendation by USPSTF , at no extra cost to the consumer. The law also gives state Medicaid programs financial incentives to cover USPSTF-recommended preventive services for adults. With these new USPSTF recommendations, more Americans will receive HIV screening with no out-of-pocket expenses.  Read the Screening for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) fact sheet to learn more about the recommendation.  Learn more about the importance of the new USPSTF’s Recommendation Statement
  • Obama Administration Simplifies, Significantly Shortens Application for Health Insurance – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the application for health coverage has been simplified and significantly shortened. The application for individuals without health insurance has been reduced from twenty-one (21) to three (3) pages.  The application for families is reduced by two-thirds. The consumer friendly forms are much shorter than industry standards for health insurance applications today.  For the first time consumers will be able to fill out one simple application and see their entire range of health insurance options.   The online version of the application will be a dynamic experience that shortens the application process based on individuals’ responses. This consumer-focused approach will facilitate the enrollment of millions of Americans into affordable, high quality coverage while minimizing the administrative burden on states, individuals and health plans.  The new application is one more step toward meeting the promise of helping millions of Americans access quality, affordable health coverage.  Read the full press release.  Learn more information about the Health Insurance Marketplace. The application, which can be submitted starting on October 1, can be found on The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
  • New Tools to Educate Consumers and Providers about HIPAA Privacy and Security – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has developed a range of new tools to educate consumers and health care providers about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules.   The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects the privacy of an individual’s recognizable health information. The HIPAA Security Rule sets national standards for the security of protected electronic health information.  OCR has posted a series of factsheets, also available in eight languages, to inform consumers about their rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The fact sheets compliment a set of seven videos released earlier this year on OCR’s YouTube channel.  OCR has also launched three modules for health care providers on compliance with various aspects of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. For more information, please visit Health Information Privacy or Guidance Materials for Consumers
  • Preparedness law allowed Boston to quickly pool medical resources – A Massachusetts law enacted in 2010 allowed Boston-area hospitals on Monday, April 15 to quickly gather medical supplies and resources following the bombings that killed three and injured 176 persons.  The Massachusetts Mutual Aid Law, an opt-in intrastate and interstate mutual aid law, allows hospitals in the center of disaster zones to employ medical professionals credentialed in other hospitals to help with providing health services immediately after a disaster. Following the marathon explosions, health professionals and ordinary citizens who sought to offer assistance were also protected from liability by Massachusetts Good Samaritan laws.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has three types of mutual aid agreements: Intrastate, Interstate and International Agreements.  Under varying conditions, each agreement allows the state to send or request for aid in the event of a disaster. The law also allows the state to overcome credentialing and liability issues that have hampered rescue efforts in the past.  Read the full story here.   Learn more about the Massachusetts Mutual Aid Law
  • EPA Proposes Achievable Cleaner Fuels and Cars Standard, Slashing Air Pollution and Providing Extensive Health Benefits – Based on extensive input from auto manufacturers, refiners, and states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed sensible standards for cars and gasoline that will significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses.   Once fully in place, the standards will help prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children. The proposal will also reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants and exposure to pollution near roads. More than 50 million people live, work, or go to school in close proximity to high-traffic roadways.   The EPA’s proposal is estimated to provide up to seven dollars in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards. The proposed standards will work together with California’s clean cars and fuels program to create a harmonized nationwide vehicle emissions program that enables automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states.  The standards will maximize reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutants and air toxics from cars and light trucks. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be available for public comment and EPA will hold public hearings to receive further public input.   Read the full press release for more information:  US EPA today proposed sensible standards for cars and gasoline
  • Congress Caps Funding on AIDS Drugs – Part B of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 provides grant funding to States and U.S. Territories to improve the quality, availability, and organization of HIV/AIDS health care and support services.   Congress designates a portion of the Part B grant funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).  ADAP plays a critical role in providing prescription drugs to low-income people living with HIV who have limited or no access to health care services. Program funds may also be used to purchase health insurance for eligible clients and for services that enhance access to, adherence to, and monitoring of drug treatments.  Recently, Congress passed legislation that will cap spending for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) at approximately $900 million.   Even as the cost of drugs have continued to rise, over the years Congress has taken drastic action to increase funding for ADAPs.  Pressure on ADAP resources has increased significantly with price increase for AIDS drugs outpacing funding for ADAP.   With the spending cap, pressure will shift to companies who make AIDS drugs to lower prices in order to prevent waiting lists for lifesaving care.   To learn more about ADAP, read Part B – AIDS Drug Assistance Program
  • National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a proposal designed to assist companies developing new treatments for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  The FDA’s proposal is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, which calls for both the government and the private sector to intensify efforts to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s and related dementias and to improve care and services.  According to estimates by the Alzheimer’s Association, without any new drugs or treatments, the number of Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s could be as many as 16 million by 2050. For more information, read the entire press release here: FDA offers new guidance on developing drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Health Information Exchange (HIE) – The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently released an issue brief providing an overview of how long-term post-acute care providers are using health IT and information exchange to support care coordination, remote monitoring and quality improvement. The brief offers practical suggestions and resources for providers, hospitals, other community partners on how to engage in Health Information Exchange (HIE) to improve care coordination, care delivery, patient outcomes, and patient experience.  Read the complete brief here: Issue Brief: Health IT in Long-term and Post Acute Care.
  • Federal Poverty Guidelines UpdatedThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines have been updated effective January 24, 2013.  The poverty guidelines are updated at least annually and may be used to determine eligibility for a number of Federal, state or other programs. Please refer to the Federal Register for more specific guideline information.
  • National Stalking Awareness Month – President Barack Obama has declared January 2013 as National Stalking Awareness Month. Millions of Americans face “fear, isolation, and the danger of being victims of stalking” each year. Many of these crimes go unreported and unprosecuted. As many as 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked at some point during their lifetime. Please read the full Presidential Proclamation to find out more information and visit the National Stalking Awareness Month website to find out ways to support victims of stalking.
  • The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has released Program Assistance Letter (PAL) 2013-03: Alignment of EHB Change in Scope Module with Change in Scope PolicyThis PAL provides information regarding updates and enhancements to the Health Center Program Change in Scope (CIS) module of the HRSA Electronic Handbooks (EHB) system.  The CIS module in EHB facilitates a health center’s request for a change to its approved scope of project and the HRSA CIS prior approval review process. The updates communicated in the PAL are intended to better align the CIS submission and review processes with existing Health Center Program scope of project policies.  HRSA has reviewed, revised and streamlined the module – specifically the sets of questions, or “checklists,” for each type of CIS request – to align more fully with current CIS policy guidance and criteria and to provide further clarification on what is required as part of the health center’s CIS request submission.  In implementing the enhancements presented in this PAL, HRSA will continue to follow the criteria outlined in the CIS PINs in reviewing a request to change the approved scope of project that requires prior approval.  These changes will become effective January 31, 2013. HRSA encourages all health centers to review the PAL, available HERE   Technical assistance and training information, including the updated CIS question checklists and User Guides, will soon be available on the HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care website.
  • EHR Interim Final Rule with Comment Period –  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an interim final rule with comment period to replace the Data Element Catalog (DEC) standard and the Quality Reporting Document Architecture (QRDA) Category III standard adopted in the final rule published on September 4, 2012 in the Federal Register with updated versions of those standards. Public comment is allowed for this interim final rule until 5 p.m. February 5, 2013. Please visit this Federal Register link for more information.
  • Cardiovascular HealthAccording to the official U.S. Government Medicare Website, Medicare Part B “covers screening tests for cholesterol, lipid, and triglyceride levels every five years” (Medicare.gov). This preventive measure for Medicare beneficiaries should encourage healthy lifestyle changes if high cholesterol levels are found.  For more information about Cardiovascular Health, please click HERE
  • October is Breast Cancer Awareness MonthThe Affordable Care Act covers many important preventive health services and it is important for you to keep up-to-date with mammograms (breast health tests).  Tests are covered every one to two years for women over age 40. For more information about breast cancer testing, please click HERE
  • Innovative outreach: California Healthy Food Financing Initiative – California Healthy Food Financing Initiative is a legislation to ensure access to fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy food options. Governor Brown signed AB 581 into law during the week of October 10, 2011. The State Department of Public Health must comply with the legislation by developing a “Healthy Food Purchase” pilot program to increase the buying and selling of fresh produce in low-income communities. For more information on this legislation, please click HERE
  •  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Health Discrimination Awareness – The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community is exempt from sexual discrimination for any health program or activity. This includes financial assistance from the government, insurance, and other benefits.  Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18116) provides that an individual “shall not be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination on the grounds prohibited under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 1681 et seq. (sex), the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. 6101 et seq (age), or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794 (disability)…” For more information on this legislation, please see page 166 of PPACA HERE
  • Suicide Awareness and Prevention – In 2009, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. For every one person who dies by suicide, more than 30 people attempt suicide. Suicide causes immense pain and anguish to families, communities, and results in emotional and economic suffering due to lost productivity and medical costs.  Based on the devastating statistics, the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) have created the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. For further information about the initiative, please click HERE
  • Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations –  As of 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has updated their 2002 recommendations to evaluate U.S. breast cancer screening strategies. The results are intended to contribute to practice and guideline policy debates. The studies reveal that a screening every two years “achieves most of the benefit of annual screening with less harm”. Decisions on frequency of breast cancer screenings are individually unique and may be based on differences in consideration of benefits, harms, and resources. For the full report, please click HERE
  • Older Americans Act – Since the passing of the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965 as a response to policymakers’ concern about a lack of community social services for the elderly, the OAA is considered the “major vehicle for the organization and delivery of social and nutrition services to this group and their caregivers”. The OAA has been updated as of 2006 and includes resources to several service programs that operate under the OAA. The following is the OAA of 2006 which can be found HERE

              General information regarding the OAA may also  be found HERE

  • New York City Board of Health Today Voted to Enact the Administration’s Proposal To Limit Size of Sugary Beverages Sold in Food Service Establishments – According to a press release issued by New York City Government, the New York City Board of Health passed the Administration’s proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages sold in food service establishments to 16 ounces. This regulation was adopted to combat the growing obesity epidemic that causes 6,000 New Yorkers to die each year. Sugary beverages with more than 25 calories per every eight ounces must be 16 ounces or less. The new regulation, which was adopted on September 13, 2012, will go into effect on March 12, 2013. Establishments, which include movie theaters, concessions, delis, and restaurants, have six months to comply with the regulation.  To find out more about the proposal, please click HERE
  • Senators ask Surgeon General to Study Link Between Sugary Drinks and Obesity – U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, Ron Wyden and Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to the U.S. Surgeon General, the Honorable Regina Benjamin, on September 12, 2012. The senators requested additional research on the impact of sugary beverages on obesity in the United States. Lautenberg states that soda consumption and obesity have both increased in the United States in the past few decades. In addition, public health officials recommend limited consumption of soda and sugary beverages. Lautenberg initially “filed an amendment to the Farm Bill requiring a study, but it was not included in the bill approved in the Senate.”  To find out more about the proposal, please click HERE and HERE
  • Policy Information Notices (PINs)The Health Resources and Services Administration provides updated information for their policies and procedures that grantees funded under Section 330 must follow.  These policy and procedures are indicated by Policy Information Notices (PINs).  The Program Assistance Letters (PALs) explains and summarizes items of significance for health centers.  For example HRSA program implementation activities, recently enacted laws, final regulations and/or new HHS initiatives and many more items.  For more information on the most recent or most viewed PINs and PALs please visit this LINK.  Additionally, please find the most recent and most viewed PINs and PALs on our website.  The can be found at the following links below: 

     

     

    • Most viewed Policy Information Notices (PINs) Links HERE & HERE
    • Most viewed Program Assistance Letters (PALs) Links HERE , HERE & HERE 
    • Most recent Program Assistance Letters (PALs) Links HERE , HERE , HERE , HERE & HERE
  •  An important announcement from HRSA – PAL 2013-02Uniform Data System Changes for Calendar Year (CY) 2013  The changes to UDS reporting affect all Health Center Program grantees.  The changes are to be reported in early 2014.  The changes include:  (1) two revised clinical measures; (2) and reporting patients by zip codes, insurance source, and age categories.  Click here for more information on the upcoming changes http://bphc.hrsa.gov/policiesregulations/policies/pal201302.html  .
  • FEMA – Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act – According to the Department of Homeland Security, Section 416 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, (Stafford Act) (42 U.S.C. 183) Public Law 93-288, the President is authorized to provide financial assistance to the United States for survivors of major disasters. As of October 11, 2012, professional counseling services are available to alleviate mental health problems caused by or worsened due to a major disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has classified Section 416 of the Stafford Act at section 44 CFR 206.171 titled Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training. For more information and to leave comments, please visit HERE
  • Health Care Policy in the Election – The day after the November 6, 2012 elections, Kaiser Health News reported the results of several state health initiatives. In Missouri, voters decided against increasing state tobacco tax which would have helped to fund tobacco control programs and public education (Gold, 2012). The state continues to have the lowest cigarette tax in the country.  Missourians also voted for the approval of Proposition E, thereby joining eight other states that do not participate in state health insurance exchanges (Gold, 2012).  For further information please click HERE
  • Advisory Panel Moves to Make HIV Testing Routine The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force made a progressive step that recommended “HIV screening for all Americans aged 15 to 65” (NIH, 2012). Previously, only high-risk adults and adolescents were recommended for HIV screening. Routine testing may help to reduce some of the stigma surrounding HIV testing.  The Affordable Care Act will cover preventive services that are recommended by the task force, which now includes the HIV screenings. Preventive measures like screenings accelerate testing and treatment and improve public health.  For further information, please click HERE

 

 

 

Advocacy and Policy

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