In the News

Citing a Disastrous Pandemic Response, an Expert Panel Will Call for an Overhaul of the U.S. Public Health System

A bipartisan panel of health experts will call on Tuesday for an overhaul of the American public health system that would greatly expand the role of the federal government, giving Washington the authority to set minimum health standards and coordinate a patchwork of nearly 3,000 state, local and tribal agencies.

The recommendations flow from what the panel, the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a National Public Health System, described as the inadequacies and inequities of the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than one million Americans.

Read more @ NY Times


100 Million People in America Are Saddled With Health Care Debt

Kaiser Health News | By Noam N. Levey
Elizabeth Woodruff drained her retirement account and took on three jobs after she and her husband were sued for nearly $10,000 by the New York hospital where his infected leg was amputated.

Ariane Buck, a young father in Arizona who sells health insurance, couldn’t make an appointment with his doctor for a dangerous intestinal infection because the office said he had outstanding bills.

Allyson Ward and her husband loaded up credit cards, borrowed from relatives, and delayed repaying student loans after the premature birth of their twins left them with $80,000 in debt. Ward, a nurse practitioner, took on extra nursing shifts, working days and nights.

“I wanted to be a mom,” she said. “But we had to have the money.”

The three are among more than 100 million people in America ― including 41% of adults ― beset by a health care system that is systematically pushing patients into debt on a mass scale, an investigation by KHN and NPR shows.

The investigation reveals a problem that, despite new attention from the White House and Congress, is far more pervasive than previously reported. That is because much of the debt that patients accrue is hidden as credit card balances, loans from family, or payment plans to hospitals and other medical providers.

To calculate the true extent and burden of this debt, the KHN-NPR investigation draws on a nationwide poll conducted by KFF for this project. The poll was designed to capture not just bills patients couldn’t afford, but other borrowing used to pay for health care as well.

New analyses of credit bureau, hospital billing, and credit card data by the Urban Institute and other research partners also inform the project. And KHN and NPR reporters conducted hundreds of interviews with patients, physicians, health industry leaders, consumer advocates, and researchers.

The picture is bleak.

In the past five years, more than half of U.S. adults report they’ve gone into debt because of medical or dental bills, the KFF poll found.

A quarter of adults with health care debt owe more than $5,000. And about 1 in 5 with any amount of debt said they don’t expect to ever pay it off.

“Debt is no longer just a bug in our system. It is one of the main products,” said Dr. Rishi Manchanda, who has worked with low-income patients in California for more than a decade and served on the board of the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt. “We have a health care system almost perfectly designed to create debt.”

The burden is forcing families to cut spending on food and other essentials. Millions are being driven from their homes or into bankruptcy, the poll found…

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Support for Family Caregivers

For caregivers, the job doesn’t end at 5pm. You don’t get time off on weekends. Your around-the-clock dedication to your care partner likely means you need support to face the challenges each new day may bring. The Building Better Caregivers® (BBC) six-week online workshop, developed by Stanford University, can help you reset, recharge and discover new information so you can be the best caregiver you can be. When you join a BBC workshop, you’ll connect with a small group of caregivers just like you and support each other in reaching your goals.

“The workshop helped me see different ways to approach my caregiving responsibilities. I tried to learn to re-channel some feelings or rethink my feelings in a more positive way. And I didn’t feel guilty for taking time for me. There were helpful tools & ideas, and also, reading the feedback was helpful & positive for me. With each week it gave me another chance at becoming a better caregiver. Thank you for this workshop!”  - BBC Graduate

Click here to join a BBC workshop and you’ll learn:

  • New ways to approach caregiving
  • How to reduce stress and find guilt-free time for yourself
  • Tools to help you manage your time and improve your relationship with your care partner

To participate in BBC, caregivers must be enrolled in one of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Caregiver Support Program offerings:

If you are a caregiver, reach out to your Caregiver Support Team to learn more about signing up or visit BBC’s website today!


CDC and FDA Clear the Way for COVID Vaccines for Kids Under 5

CBS News / By Alexander Tin

Some 20 million babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are now eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on unanimous votes from her agency's outside vaccine advisers to recommend shots from Moderna as well as Pfizer and BioNTech for children as young as six months old.

"Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation's fight against COVID-19," Walensky said in a statement.

Around a third of parents say they plan to get their child in the age group vaccinated, according to CDC survey findings released on Saturday. Some of the long-awaited shots could begin as soon as this holiday weekend. Federal officials expect the bulk of vaccinations will commence after doctor's offices reopen on Tuesday.  

"We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today's decision, they can. I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated," added Walensky.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted following a two day-long meeting to mull data on the benefits and risks of the shots in young children. A panel of the Food and Drug Administration's own outside advisers had also voted unanimously on Wednesday to back authorization.

"Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in a statement.

The FDA also moved on Friday to add Moderna's vaccine as an alternative to Pfizer's shots in children 6 through 17 years old, though the CDC said their advisers will not vote on updated recommendations for those shots until next week. 

Read Full Article 


‘The Stability of Home Health Care Is at Risk’: CMS Proposes 4.2% Decrease to Provider Payments in 2023

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its FY 2023 home health proposed payment rule late Friday.

It comes with a decrease to payment rates by 4.2%, or $810 million less compared to 2022 rates. Overall, the proposed rule looks to be one that will be disappointing to providers, and one they will refute heavily in the public comment period.

“This decrease reflects the effects of the proposed 2.9% home health payment update percentage ($560 million increase), an estimated 6.9% decrease that reflects the effects of the proposed prospective, permanent behavioral assumption adjustment of -7.69% ($1.33 billion decrease), and an estimated 0.2% decrease that reflects the effects of a proposed update to the fixed-dollar loss ratio used in determining outlier payments ($40 million decrease),” CMS wrote in its fact sheet.

The proposed rule validated concerns that providers have had since the hospice proposed rule and skilled-nursing-facility proposed rules came out earlier this year.

“We are very disappointed in the CMS proposed rule issued today,” William A. Dombi, the president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), wrote in a comment shared with Home Health Care News. “The stability of home health care is at risk as a consequence of CMS proposing the application a fatally flawed methodology for assessing whether the PDGM payment model led to budget neutral spending in 2020. That has been made clear to CMS in the 2021 rulemaking and in multiple discussions since.”

They will likely argue that the proposal clearly does not take into account multiple factors currently hindering providers, including: raised labor costs, a severely high inflation rate and other ongoing heightened expenses related to COVID-19.

“With significantly rising costs for staff, transportation, and more, home health agencies across the country cannot withstand the impact of the proposed rate cut,” Dombi added. “Reliable analyses proves that PDGM underpaid home health agencies. We will be taking all steps to protect the home health benefit as this proposed rule advances and have fully prepared for Congressional action and more. “

On the hospice side, CMS recently proposed a 2.7% pay increase for 2023. Meanwhile, SNF operators saw a proposed downward adjustment to SNF payment rates by 4.6%.

The latter rate adjustment is partly to balance out the Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM), which is similar to the home health industry, in that adjustments are being made to the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM).

In that vein, CMS is proposing to apply a permanent prospective payment adjustment to the home health 30-day period payment rate. That would be to account for any increases or decreases in aggregate expenditures as a result of the “difference between assumed behavior changes and actual behavior changes,” due to the implementation of the PDGM and 30-day unit of payment.

The full fact sheet from CMS can be viewed here.

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