IMPAQ Health News
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In this edition, learn about challenges to the ACA, efforts to curb rising rates of COVID-19, and the latest health policy rules and reports. Don’t miss the upcoming AIR webinar on readiness and rapid system redesign to optimize chronic condition care during and after COVID-19.
As part of AIR’s COVID-19 response to support educators and health and human service providers with evidence-based practices, AIR researchers analyzed data on anxiety and depression captured in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, a new biweekly instrument measuring household experiences during the pandemic. The key takeaway: Reported symptoms of anxiety and depression are extremely high by historical standards. Learn more in this Q&A with AIR’s Senior Finance Specialist Frank Rider and Senior Technical Assistance Specialist Kelly Wells.
The racial health disparities of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with one of the most significant modern movements for social justice, have made 2020 a year for leaders and policymakers to ask tough questions about equity and commit to meaningful action. In this recorded conversation, learn how leaders from across the spectrum of research, policy, and practice are grappling with issues of health equity during the COVID-19 crisis and where they see opportunities for progress.

This session launched Equity in COVID-19: Bridging the Gap Between Public Health and Policy, a new web forum series brought to you by the Public Health Institute and IMPAQ.
This week, the United States reached 10 million total COVID-19 cases and more than 237,000 COVID-19-related deaths. The announcement of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has shifted national attention to how the new administration will address the pandemic in the coming months.

  • President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team named 12 members to its COVID-19 task force, consisting of former government officials, academics, and public health experts. In remarks following the announcement, Biden stressed the importance of wearing masks and outlined plans to work with state and local health officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19, reopen schools and businesses, and address the racial disparities of the pandemic.

  • An early analysis of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine suggests that it was more than 90 percent effective in preventing transmission among trial volunteers. Despite the promising results, questions over long-term safety and efficacy will remain until additional data can be collected.

  • A new issue brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation highlights the risk of COVID-19 exposure for health care workers based on their race and ethnicity. The research illustrates that people of color are more likely to hold positions with increased risks of exposure and infection and therefore account for the majority of COVID-19 cases and deaths among the health care workforce.
Here are some resources for following health policy trends and the latest efforts to address COVID-19: 

  • The New York Times developed an interactive animation to display how effective masks can be to fight the spread of COVID-19.
Challenges to the Affordable Care Act
During the first day of the California v. Texas hearing in the Supreme Court, which centers on Congress’ 2017 decision to eliminate the penalty for the individual mandate from the ACA, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled that eliminating the penalty did not necessarily indicate a congressional desire to reverse the entire law. While it is unclear how the other justices will side, if Roberts and Kavanaugh agree with the court’s three liberal justices, the Court could uphold the ACA. The Washington Post (11/10)
The Trump administration approved Georgia’s plan to close the website to the state’s residents for open enrollment beginning in fall 2022. The 1332 waiver, which would force Georgians to shop for health insurance through brokers or on private websites, may face legal challenges. Experts argue that it fails to satisfy the statutory requirement that such waivers may not immediately decrease the number of people with health insurance. Vox (11/2)
Incoming Biden appointees to the White House and federal health agencies are expected to unwind Trump administration actions on the ACA, Medicaid, and abortion rights. Without a Senate majority, executive and regulatory action could be used to enhance ACA outreach, reinstate limits on short-term health plans, reverse Medicaid work requirements, and end rules that changed the Title X family planning program. The Washington Post (11/9)
Controlling COVID-19:
Payment, Testing, & Vaccines
According to an investigative report by the New York Times, patients across the country have begun to see surprise “COVID” and “PPE” charges tacked onto medical bills. Providers, particularly dentists and assisted living facilities, have turned to patients to address the costs associated with additional protective gear and sanitation practices as they grapple with declining revenue and lower overall demand. The New York Times (11/8)
In a new working paper published by the International Monetary Fund, researchers argue that the approach of using various testing technologies to test 5–10 percent of the population daily, convening public and private stakeholders to ramp up testing production, and enforcing accountability could end the pandemic without a vaccine. Health Affairs (11/6)
Rules & Reports
On November 9, CMS unveiled the 2020 Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Managed Care final rule. The rule aims to promote transparency and provide states with additional flexibilities to develop and implement managed care programs for Medicaid and CHIP. Through the rule, states gain additional guidance for completing the federal rate review process, updated standards for network adequacy requirements, and flexibilities to adopt new payment models. Health Care Finance News (11/10)
The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, the Treasury, and Labor have issued a final rule that imposes new transparency requirements on health plans offered in the ACA’s individual and small group insurance markets. The rule requires insurers to disclose cost-sharing estimates and negotiated rates with providers, and amends the medical loss ratio (MLR) methodology. Health Affairs (11/1)
The Trump administration has issued an interim final rule that seeks to prioritize access to any future COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans. The rule would ensure vaccine coverage by private and public health insurance plans and add flexibility to the public notice requirements for State Innovation Waivers under Section 1332 of the ACA. Health Affairs (10/30)
Graphic of the Week
The 2021 Open Enrollment Period on runs from November 1, 2020 through December 15, 2020. As shown in the chart below created by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, many people can enroll in affordable plans.
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
The Bipartisan Policy Center will host a webinar to learn what leading pollsters and policy experts are hearing on the future of health care from the Hill, White House, and American public. Register.
The Alliance for Health Policy will gather a range of experts after Election Day to discuss how the results could influence the health policy agenda in 2021 and beyond. Panel presentations and keynote speakers will provide insight into the future of health policy in the administration, Congress, federal courts, and states. Register.
Researchers from AIR and the Wandersman Center will discuss how COVID-19 has impacted patients and the readiness of healthcare systems to provide quality chronic condition care. Speakers will discuss what we know about readiness, how readiness in healthcare has changed in the wake of COVID-19, challenges that patients and healthcare providers face, and approaches to address those pressing challenges to support readiness at the height of a pandemic. Register.
This webinar, coordinated by the Better Care Playbook and made possible through the Seven Foundation Collaborative, will explore considerations for health plan adoption and implementation of expanded supplemental benefits. Featured speakers will describe recent research on the adoption of these benefits as well as opportunities and challenges related to implementation from the perspective of health plans, providers, and enrollees. Register.
NOTE: The information, analyses, and opinions expressed in the articles, publications, or comments contained therein are those of the authors and should not be considered verified or endorsed by IMPAQ or any of our partners or clients.