IMPAQ Health News
From our experts to your inbox. Every two weeks.
In this edition, learn about global COVID-19 updates, progress on vaccination in the United States, Biden administration efforts in the first 100 days, and more.  
Does the rise in telehealth services, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, increase the risk of fraud and abuse, particularly in programs like Medicare? Researchers from IMPAQ, Index Analytics, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) reviewed federal reports, interviewed health care industry members, and identified ways to strengthen telehealth programs. They detail their findings in a new issue brief.
Organizations use measurement to set goals and define what success looks like. When organizations and communities work together equally on a shared measurement system, they can create positive, meaningful change and work toward equity. In a new Q&A, AIR researchers discuss Aligning Systems for Health, a national initiative supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and examples of shared measurement in action.
COVID-19 Global Update. India has emerged as a new global hot spot for the COVID-19 pandemic in recent weeks. It is the second country, after the United States, to surpass 20 million total cases and has set a new world record for the most cases in a single day. On Friday (4/30), the Biden administration announced restrictions on travel from India, and initial U.S. aid began to arrive in the country. Pending an FDA safety review, the administration plans to export its stockpile of 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to countries in need in the months ahead.

COVID-19 Vaccine and Reopening Updates. Following months of steady increases in vaccinations, the daily number of COVID-19 shots administered in the U.S. has decreased for the first time, signaling that vaccine supply is beginning to outweigh demand. Experts now predict that herd immunity is unlikely in the country, given the possibility of new COVID-19 variants and vaccine hesitancy. Meanwhile, the CDC has eased face mask guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, and the Biden administration has set a new benchmark to vaccinate 70 percent of the U.S. population by Independence Day. In other vaccine and reopening news:

Biden Administration Updates
In his first 100 days in office, President Biden fulfilled multiple domestic and foreign policy campaign promises. To address the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration mandated face masks on federal property, rejoined the World Health Organization, opened mass vaccination centers and mobile clinics, and administered over 200 million vaccines in Biden’s first 100 days, more than double the administration’s original goal. AP (4/26)
The American Rescue Plan provides additional, temporary ACA and COBRA subsidies and offers states new incentives to expand their Medicaid programs. The administration’s new $1.8 trillion package, the American Families Plan, would permanently extend the subsidies. CNBC (4/28)  
Rules and Reports
CMS issued a proposed rule that would allocate funding for medical residency programs in hospitals located in rural or underserved communities and require hospitals to report staff COVID-19 vaccination rates to help contain the virus. The proposed rule also solicits feedback on how unique data sets could be used to advance equity by improving quality measurement or value-based purchasing programs, and updates the Medicare fee-for-service payment rates and policies for fiscal year 2022. CMS (4/28)
CMS finalized the second part of the Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2022. Specifically, the notice lowers the maximum out-of-pocket costs for consumers by $400, increases events that qualify consumers for special enrollment periods, and revises measures to allow more consumers to qualify for lower-priced plans, among other changes. CMS finalized the first part of the notice in January 2021. CMS (4/30)
Health Equity in 2021
USDA will expand Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits into this summer, potentially providing nutrition assistance to more than 30 million children. The program, established in March 2020, provides families with a debit card they can use at grocery stores and aims to fill the gap in meals children missed because of school closures during the pandemic. The American Rescue Plan extended P-EBT through the duration of the pandemic. NPR (4/26)
HHS announced new practice guidelines that waive federal training requirements for buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder. Under the new guidelines, physicians and non-physicians may prescribe buprenorphine without completing the training. The new practice guidelines come amid increasing opioid overdose fatalities during COVID-19. Stat News (4/27)
The nation’s 1,400 federally funded health centers can begin applying for federal aid from the American Rescue Plan to use for construction and renovation projects. These health centers primarily serve historically underserved areas and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Improving the infrastructure of federally funded health centers is a key piece of Biden’s plan to improve equity during COVID-19. HHS (4/27)
Graphic of the Week
Learn more about the HHS COVID-19 Public Education Campaign, We Can Do This, which aims to increase vaccine confidence while reinforcing basic prevention measures.
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
This webinar explores state strategies to improve COVID-19 vaccine confidence and reach more communities in an equitable and efficient manner. Register here.
This webinar features highlights from a new NASHP report that explores state approaches to payment of family caregivers within Medicaid consumer direction programs. Register here.
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.