IMPAQ Health News
From our experts to your inbox. Every two weeks.
In this edition, learn about milestones in COVID-19 cases and vaccination, updates on the 2021 ACA special enrollment period, lessons learned from the pandemic, and more.
People eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, known as dual eligibles, often have significant health needs and low incomes. There has been little formal research to know how they navigate and experience the health care system. To better understand dual eligibles’ experiences, IMPAQ Health researchers conducted an exploratory study, using principles of Human Centered Design. In a report, the researchers capture dual eligibles’ views on their health care and the challenges they face, plus offer considerations for policy changes. This work was supported by Arnold Ventures.
AHRQ’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)—which captures data from health care providers, individuals and families, and employers—offers a wealth of information on the cost and use of health care and health insurance coverage in the United States. Staff from IMPAQ Health and Stakeholder Engagement will facilitate a free, three-day workshop exploring MEPS, covering survey design, the data itself, and some of the issues and challenges related to data analysis. The workshop sessions, held Sept. 13-Sept. 15, are lecture format and will feature time for Q&A with AHRQ statisticians.
Delta Variant & Related Updates. The United States reported more than 900,000 cases of COVID-19 last week, the most since early February 2021. Reported cases and hospitalizations are growing among children under 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccines. This spike in cases among children comes as states take various measures to prepare for students’ return to school.

  • A new study in the Journals of Gerontology found that symptoms of COVID-19 can look different in older adults. While many people associate fever, cough, and shortness of breath with COVID-19, adults over the age of 65 more often experience atypical symptoms, such as confusion, agitation, forgetfulness, and lethargy. Atypical symptoms also occur more commonly in women, Black patients, and those with chronic diseases.

Vaccine Updates. The CDC recommends that immunocompromised individuals get a third shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. All Americans can begin receiving booster shots on September 20, 2021.

  • The FDA is expected to provide full approval for use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine soon, which experts predict will lead to the roll out of more vaccination mandates, as employers, airlines, and schools feel more comfortable requiring a fully approved vaccine.

  • The Department of Defense will require all department employees, including troops, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, the timing of the mandate depends on when the FDA fully approves the vaccine. Without full approval, the agency would need a presidential waiver to implement the mandate.

  • Nursing home staff are the latest group to receive a vaccine mandate. President Biden announced that nursing home workers in facilities that receive Medicare and/or Medicaid funding must receive the vaccine.

Affordable Care Act, Medicaid,
& Value-based Care
In a recent blog post, CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure reflected on lessons learned from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) in value-based care over the past 10 years. Brooks-LaSure outlined six key takeaways that the administration plans to apply in the future to help CMMI accomplish its vision of achieving equitable outcomes through high-quality, affordable, person-centered care. Health Affairs (8/12)
More than 2.5 million people signed up for health coverage on or through State-based Exchanges during the 2021 special enrollment period (SEP). The SEP ended with a “Summer Sprint to Coverage” campaign to encourage people to sign up before the August 15 deadline. CMS (8/10)
States now have a full year after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency to complete eligibility redeterminations for Medicaid beneficiaries. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act protects current beneficiaries from losing access to benefits, regardless of changes in eligibility. Modern Healthcare (8/13)
A Missouri judge ruled that state officials must move forward with the Medicaid expansion voters approved in 2020. The state Legislature so far has refused to provide funding for Medicaid expansion. An estimated 275,000 Missourians are eligible to receive coverage under the expanded benefits. The Hill (8/10)
Lessons Learned from COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that effective prevention strategies can be deployed across the U.S., and a similar approach is needed for cancer, Philip Castle, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Prevention, argues in an opinion piece. Preventive actions—such as avoiding known causes of cancer, including tobacco; receiving regular screenings, and being vaccinated, such as with the HPV vaccine—are more effective ways to prevent cancer deaths than treatment, Castle adds. Stat News (8/9)
To date, over 400,000 Americans have benefited from the use of methadone as a part of their treatment for opioid use. During the pandemic, the federal government advised methadone clinics to allow some patients to take this medication at home, without supervision. While some feared this change could spark surges in methadone overdoses and illegal sales, early research shows no such increase in overdoses or distribution. HHS officials are taking a closer look at the treatment changes and considering how they might be continued. AP News (8/12)
While government leaders have been trying to tackle systemic health care inequities for years with limited success, the COVID-19 pandemic has finally “exposed the wounds of racial and economic injustice,” Michael Petersen, chief clinical innovation officer at NTT Data Services, said during a panel discussion at the 2021 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Global Conference. According to Petersen and other tech leaders on the panel, collaboration between providers, payers, communities, and technology companies is a critical factor in combating the fundamental issues of health inequity. Fierce Healthcare (8/12)
Graphic of the Week
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. To learn more about the importance of vaccinations for people of all ages, view additional resources developed by the CDC by clicking on the graphic below.
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
The Senate passed its version of the infrastructure bill, sending it to the House for approval. The bill includes a number of health care proposals, including prescription drug reform and policies to address social determinants of health. Health Affairs' Senior Editors Ellen Bayer and Chris Fleming discuss the bill’s health policy proposals. Listen here.
In this webinar, the CDC’s Public Health Law Program and the National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health consider the relationship between health equity and law, the implications of structural racism for health equity, and a pathway that identifies strategies for using law to advance health equity. Register here.
This event will feature data on trends and variation in telehealth use and modality, successful strategies used to address patients’ needs and improve health equity, and the different telehealth care models implemented by safety-net providers. Panelists representing organizations participating in the Connected Care Accelerator Innovation Learning Collaborative (CCA ILC) will discuss their telehealth approaches, experiences, and plans for the future. Register here.
This briefing will provide background on Medicare payment reform, including new value-based models that have evolved over the past decade. Panelists will provide an overview of the most promising federal value-based payment models and the evidence for the models’ effectiveness in achieving equity, quality, value, and cost-savings. 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.