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Top Story
On Thursday, February 11th, NIHB submitted a letter of support to the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the inclusion of Tribal health priorities in their Budget Reconciliation legislation. The legislation, which is being marked up Thursday, February 11th and Friday, February 12th, invests $6.094 billion in Tribal health priorities including:  
  • $5.484 billion for IHS 
  • $2 billion 3rd party relief 
  • $1.5 billion for testing, tracing, PPE 
  • $600 million for vaccine education and distribution 
  • $600 million health care facilities 
  • $500 million Purchased/Referred Care 
  • $420 million mental/behavioral health services 
  • $240 million public health workforce 
  • $140 million electronic health records/telehealth infrastructure 
  • $84 million Urban Indian health 
  • $10 million potable water delivery 
For questions, please contact Josh Jackson, Congressional Relations Manager at jjackson@nihb.org. 
In This Issue:

On Wednesday, February 11th, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology announced a hearing on Wednesday February 17th, 2021 titled "Connecting America: Broadband Solutions to Pandemic Problems." The hearing will cover the current state of broadband infrastructure across the country and how investments in broadband infrastructure can help combat the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. The hearing will be broadcast live on the House Energy and Commerce Committee website.
President Biden Announces Members of the Biden-Harris Administration COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force
On February 10, 2021, President Biden announced members of the Administration's COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. The twelve Task Force members represent a diversity of backgrounds and expertise, a range of racial and ethnic groups, and a number of important populations, including: children and youth; educators and students; health care providers, immigrants; individuals with disabilities; LGBTQ+ individuals; public health experts; rural communities; state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments; and unions. Individuals selected by the President are:
  • Mayra Alvarez of San Diego, CA
  • James Hildreth of Nashville, TN
  • Andrew Imparato of Sacramento, CA
  • Victor Joseph of Tanana, AK
  • Joneigh Khaldun of Lansing, MI
  • Octavio Martinez of New Braunfels, TX
  • Tim Putnam of Batesville, IN
  • Vincent Toranzo of Pembroke Pines, FL
  • Mary Turner of Plymouth, MN
  • Homer Venters of Port Washington, NY
  • Bobby Watts of Goodlettsville, TN
  • Haeyoung Yoon of New York, NY
FASG1IHS Dear Tribal Leader Letter on the MOU with the VA
On February 5, IHS released a Dear Tribal Leader Letter (DTLL) detailing Tribal consultation that extended the comment period of the MOU with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The comment submission on the draft MOU deadline is now March 2, 2021, and the next virtual listening session is on February 17, 2021 at 3pm ET.
FASG2IHS Dear Tribal Leader Letter and Urban Indian Organization Leader Letter on CDC Funding
On February 2, IHS released a Dear Tribal Leader and Urban Indian Organization Leader Letter on the allocation decision of $210 million for new resources from the CDC to help support American Indian and Alaska Native communities with vaccine related issues for COVID-19. These funds are a one-time payment and can be used to plan, prepare, distribute, administer, and monitor COVID-19 vaccines for optimal vaccine coverage. These funds can also be used to support costs associated with vaccine use before the enactment of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. From this funding, the IHS intends to allocate $190 million to IHS Federal health programs, $10 million to Urban Indian Organizations and $10 million for additional public health support activities. 
On February 1, HHS published a notice on the extension of designation of scarce materials or threatened materials subject to COVID-19 hoarding prevention measures. This designation was originally issued on July 30, 2020 in response to the spread of COVID-19 and the scarce supply of resources due to excessive accumulation by entities not needing excess. This notice also updates the materials listed as scarce to now include specific classes and sizes of hypodermic needles and syringes. This extension will terminate June 30, 2021.
FASG4Notice from HHS on Changes to the Public Health Service Act
On February 2, HHS published a notice of amendment to the Public Health Service Act to add categories of Qualified Persons authorized to prescribe, dispense, and administer COVID-19 vaccines that are specifically covered under section VI in the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act for Medical Countermeasures Against COVID-19. This amendment describes that a Qualified Person is now any healthcare professional that currently holds an active license, including nurses who have recently expired licenses, and pharmacists. Through this classification individuals are now immune from suit and liability from claims for loss caused by the administration of a covered countermeasure. This amendment is effective on February 2, 2021.
On February 5, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a notice on comments for the Wireline Competition Bureau requesting the public's input on specific metrics the Commission should use to evaluate applications for funding for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. (An evaluation of funding applications is a CARES Act mandate.). The FCC is also looking for comment on "how the Commission should treat applications filed during the funding rounds for awards from the COVID-19 Telehealth Program using amounts appropriated under the CARES Act. The FCC will receive comments on a rolling basis.  
FSGA6Notice from HHS on an Update to the Federal Poverty Guidelines
On February 1, HHS released a notice on an "Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines." This update accounts for last calendar year's increase in prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index. This update is given to increase the latest published Census Bureau poverty thresholds by the relevant percentage change in the Consumer Price Index and the guidelines mentioned distinguish a 1.2 percent price increase between calendar years 2019 and 2020. These updates are applicable on January 13, 2021.
FSGA7-1Final Rule from CMS for Medicare Part D
On February 2, CMS published an announcement in a delay in effective date to their final rule titled, "Medicare Program; Secure Electronic Prior Authorization For Medicare Part D." This final rule was originally published on December 31, 2020, but due to the memorandum administered by the Assistant to the President and the Chief of Staff, entitled "Regulatory Review", this final rule's effective date is temporarily delayed for 60 days. This final rule detailed the adoption for a new standard for certain transactions having to do with Part D-covered drugs being prescribed to Part D eligible individuals through the Part e-prescribing program. The new effective date for this final rule is March 30, 2021.
FG8Notice from CMS on their Medicaid Planning Documents
On February 4, CMS released a notice on an extension to a currently approved information collection request titled "State Medicaid HIT Plan, Planning Advance Planning Document, and Implementation Advance Planning Document for Section 4201 of the Recovery Act." The comments from this collection request will assess the state requests for Federal Financial Participation (FFP) for costs related to their Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Program. Comments on this collection request are due March 8, 2021.
FG9Four Information Collection Requests from CMS
On February 5, CMS released a notice on four information collection requests. The first collection is a revision to a currently approved collection titled, "Medicare Health Outcomes Survey (HOS)." This HOS is a patient-reported outcome measure used to assess the health of the Medicare Advantage population. The second collection is also an extension of a currently approved collection detailing the "Community Mental Health Center Cost Report." This collection will be used to determine a provider's costs from furnishing specific medical services to Medicare beneficiaries and the reimbursement associated with the provider. The third collection is an extension of a currently approved collection and details the "Request for Termination of Premium-Hospital and or Supplementary Medical Insurance." This collection is necessary to terminate enrollment in Medicare. The fourth collection is a revision to a currently approved collection on the "Appointment of a Representative". This collection is on a specific form that helps beneficiaries and suppliers on Medicare claims determinations and appeals on Medicare claims. Comments on these information collections are due April 6, 2021.
On February 18, at 2PM ET the  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is hosting a webinar on connecting children to coverage and care. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the use of dental services by children covered by Medicaid and CHIP declined due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This decline can lead to several severe oral health issues including, tooth decay. Topics included in this webinar are, Medicaid and CHIP Comprehensive Dental Benefits Help, Children Achieve Better Health and Healthier Smiles. This webinar will also include insights from Dr Natalia I. Chalmers, D.D.S., M.H.Sc., Ph.D., pediatric dentist, Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and serves as the Dental Officer within the Center for Medicaid and CHIP services at CMS. During this webinar she will share particular trends in oral health services among enrollees in CHIP and Medicaid and how enrolling can promote good oral health outcomes in children. CMS is interested in hearing from attendees on outreach and enrollment efforts. To register click here.
GR3CMS Webinar for Native Elders
On February 24, 2021 at 2pm ET Sixtus Dominguez will host a webinar titled "Fall Prevention for Native Elders." Dominguez is a tribal injury prevention specialist who has significant expertise in injury prevention and is the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board Tribal Injury Prevention Program Coordinator. Some topics at the meeting will include strategies, activities and interventions that will aid in the support of Native elder independence. Individuals who attend the webinar will learn about four evidence-based fall preventions, some basic fall prevention strategies and simple activated that can help keep Native elders moving for continued independence. Click here for more information and to register.
GR6-1CDC to Host National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccines February 22-24
On February 22 to 24 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is organizing this 3-day virtual forum that will bring together practitioners from national, state, tribal, local, and territorial levels who are engaged in vaccinating communities across the country. The forum will support the Administration's goals of mounting safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccine implementation strategies to protect those most at risk and advance health equity, particularly among communities that have been most disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The Forum is intended for practitioners focused on vaccine implementation, as well as people and groups that can champion vaccine uptake in communities across the country. You can learn more about the forum here and this flyer.
GR2IHS COVID-19 Implementation Progress and Safety Update
On February 25th, the Indian Health Service (IHS) COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force (VTF) will be hosting an informational webinar on vaccine implementation progress and safety. The IHS COVID-19 VTF is working to operationalize COVID-19 vaccines approved under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The first two COVID-19 vaccines approved under an EUA have been available for over a month in the US. There are many lessons learned since the initial launch of the vaccines, and IHS will share important details about the process of storing, monitoring, administering, and documenting vaccines. This series of webinars will inform healthcare team members at all levels about clinical aspects, logistics and complexities of the novel COVID-19 vaccines. Read more here.
GR1Upcoming IHS, Tribal and Urban Indian (ITU) Trainings from CMS
Throughout the years NIHB has collaborated with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide trainings on health insurance and the marketplace to individuals involved in the ITU healthcare system. These trainings specify how the Indian Health Service, Tribal Health Programs, and Urban Indian Programs can maximize their third-party revenue through patient's enrollment in CMS health insurance programs. Individuals who are encouraged to attend are business office staff, benefit coordinators, patient registration staff, medical records staff and purchased referred care services staff. In addition to valuable information surrounding third-party revenue, billing and other healthcare insurance activities, this training can also be counted towards one Continuing Education Credit from the American Academy of Professional Coders. The next training will be held from March 22-29, 2021 for individuals located in the IHS Navajo area.
GR4Update from CMS on Medicare Fraud
During the COVID-19 pandemic a series of scams have affected certain entities participating in the Medicare program. These scams have come from a variety of platforms. CMS has described scams involving telemarketing calls, text messages, social media platforms, and door to door visits also related to COVIS-19 scams. These scams normally include individuals trying to obtain Medicare Numbers or other personal information in an effort to steal the identity of said person. In order to prevent these scams and to not become the victim of fraud, CMS would like beneficiaries to understand that Medicare covers the COVID-19 vaccine so there is no cost to those enrolled and that it is imperative that beneficiaries guard their Medicare card like it is a credit card. Other precautions include when receiving the vaccine, individuals must share their Medicare card with their health provider or pharmacy, even if the individual is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and that individuals cannot pay to have their name be put on any list the receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For more information on fraud please contact: Partnership@cms.hhs.gov.
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