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US Department of Agriculture Announces Heather Dawn Thompson as Director of the Office of Tribal Relations
On January 25, 2021, the US Department of Agriculture announced Heather Dawn Thompson's appointment as Director of the Office of Tribal Relations. A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, Thompson, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is an expert in expert in American Indian law, tribal sovereignty, and rural tribal economic development. Thompson comes to the position from the American Indian Law Practice Group at Greenberg Traurig where she worked on federal Indian law and Tribal agriculture.

Further questions regarding the webinar series can be directed to Kelbie Kennedy, NCAI Policy Counsel at kkennedy@ncia.org.

In This Issue:

CHU1House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Announces Hearing on Covid-19 Vaccines, Testing and the Medical Supply Chain
On Wednesday, January 27th, The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee announced a hearing on Wednesday, February 3rd, at 11:00 AM EST on the Federal COVID-19 response. The hearing will cover efforts related to vaccines, testing, and the medical supply chain.

In a quote from House E&C Chairman Frank Pallone and Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo, "Congress took bipartisan action last year to combat the coronavirus, but it was a down payment on the substantial aid and assistance necessary to crush the pandemic and rebuild our economy."

The hearing will be conducted remotely via Cisco Webex video conferencing and the public may view the hearing via the House Energy and Commerce Committee's website.
FASG1Dear Tribal Leader Letter on an Update to the Buy Indian Act of 1910:
On January 19, the IHS released a Dear Tribal Leader Letter on an update of the Buy Indian Act of 1910. Specifically, this letter follows up on a previously published letter from December 17, 2020. This letter details the proposed rulemaking that will allow preference to Indian labor and industry when allocating set asides for IHS solicitations carried out through the Buy Indian Act. The proposed rulemaking was out for public comment; however, this letter announced reopening of the comment period for an additional 60 days. 
Departing Letter from RADM Michael D. Weahkee
On January 19, the IHS published a letter from RADM Michael D. Weahkee on his time at the IHS and his gratitude for the individuals who have supported him and the agency during his time there. The letter also mentions the pride RADM Weahkee has felt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic for being able to work alongside the individuals employed for the IHS and how dedicated they are to their communities and people. RADM Weahkee thanks the organizations that have helped the IHS and notes that their support and advocacy has been imperative during his time as the director. 
FASG3Final Rule from HHS on User Fees for Federal and State Facilitated Exchanges
On January 19, HHS published a final rule on specific provisions that highlight user fees for federally facilitated exchanges and state-based exchanges on the federal platform. These changes involve the acceptance of payment by issuers of individual market Qualified Health Plans (QHP). This regulation also includes updates on imposing network adequacy standards when QHPs do not use provider networks and adds an additional direct enrollment option with changes to the State Innovation Waivers. Overall, the goal of these changes are to provide states with additional flexibilities when implementing Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requirements and programs. This final rule is in effect on March 15, 2021. 
FASG4Final Rule from CMS on Specific Medicare Programs
On January 19, CMS published a final rule on changes to the Medicare Advantage (Part C) program, the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (Part D) program, the Medicaid program, the Medicare Cost Plan program, and programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). These programs will include sections of the both the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) regulation to improve the Part C and D programs, the PACE program and change other technicalities such as routine updates. This final rule is effective March 22, 2021. On this date, the Part D Income related Monthly Adjustment Amount calculation will be updated and applicable; however, some of the provisions in this regulation involving coverage will not apply to coverage until January 1, 2022.
FASG5An Information Collection Request from HHS on their Teletracking COVID-19 Portal
On January 22, HHS released an information collection request on the "HHS Teletracking COVID-19 Portal." Specifically, HHS is looking for hospitals and other health care entities dealing with COVID-19 patients to submit daily data reporting to be used for distribution calculations and other demographics related to disease patterns that arise from the COVID-19 pandemic. This data can be used later to determine critical allocations of specific limited supplies, such as Remdesivir, which can help ease the symptoms of COVID-19. Comments on this information collection request are due February 22, 2021.
FASG6Final Rule from Select Agencies on Regulation Expiration Dates
On January 19, HHS along with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), PHS (Public Health Service), and ACF (Administration for Children and Families) released a final rule on amendments made to regulations that were set to expire. This is due to the Regulatory Flexibility Act which makes it a requirement for agencies to provide plans on periodic evaluations of necessary regulations to ensure these rules, which have significant economic impact to several different entities, should remain in effect. To ease this review process, this final rule is implementing expiration dates that coincide with review times in an effort to improve accountability of these agencies. This final rule is effective March 22, 2021. 
FASG7HHS Changes the Privacy Rule
On January 21, HHS released a notice of proposed rulemaking on changes to the Standards of Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (the Privacy Rule), this rule protects the privacy of medical records and other needed protected health information for patients. The changes being made in this rule are those that may hinder the movement to value-based health care by limiting care coordination as well as provide case management regulatory burdens without providing compensation for said burdens through the originally written privacy protection regulation. This notice of proposed rulemaking intends to address any burdens being placed on value-based care as well as continue to protect the privacy of patients' health information. Comments on this proposed rulemaking are due March 22, 2021. 
FASG8HHS Health Information Technology Advisory Committee Meeting Schedule for 2021
On January 22, HHS announced a notice on a series of meetings for the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee (HITAC) 2021. The HITAC will identify priorities and standards to be used and recommended to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Topics at these meetings will include interoperability, privacy, and security, as well as patient access. There will be nine public meetings held by the HITAC throughout the 2021 calendar year.
FASG9CMS Guidance on Biden's Special Enrollment Period for the Health Insurance Marketplace
CMS released guidance on the Biden administration's executive order from January 28, on reopening the selling of Affordable Care Act health plans on the federal marketplace as well as reduce significant barriers that have arisen in the past for those enrolling into Medicaid. Specifically, the Biden Administration has pledged to reopen HealthCare.gov and the Special Enrolment Period from February 15 to May 15, with the hopes that this will allow for more Americans to apply for health insurance in an effort to ease burdens that still arise for individuals during the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is still true that year-round enrollment for federally recognized tribes to the Health Insurance Marketplace is consistent, it is still important to be aware that mixed families with both AI/ANs and other race classifications can use this Special Enrollment period to enroll in a plan that best fits them. In an effort to promote enrollment during this special enrollment period, CMS will be holding an outreach campaign on education and awareness of this new opportunity.
FASG10Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Reminder
If you or someone in your family is unhappy with their Medicare Advantage Plan due to incompatibility with the Indian Health Service or Tribal providers, a need to switch back to original Medicare coverage, or if your Medicare Advantage Plan is just not right for you, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period is a great time to change your coverage. On January 1, 2021 individuals can now switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan with or without drug coverage, go back to original Medicare or join a Medicare prescription drug plan. This period extends until March 31, 2021, so it is imperative that AI/ANs weigh their options for what Medicare coverage choice would best fit themselves and their families.
FASG11CDC/ATSDR TAC Nashville, Phoenix and Tucson Nominations 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) is currently recruiting delegates for the Nashville Area, Phoenix Area, and Tucson Area to increase Tribal health, wellness, and inclusion by providing CDC/ATSDR input and guidance on policies, programs, and priorities. The deadline to submit nomination letters has been extended to February 12, 2021. To access the Dear Tribal Leader Letter, TAC eligibility criteria, and a nomination letter sample, read more here.
GR1Call for Tribal COVID-19 Resources
The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) is seeking to create a pool of resources which Tribes can access when planning or implementing their own COVID-19 response. To this end, NIHB is asking Tribes to share with us any tools, operational plans, guides, policies, communication products, etc. that has helped your Tribe combat this pandemic. The materials can be de-identified, if needed. These resources will be placed online within NIHB's COVID-19 Tribal Response Center alongside other community health materials. We hope this aids Tribes to build on successes and support each other in the collective effort to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on Indian Country.

To submit any materials or resources, please email Courtney Wheeler (cwheeler@nihb.org). If you have any questions, please contact Courtney Wheeler.

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