Week in Washington is brought to you by Michael Cohen, PhD. Tune in each week to read the latest on healthcare policy and get a glimpse of what’s on the horizon.
Week in Washington: Grim News
COVID totals and deaths continued to increase both in the US and across the world. Covid-19 is currently the third leading cause of death in the US. Enforced social distancing also accelerated this week. Florida became the latest state to announce a statewide “stay at home” order. Additionally, the US government extended its social distancing recommendations to the end of April. These orders are having an effect. 92% of Americans reported taking part in some social distancing activities.
CDC Data: The CDC released preliminary estimates of hospitalizations and ICU admissions by age and co-morbidity. The CDC noted that underlying chronic conditions (i.e., diabetes, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, etc.) dramatically increases risk. However, even controlling for underlying disease, age still was a significant predictor for complications and death.
- Hospital Flexibilities: CMS announced large changes in regulations that give hospitals more flexibility in terms of defining what a hospital is, providers enrolling in Medicare, and paperwork.
- STAR Rating: CMS announced major changes to STAR Rating data collections and calculations for the 2022 payment year
- Telehealth: CMS expanded flexibilities for provider reimbursement related to telehealth for Medicare.
- SEPs: Politico reported that the Trump Administration will not be extending a special COVID related SEP. Instead the Administration is looking into other programs to cover people.
- 6.6 million initial unemployment claims came in for the week ending March 28. That means in two weeks over 10 million Americans filed for unemployment (or roughly a 6 percentage point increase in unemployment). As context, in two weeks a larger number of Americans lost their jobs than during the first 6 months of the Great Recession.
- Of that 10+ million newly unemployed, likely 3.5 million lost health insurance the past two weeks.
- As a reminder, loss of employment is NOT a reason for an individual to garner an SEP. Loss of insurance coverage is (i.e., it’s not a 1:1 conversion of unemployment to SEP).
- CBO is not projecting a V-shaped recession (i.e., quick recovery). They are currently estimating a 9% unemployment rate at the end of 2021. (Most economists are currently expecting the downturn to linger at least for 2021).
- CMS released the 2020 Open Enrollment PUF file. The public use files (PUFs) can be found at: https://www.cms.gov/index.php/Rewsearch-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/Marketplace-Products.
- A good explanation on why you can’t find toilet paper
3/26/2020: Latest on COVID-19
3/19/2020: Latest on the Coronavirus
3/13/2020: Coronavirus Latest
3/6/2020: Coronavirus, Supreme Court, and More