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: Coronavirus, Supreme Court, and More
On top of the health policy news front continues to be coronavirus. A few developments this week include:
- Expansion in Number of Cases – The number of coronavirus cases continues to expand globally with nearly 100,000 as having been tested positive and 3,300 deaths. The U.S. has at least 159 cases as of writing this. The exact transmission rate and fatality rate remains unknown with estimates ranging from 0.7% to 4% depending on the quality of care and ability to accurately measure the number of infected individuals.
- Expanded Testing – The CDC expanded testing eligibility this week, however; testing capabilities remained low in the US relative to the rest of the world. This could mean the number of cases is likely larger than being reported. The diagnostic test costs about $250 according to politico.
- Congressional Action – Congress passed a bipartisan bill that provides $8.3 billion for fighting the coronavirus. The package includes $500 million to allow Medicare providers to administer telehealth.
- Regulatory Changes
- CMS has released new guidance for providers and nursing homes to reduce infections.
- President Pence announced that coronavirus testing would be EHB. However, there has been no guidance or regulations released to define what this means or when this would happen.
- CMS also announced that Medicare Part B covers a test for coronavirus.
- The State of New York announced that health insurers were to waive cost-sharing associated with testing for coronavirus including emergency room, urgent care, and office visits. The state of Washington ordered something similar today. The order bans cost-sharing, suspends prior authorization, allows Rx refills, and expands coverage for out-of-network care related to coronavirus. Other states are likely to follow suit.
- Potential Drug Shortages – There are increasing concerns of drug and vitamin shortages as drug exports from China and India have decreased. This week India ordered the pharmaceutical industry to stop exporting certain drugs and ingredients.
- AHIP announced that its members would cover coronavirus testing without cost-sharing.
Other News this Week
Supreme Court to Hear ACA Case
In what normally would have been front page news, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the ACA constitutionality case. Texas vs. U.S. will be heard in October or November. Following the hearing, the Supreme Court will determine if the ACA is legal as a result of ending the mandate penalty. The court could rule the ACA is legal, illegal, certain parts are illegal, or that the ACA is not legal in certain parts of the country (i.e., the plaintiff states). Legal experts believe the ACA will generally remain legal unless there is a change in court composition between now and a ruling. A ruling is expected in the Spring (likely June).
Work Requirements Nixed in Michigan
A federal judge summarily blocked Michigan’s work requirements from being enforced. Work requirements have now lost several court cases. The cases are likely to go before the Supreme Court but will take time in getting there.
2/28/2020: Coronavirus Tops Health News
2/21/2020: Medicaid Day in Court
2/14/2020: ACA Case Updates, New Regulations, and More
1/24/2020: No Expedited Hearing for ACA Case