PCHETA Introduced in the House Last Week

The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) was introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) last week. The bipartisan legislation is aimed at improving palliative care and hospice workforce development, as well as strengthening palliative care awareness and research. The legislation builds on the PCHETA legislation introduced during the 113th Congress resulting in a comprehensive piece of legislation that addresses gaps in palliative care and hospice training, increases palliative care education and awareness, and encourages the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to strengthen and intensify research in this area. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) plans to introduce companion legislation.

Ebola Drug Development Advanced by HHS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided $19.8 million to the Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) to support the development of a new Ebola drug. Under the task order, Emergent BioSolutions will begin advanced development and manufacturing activities for an experimental monoclonal antibody drug. The program will be overseen by HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The drug being developed is similar to ZMapp, the treatment that was given to several aid workers during the worst of the Ebola outbreak last year. This new experimental drug uses a combination of the same three monoclonal antibodies as ZMapp, but is produced using special mammalian cells rather than tobacco plants. This will allow the drug to be produced more quickly than ZMapp, and provide more of the drug for clinical studies and eventually potential stockpiling, according to HHS.

PCORI to Expand PCORnet

The Board of Governors for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has approved $142.5 million to advance the development and expansion of the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet). PCORnet is aimed at enhancing the nation’s capacity to conduct patient-centered health outcomes research more quickly, less expensively, and with greater impact than is currently possible. The initiative links researchers, the patient community, clinicians, and health systems to harness the power of big data maintained by PCORI partner networks. Through the use of standardized data sets, PCORnet links health information for large multi-network studies, both randomized and observational, and research partnerships between 13 Clinical Data Research Networks (CDRNs) and 21 Patient-Powered Research Networks (PPRNs). Additional funding will help add seven health data networks to this initiative, which currently has 27 networks participating in its first development phase. The new networks must focus on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, autism spectrum disorders, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, behavioral health disparities among low-income populations, and health disparities among sexual and gender minorities. The complete partner networks now cover more than 150 conditions and various population groups.

GAO Report Finds Medicare Provider Fraud

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), many Medicare providers are using false addresses to receive Medicare reimbursements. The report finds that 23,400 of the 105,234 Medicare practice location addresses are potentially ineligible for reimbursements. The GAO’s audit also revealed that 460 providers in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare database were deceased, and 38 of these providers received Medicare payments for services performed after their death. Furthermore, GAO found that 16 providers were able to receive significant Medicare payments even though they were already banned from participating in federal health programs. In its report, GAO also outlines additional problems with CMS’s verification of physician licensure status.

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