Lawmakers Question HHS' Preparedness for Influenza

A bipartisan group of House Energy and Commerce Committee members have written to Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Mathews Burwell questioning whether her department is prepared for the coming flu season. “The mismatched seasonal influenza vaccine and the high death rate among the elderly and other high-risk populations in the U.S. during the 2014-2015 influenza season highlight the need for an improved response, including making seasonal influenza vaccines more effective and promptly available,” the letter says. The policy makers request that HHS provide additional information on lessons learned from the 2014-2015 influenza season and what preparations are being made for 2015-2016 season. The letter is signed by Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), and Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

AMA Releases Opioid Use Recommendations

The American Medical Association’s (AMA) Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse has released the first of several new national recommendations regarding the abuse of opioid medications. The AMA encourages physicians to register for and make use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), noting that these state-based programs also need more funding and modernization. The AMA will ramp up efforts to educate providers on evidenced-based prescribing through a new website with information on PDMPs and an awareness campaign dealing with the steps prescribers can take to counter the opioid abuse epidemic.

National Academy of Medicine Launches New Priorities Initiative

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) has a new initiative underway to inform the administration and lawmakers about what priorities they should explore while considering health care reform. The Vital Directions for Health and Health Care initiative will bring together experts in health and health care to identify areas of opportunity and national policies that are most promising for improving the quality of care, increasing access to care, and lowering the cost of care. A steering committee will meet this fall to determine the scope of the initiative and choose leaders to contribute to its work.

Ways and Means Introduce Set of Hospital Payment Bills

The House Ways and Means Committee has introduced three bills on hospital policy, as a part of its larger effort to reform the hospital payment system. Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Health Subcommittee member Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), and Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-La.) spearheaded the legislation. H.R. 3291, the Medicare Crosswalk Code Development Act of 2015 would help translate diagnosis codes between inpatient and outpatient systems. H.R. 3292, the Medicare IME Pool Act of 2015, would give teaching hospitals lump-sum payments for Indirect Medical Education (IME) costs. H.R. 3288, the Strengthening DSH and Medicare Through Subsidy Recapture and Payment Reform Act of 2015 would begin reimbursing disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) through lump sum payments. H.R. 3288 would also increase DSH funding to those hospitals that are located in states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by recouping overpayments for subsidies under the law. These bills took into account comments received on Rep. Brady’s Hospital Improvements for Payment discussion draft. Rep. Brady plans to introduce a larger package that includes these three bills later in the fall.

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