Community Health Centers Face Trouble After Public Health Emergency Ends
By Maya Goldman/Kara Harnett | May 26, 2022
A perfect storm looms for federally qualified health centers whenever the federal government decides the COVID-19 public health emergency is over.
When that declaration ends, which isn’t likely to happen until at least October, many community health center patients are expected to lose Medicaid coverage, which will leave clinics without reimbursement for services they provide. Planning for the future is further complicated by a pending funding cliff in fiscal 2023 and numerous other policy challenges.
“It’s very stressful looking for money rather than taking care of people,” said Mary Elizabeth Marr, CEO of community health center chain Thrive Alabama. “We are the ones that take care of people that nobody else wants to take care of, and yet we’re having to do all kinds of heroic things to try to raise funds.”
The financial uncertainty comes amid rising operational costs and a pandemic that is disproportionately harming the low-income communities that federally qualified health centers serve. Enhanced federal funding during the public health emergency is supporting COVID-19 testing and treatment services, and changes to telehealth and reimbursement regulations is boosting access. But that could all go away before the virus does.
“There’s sort of fires in every direction,” said Amanda Pears Kelly, CEO of Advocates for Community Health, a coalition of large community health centers.
The healthcare sector is planning for and worrying about the eventual end of the public health emergency, during which states have to maintain their Medicaid rolls to receive extra federal money.
But as many as 16 million people could lose Medicaid coverage when the designation expires and states resume checking enrollees’ eligibility. Medicaid is the primary payer for community health centers in most states, and a majority centers reported an up to 25% increase in Medicaid patients during the pandemic, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.
To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.
ACR Working with FDA and HHS to Help Address Imaging Contrast Shortage
By Dave Fornell | May 26, 2022
Iodine contrast being loaded into a contrast injector in preparation for a cardiac CT scan at Duly Health and Care in Lisle, Illinois. The contrast shortage is causing some healthcare organizations to postpone exams and procedures and ration contrast supplies.
The American College of Radiology (ACR) announced this week its government relations staff has been engaging federal agencies in an effort to improve product availability and hasten resolution of the ongoing iodine contrast shortage.
Following ACR outreach, the Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response convened a forum with its private sector partners to discuss the impact of the shortage on patient care. Matthew Davenport, MD, FACR, vice chair of the ACR Quality and Safety Commission, presented to the group, highlighting the profound impact the contrast shortage is having on practices and patients. Davenport also provided information about conservation measures described in a statement released earlier this month by the ACR Contrast Media Committee.
Separately, the ACR said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged the seriousness of the shortage and its impact on patient care and radiology practice logistics. The FDA, which has been working to address the shortage, is amplifying the conservation messages in ACR’s statement.
The ACR also said the FDA is looking at options to improve product availability. The ACR, other medical societies and group purchasing organizations have been asking FDA to consider approving an emergency use authorization (EUA) for contrast agents outside the U.S. that do not have FDA approval. This would be for temporary use in the U.S. until the contrast shortage is resolved, possibly by July.
To read more, go to Health Imaging.
CVS Health Launches Virtual Primary Care Platform
By Mari Devereaux | May 26, 2022
CVS Health’s new digital platform intends to give consumers access to health services on demand, whether they are at home or in a retail or community-based setting.
Eligible Aetna and CVS Caremark members will be able to use CVS Health Virtual Primary Care to request remote primary care, chronic condition management and mental health services, in addition to being seen at an in-network provider in person, the company said Thursday. The platform will roll out to Aetna members on Jan. 1, 2023, and CVS Caremark during the second quarter of 2023.
The virtual care platform will help members schedule virtual appointments with their personalized care team, led by a physician and consisting of nurse practitioners, registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses who are available via digital communication. Care teams will also consult with CVS pharmacists to manage medication, and use interoperable electronic health records to assist members with transitioning between virtual and in-person care and share clinical data with other providers.
“By offering a connected care team where providers can easily exchange clinical information on behalf of their patients, and an extensive local footprint for in-person care follow-up, we’re able to provide consistent, high-quality care,” said Creagh Milford, vice president of enterprise virtual care at CVS Health, in a news release. “This model shifts from reactive to proactive care that can ultimately improve outcomes and help lower costs.”
Being able to view patient data and care activity will allow providers to deliver personalized health alerts that can aid in closing care gaps and maintaining wellness, CVS Health said.
To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.