Radiology Digest – March 11, 2022

March 11, 2022

Radiology Digest: News from the week of March 11, 2022.

Anthem Rebrand Reflects Heightened Focus on Healthcare Services
By Nona Tepper | March 10, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – March 11, 2022

After eight years, Anthem will rebrand to Elevance Health — a combination of “elevate” and “advance”— with the revamp coming as the health insurance industry transforms beyond simply taking on individuals’ health risk to directly providing care to patients, and offering care delivery, pharmacy benefit management and technology services to other insurers.

Anthem, which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states, will need shareholder approval to make the change. The company’ is scheduled to vote on the matter on May 18, according to the Wall Street Journal. Anthem did not immediately respond to an interview request.

“Today, we have one of the most balanced and resilient portfolios in the market,” Chief Marketing Officer Bill Beck wrote in an email. “Through its digital capabilities, pharmacy, behavioral, clinical and complex care assets, the company is able to address consumers’ full
range of needs with an integrated, whole-person approach. It’s through these diverse assets that the company will deliver on its strategy, drive growth and exceed expectations for consumers.”

This isn’t the first time the company has rebranded. In 2014, the insurer changed its name from Wellpoint. Last year, CEO Gail Boudreaux teased the refresh during the company investor day by telling investors “the traditional insurance company that we were, has given way to the digitally enabled platform for health we are becoming,” meaning the secondlargest insurer in the nation with 45.4 million members views itself as a digital health company.

With a new name in sight, the company will reportedly continue its investment in healthcare services.

To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.

Congress’ $1.5 Trillion Spending Deal Includes 340B, Telehealth Coverage
By Jessie Hellmann | March 9, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – March 11, 2022

Congress reached a deal early Wednesday morning on a $1.5 trillion package to fund the government, but additional money to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic was stripped out at the last minute.

The long-awaited package comes after months of negotiation between Democrats and Republicans and disagreements over additional COVID-19 funding. The House plans to pass the package Wednesday with a vote in the Senate potentially by the end of the week.

About $15.6 billion in supplemental funding was removed from the bill Wednesday afternoon after some Democratic members objected to the offsets: cuts in planning relief funding to state and local governments.

The $15.6 billion was already $7 billion less than the Biden administration had asked for, and now it’s not clear when or if Congress will pass additional COVID-19 response funding.

“It is heartbreaking to remove the COVID funding, and we must continue to fight for urgently needed COVID assistance, but unfortunately that will not be included in this bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter Wednesday to Democratic members.

More than $10.5 billion of the funding would have gone to the Health and Human Services Department for research, manufacturing, production and distribution of vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and medical supplies.

The remainder of the funding would have gone toward the global COVID-19 response.

The supplemental funding doesn’t include money for an HHS program that reimburses providers for treating uninsured COVID-19 patients. The Biden administration had initially asked Congress for $3 billion to replenish this fund, which is expected to run out of money by spring or early summer.

Congressional Republicans had raised concerns about how the money has been spent so far.

The Biden administration says all of the funding that was appropriated by Congress in the past to respond to COVID-19 has been spent or obligated.

The overall package also does not include several other provider group requests, including another delay of Medicare payment cuts, which are set to partially resume in April.

The package also does not include more money for the Provider Relief Fund, which helps providers offset financial losses due to COVID-19, nor does it include a suspension of Medicare loan repayments.

To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.

Staff Shortages, Deferred Treatment Driving Changes in Care Models
By Kara Hartnett | March 8, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – March 11, 2022

Patients previously considered low-risk became sicker and health disparities likely widened because of clinical staff shortages and volume surges during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, care delivery models need to evolve to make up the backlog and meet the ongoing needs of those whose ailments manifested or became more severe because they couldn’t receive treatment.

The pandemic, along with the healthcare system’s response, have had a disproportionate effect on older and sicker patients as well as people from underserved communities that’s going to linger. The public health emergency also highlighted and exacerbated staffing shortages, leaving a smaller, exhausted workforce to deal with the clinical consequences of deferred care. The pandemic eventually will go away, but the patients who didn’t get the treatment they needed will not.

The impact of delayed care on patients is still being empirically explored, but a general consensus has emerged: Many became sicker and diseases progressed undetected as preventive care and screening went by the wayside. Wellness visits declined 69%, breast cancer screenings dropped 88% and childhood vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella fell 60% as people stayed clear of the healthcare system in 2020, according to data from UnitedHealthcare.

Hospitals are grappling right now with how to optimize their workforces to face these challenges by reconsidering how care is delivered. Telehealth and value-based care will play critical roles.

To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.

ACR Among Dozens of Doc Groups Urging Feds to Forgo Looming Medicare Cuts
By Marty Stempniak | March 4, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – March 11, 2022

The American College of Radiology is among 50 healthcare-related groups urging Congress to stave off looming Medicare cuts in the physician fee schedule.

Back in December, lawmakers reached a bipartisan deal to blunt such reductions in provider pay. That included delaying 2% Medicare sequester cuts—automatic reductions in federal spending—for the first three months of 2022. However, with April around the corner, 1% cuts are set to hit physicians’ wallets for the three months that follow, with the full sequestration impact arriving July 1.

ACR, the American Medical Association and groups representing cardiologists, neurologists and surgeons, among others, want congressional leaders to extend the pause on sequestration while providers continue battling COVID-19.

“The resumption of the Medicare sequester before the end of the [public health emergency would unnecessarily hinder our caregiving abilities, especially when the emergence of a new, potentially more dangerous and/or contagious variant continues to loom,” ACR and others wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to leaders in the U.S. House and Senate. “Consequently, we urge you to extend the current 2% Medicare sequester moratorium for the duration of the COVID-19 PHE, and to take action before April 1 when sequestration is scheduled to resume.”

In place since March 2020, the emergency declaration has been extended several times since then. President Joseph Biden did so again on Feb. 18, pushing the PHE past March 1. At the time, the White House noted that COVID “continues to cause significant risk to the public health and safety of the nation.” Congress is slated to consider federal spending bills this month, presenting a possible “legislative vehicle” to address the sequester cuts, ACR noted in a March 3 news update. The college also noted there is a likelihood the emergency order will be renewed in April.

To read more, go to Radiology Business.

Radiology Practices’ Use of Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants has Swelled in Recent Years
By Marty Stempniak | March 4, 2022 | Included in Radiology Digest – March 11, 2022

Radiology practices’ use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants has climbed considerably in recent years, according to new Neiman Health Policy Institute research released Friday.

During a time when the number of U.S. imaging groups fell by nearly 37%, their employment of such nonphysician practitioners leapt by 11%. Radiology practices more likely to utilize NPPs are in urban areas, larger in size, and had a higher percentage of interventional specialists, experts wrote in JACR.

Meanwhile, provider groups with fewer nonphysicians employed a higher number of veteran radiologists, with less focus on interventional subspecialization.

“As radiology practice and professional society leaders seek to better understand and react to the expanding number and scope of NPPs, such information about their evolving use within the specialty could inform these efforts,” first author Stefan Santavicca, senior data analyst in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and co-authors wrote March 4.

To reach their conclusions, Neiman Health Policy Institute experts utilized Medicare data spanning 2017 through 2019. They mapped out all NP and PA use, tying it to physician practices that only operate in radiology. They found that the number of radiologists in practices using nonphysician practitioners climbed 10.4% while the number of rad-employed NPPs increased almost 18%.

Both medium- and large-sized practices were more likely to use nurse practitioners and physician assistants. And with each 1% increase in IR specialists as a share of all radiologists in a practice, there was a 453% uptick in the odds that it would employ one or more nonphysician practitioner. Study authors noted this finding was no surprise, given the subspecialty’s call for more longitudinal care and use of NPPs to support such activities.

However, Santavicca et al. did not expect to find that practices with higher numbers of nonphysicians also had a greater share of early-career radiologists. This comes after a recent American College of Radiology survey found that such physicians have strong concerns about the growing use of NPPs.

“Although our methods do not permit us to assert a definitive explanation for this apparent discordance, we believe it is possible that the strong opinions expressed by younger radiologists might be informed by actual exposure to NPPs in their day-to-day work,” the study authors noted.

To read more, go to Radiology Business.

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