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  • Federal Reserve Board Approves Fee Schedule for Federal Reserve Bank Priced Services

    Federal Reserve Board Approves Fee Schedule for Federal Reserve Bank Priced Services


    (November 16, 2018) - - The Federal Reserve Board on Friday announced the approval of fee schedules, effective January 2, 2019, for payment services the Federal Reserve Banks provide to depository institutions (priced services).

    The Reserve Banks project that they will recover 100.9 percent of their priced services costs in 2019. The Reserve Banks expect to fully recover actual and imputed expenses, including profit that would have been earned if a private-sector firm provided the services. Overall, the Reserve Banks estimate that the price changes will result in a 2.5 percent average price increase. The Reserve Banks estimate that the price changes will result in a 4.0 percent average price increase for check-clearing customers; a 2.0 percent average price increase for Fedwire® Funds customers; and a 6.0 average price increase for Fedwire® Securities customers. The fees will remain unchanged for the Reserve Banks' FedACH® Services and National Settlement Service. Lastly, the Reserve Banks estimate that the price changes will result in a 7.5 percent average price increase for FedLine® Solutions customers. The 2019 fee schedule for each of the priced services is available on the Federal Reserve Banks' financial services website at FRBservices.orgSM.

    The Board also approved the 2019 private-sector adjustment factor (PSAF) of $17.8 million for Reserve Bank priced services. The PSAF is an allowance for income taxes and other imputed expenses that would have been paid and profit that would have been earned if the Reserve Banks' priced services were provided by a private business. The Monetary Control Act of 1980 requires that the Federal Reserve establish fees to recover the costs of providing priced services, including imputed costs, over the long run, to promote competition between the Reserve Banks and private-sector service providers.

    The Board's Federal Register notice is attached.



    Credit: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
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  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights Releases - - Here to Serve You - - Educational Video in Spanish

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights Releases “Here to Serve You” Educational Video in Spanish



    (November 1, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has released an educational video in Spanish to raise awareness within the Hispanic community about the work of OCR and to highlight important conscience and religious freedom rights protected by our federal laws.

    “Because respect for the conscience and religious freedom rights of patients and providers ensures diversity in healthcare, we are reaching out to the Spanish speaking community to foster greater understanding of the laws protecting our first freedoms,” said Roger Severino, OCR Director.

    In this video, Director Severino highlights the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division and describes the work of all of OCR’s divisions in order to help patients, healthcare providers, stakeholders, and the public know their rights and responsibilities and how to file a complaint with OCR if they think that their rights have been violated. OCR protects and enforces civil rights laws in health and human services, including health information privacy and security (HIPAA); laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, national origin, age, sex, or disability; and laws protecting conscience and religious freedom.

    To view the “Here to Serve You” video and for more information about the work of OCR, please visit www.hhs.gov/ocr .




    Credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Announces the Official Opening of the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Announces the Official Opening of the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center



    (October 30, 2018) - - On Monday, October 29, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Eric Hargan, announced the official dedication of the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) at an official opening ceremony in the Hubert H. Humphrey building. As part of October’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and in coordination with the Administration’s rollout of the National Cyber Strategy, the opening underscores HHS’ commitment to support and improve the health sector’s cybersecurity defenses.

    “HHS is proud to work with the health community to better protect Americans’ health data and confidential information,” Deputy Secretary Hargan said. “Today’s announcement is a recognition of the importance we place on stakeholder engagement as part of our cybersecurity work.”




    (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)



    The U.S. Government recognizes the importance of protecting America against cyber attacks, reaffirming in the most recent National Cyber Strategy that protecting American information networks is vital to protecting the American way of life. The Administration has designated the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the lead organization to combat these threats and develop preventive strategies across the entire economy, with HHS given the role to focus cybersecurity support on information sharing within the healthcare and public health (HPH) sector.

    “We believe that when a risk is shared across sectors, the only way to manage that risk successfully is to manage it collectively,” said Jeanette Manfra, Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications in DHS. “We know that the majority of the cybersecurity attacks that occurred over the past year could have been prevented with quality and timely information - and the heightened importance of sharing information cannot be stressed enough. The HC3 is a vital capability for the early detection and coordination of information between the private sector and the federal government, and with cyber professionals across the federal government.”

    This mission is now more important than ever with the healthcare sector reporting over 400 major breaches from 2017 to 2018. Within the HPH sector, the threats are significant and hackers covet having the potential to access sensitive medical data, damage medical equipment, secure intellectual property for financial gain, or even conduct terrorist attacks. The HC3 provides a service to healthcare organizations that enables them to protect their assets and patients.

    To address these threats to the sector, HHS has developed a “coordination center” in the HC3 to coordinate the activities across the sector and report to DHS threats, profiles, and preventive strategies. The HC3’s role is to work with the sector, including practitioners, organizations, and cybersecurity information sharing organizations to understand the threats it faces, learn the bad guys’ patterns and trends, and provide information and approaches on how the sector can better defend itself.

    The official opening ceremony comes after extensive stakeholder consultation collaborating with partners that are all working together to defend the health sector’s information technology infrastructure and to strengthen coordination of information sharing.

    The Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) is an operational cybersecurity center designed to support and improve the cyber defense of the healthcare and public health sector. HC3 strengthens coordination and information sharing within the sector and cultivates cybersecurity resilience by providing timely and actionable cybersecurity intelligence to health organizations and developing strategic partnerships between these organizations.



    Credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services...
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  • U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Azar Declares Public Health Emergency in US Territory Due to Super Typhoon Yutu

    U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Azar Declares Public Health Emergency in US Territory Due to Super Typhoon Yutu




    (October 25, 2018) - - Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today declared a public health emergency in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory, due to damage from Super Typhoon Yutu. The declaration follows President Trump’s emergency declaration for the territory and gives the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.

    “We are working closely with territory health authorities, the local hospital and other healthcare facilities to save lives and protect health after this catastrophic storm,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This declaration will help ensure that our fellow Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need.”

    Super Typhoon Yutu hit the islands yesterday as a category 5 storm causing widespread damage.

    Before the storm, CMS also worked with dialysis centers in the CNMI to encourage early dialysis of patients and activated the Kidney Community Emergency Response Program to monitor dialysis access and needs of these facilities after the typhoon.

    HHS moved more than 50 medical and public health personnel along with their caches of medical supplies and equipment into Guam, the closest large territory to the CNMI before the storm; these personnel are ready to respond to medical and public health needs that CNMI officials identify in the storm’s aftermath. Additional personnel are staged or on alert from the National Disaster Medical System and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

    In addition to providing basic medical care, HHS teams can assist Urban Search and Rescue teams in triaging people found, support the health department with disease surveillance, offer behavioral health support for residents and responders, and more. HHS incident managers are working with CNMI officials to determine what federal medical and public health support is needed.

    To assist residents in the impacted area in coping with the stress of the disasters, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration activated the Disaster Distress Helpline. The Disaster Distress Helpline provides immediate 24/7, 365-days-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

    Additionally, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has guidance available for territory agencies and community organizations to help ensure equal access to emergency services and the appropriate sharing of medical information during emergencies, including how federal civil rights laws apply in an emergency, how HIPAA laws apply in an emergency. OCR also provided a HIPAA Disclosures for Emergency Preparedness Decision Tool.

    In declaring the public health emergency, in CNMI and authorizing flexibilities for CMS beneficiaries, Secretary Azar acted under his authority in the Public Health Service Act and Social Security Act. These actions and flexibilities are retroactive to Oct. 24, 2018.

    Public health and safety information for Super Typhoon Yutu can be found on the HHS emergency website, https://www.phe.gov/emergency/events...s/default.aspx.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services...
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  • U.S. Departments of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor Announce Proposal to Expand Access to Quality, Affordable Health Coverage

    U.S. Departments of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor Announce Proposal to Expand Access to Quality, Affordable Health Coverage



    Washington, DC - - (October 23, 2018) - - The U.S. Departments of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor today issued a proposed regulation that expands the usability of health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). HRAs are designed to give working Americans and their families greater control over their healthcare by providing an additional way for employers to finance quality, affordable health insurance. This proposed regulation is in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States,” and will benefit hundreds of thousands of businesses and millions of workers and their families in the coming years.

    “Today’s proposed regulations will expand the availability of affordable health insurance for hardworking Americans. This fulfills the commitment the President made in his October 2017 Executive Order to foster competition and choice and to provide Americans - especially employees who work at small businesses - with more options for financing their healthcare. Treasury projects that this will benefit hundreds of thousands of employers and millions of workers,” said U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.

    “Today’s announcement is another example of President Trump’s delivering on his promise to provide for more affordable healthcare options for the American people. More access to association health plans, short-term insurance, and flexible HRAs complement the work we are doing at HHS to bring down drug prices and lower the cost of healthcare services. Each of these actions is focused on empowering patients through transparency, choices, and competition,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

    “Of those smaller employers that provide health benefits, 81 percent offer only a single option. This proposal is about empowering American workers to have more consumer-driven healthcare choices. Health Reimbursement Arrangements can provide another way for employers to help their employees access quality, affordable health coverage,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.

    HRAs allow employers to reimburse their employees for medical expenses in a tax-favored way. Current regulations, issued by the previous administration, prohibit employers from using HRAs to reimburse employees for the cost of individual health insurance coverage. Undoing that prohibition, the proposed regulation would permit HRAs to reimburse employees for the cost of individual health insurance coverage, subject to certain conditions. These conditions mitigate the risk that health-based discrimination could increase adverse selection in the individual market, and include a disclosure provision to ensure employees understand the benefit.

    Because medical expense reimbursements from HRAs are tax-preferred, HRAs - that workers and their families use to purchase coverage of their choosing - provide the same tax advantage enjoyed by traditional employer-sponsored coverage. The proposed regulation would not alter the tax treatment of traditional employer-sponsored coverage. It would merely create a new tax-preferred option for employers of any size to use when funding employee health coverage. While the employer would fund the cost of individual health insurance coverage, the employee would own the coverage, allowing the employee to keep the coverage even if he or she left the employer and was no longer covered by the HRA.

    In the near term, the proposed regulation, if finalized, would provide opportunities to employers, especially small and mid-size employers who have struggled to offer coverage, to fund the cost of individual health insurance coverage on a tax-preferred basis. The fact is that, currently, many employers simply cannot afford to offer traditional, employer-sponsored coverage to their employees as a result of the significant costs, including the administrative burdens, associated with identifying and managing such health plans.

    Some small businesses and their employees have been hit hard by rising costs, driven in part by Obamacare. For firms that employ 3-to-24 workers, the percentage of workers covered by employer health benefits has fallen from 44 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2018. For firms that employ 25-to-49 workers, the percentage of workers covered by employer health benefits has fallen from 59 percent in 2010 to 44 percent in 2018.

    Small and mid-size businesses that continue to offer coverage to their workers generally only make a single plan available. In fact, 81 percent of small employers (fewer than 200 employees), and even 42 percent of large employers, offering health benefits only provide a single coverage option for their employees. The proposed regulation, therefore, could dramatically increase the choices of coverage available for America’s workers and their families.

    In the long term, by increasing choice, the proposed regulation, if finalized, has the potential to spur a truly competitive, value-driven health insurance market that empowers people to shop for their own health plans and, by virtue of consumer choice, drive health plans to deliver higher quality coverage at lower cost. The proposed regulation holds the potential of transformative impact on the health insurance landscape in the coming years.

    Separately, in addition to allowing HRAs to reimburse the cost of individual health insurance coverage, the proposed regulation would allow employers offering traditional employer-sponsored coverage to offer an HRA of up to $1,800 per year (indexed annually for inflation) to reimburse an employee for certain qualified medical expenses, including premiums for short-term, limited-duration insurance plans.

    According to preliminary estimates from the Treasury Department, once employers and employees have fully adjusted to the new rule, roughly 800,000 employers are expected to provide HRAs to pay for individual health insurance coverage to over 10 million employees. It is also possible that this proposed regulation would produce better incentives for both consumers and providers and thus will improve the overall healthcare system, as well as potentially increase workforce investment and wages. Moreover, the proposed regulation would better enable businesses to focus on what they do best - on serving their customers - and not on navigating and managing complex health benefit designs.

    The proposed regulation can be found here, and a fact sheet can be found here.

    Comments on the proposed regulation are requested by December 28, 2018. The regulation, if finalized, is proposed to be effective for plan years beginning on and after January 1, 2020.





    Credit: U.S. Department of Labor
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  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Model Addresses Opioid Misuse among Expectant and New Mothers

    Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Model Addresses Opioid Misuse among Expectant and New Mothers



    Goals are to improve quality of care, increase access to treatment based on state-specific needs, and reduce expenditures


    (October 23, 2018) - - Today the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Maternal Opioid Misuse (MOM) model, an important step in advancing the agency’s multi-pronged strategy to combat the nation’s opioid crisis. The model addresses the need to better align and coordinate care of pregnant and postpartum Medicaid beneficiaries with opioid use disorder (OUD) through state-driven transformation of the delivery system surrounding this vulnerable population. By supporting the coordination of clinical care and the integration of other services critical for health, wellbeing, and recovery, the MOM model has the potential to improve quality of care and reduce expenditures for mothers and infants.

    “Too many barriers impede the delivery of well-coordinated, high-quality care to pregnant and postpartum women struggling with opioid misuse, including lack of access to treatment and a shortage of providers in rural areas, where the opioid crisis is especially destructive,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The MOM model will support state Medicaid agencies, front-line providers and healthcare systems to help ensure that mothers and infants afflicted by the opioid epidemic get the care they need.”

    Substance use-related illness and death is now a leading cause of maternal death. Pregnant and postpartum women who misuse substances are at high risk for poor maternal outcomes, including preterm labor and complications related to delivery; these problems are frequently exacerbated by malnourishment, interpersonal violence, and other health-related social needs. Infants exposed to opioids before birth are at greater risk for negative health outcomes such as higher risk of being born preterm, having a low birth weight, and experiencing the effects of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a group of conditions caused when an infant withdraws from certain drugs s/he is exposed to in the womb. In addition, Medicaid pays the largest portion of hospital charges for maternal substance use, as well as a majority of the $1.5 billion annual cost of NAS.

    The primary goals of the model are to:
    • Improve quality of care and reduce expenditures for pregnant and postpartum women with OUD as well as their infants;
    • Increase access to treatment, service-delivery capacity, and infrastructure based on state-specific needs; and
    • Create sustainable coverage and payment strategies that support ongoing coordination and integration of care.

    The CMS Innovation Center will execute up to 12 cooperative agreements with states, whose Medicaid agencies will implement the model with one or more “care-delivery partners” in their communities. The MOM model will serve pregnant Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries with OUD who have elected to participate, during the prenatal, peripartum (i.e., surrounding labor and delivery), and postpartum periods. Awardees will be responsible for ensuring that beneficiaries participating in the model have access to a set of essential physical and behavioral health services, such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for OUD, maternity care, relevant primary care services, and other mental and behavioral health services beyond MAT.

    The MOM model will have a five-year period of performance with different types of funding. Specifically, implementation funding, transition funding, and the opportunity for milestone funding will be provided in three distinct model periods: Pre-implementation (Year 1), Transition (Year 2), and Full Implementation (Years 3-5).

    Care delivery will begin in Year 2, or the Transition Period, of the model. During this year, funding for care-delivery services that are not otherwise covered by Medicaid will be provided by Innovation Center funds. By Year 3, the start of the Full Implementation Period, states must implement coverage and payment strategies. This overall structure seeks to balance rapid model initiation and state flexibility, while minimizing administrative burden. In particular, the MOM model design supports each awardee’s ability to quickly begin delivering coordinated and integrated care to pregnant and postpartum women with OUD during the Transition Period, while supporting states in developing a long-term coverage and payment strategy that aligns with their state Medicaid program.

    CMS anticipates releasing a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) in early 2019 to solicit cooperative agreement applications to implement the MOM model. The state Medicaid agency will be expected to complete the application, which must demonstrate that it has partnered with at least one care-delivery partner. A maximum of $64.6 million will be available across up to 12 state awardees over the course of the five-year model. The NOFO will contain all model requirements and eligibility criteria for potential applicants.

    In August, CMS announced the Integrated Care for Kids (InCK) Model, a child-centered local service delivery and state payment model aimed at reducing expenditures and improving the quality of care for children covered by Medicaid and CHIP through prevention, early identification, and treatment of priority health concerns like behavioral health challenges, including substance abuse. The model will empower states and local providers to better address these needs through care integration across all types of healthcare providers. CMS anticipates releasing a NOFO for the InCK Model at the same time as it does for the MOM Model.

    For more information, please visit https://innovation.cms.gov/initiativ...d-misuse-model or the fact sheet: https://www.cms.gov/sites/drupal/fil...FINAL%29_0.pdf





    Credit: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services...
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  • U.S. General Services Administration Launches New Pilot Program Increasing eBuy Transparency

    U.S. General Services Administration Launches New Pilot Program Increasing eBuy Transparency



    One Year Pilot Program with Select GSA Contracting Offices to Study Effects on Competition, eBuy Usage


    Washington, DC - - (October 17, 2018) - - The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has launched a pilot project aimed at improving transparency and increasing competition through the use of GSA’s eBuy, an online Request for Quote (RFQ) system. The eBuy Open GSA First pilot aims to draw more vendors to participate in the federal marketplace by publicly releasing post-award eBuy RFQ information on GSA procurements on FedBizOpps.

    “Providing more transparency into how the federal government buys products and services will help contractors and our agency customers make more informed decisions when considering GSA contracts,” said GSA Administrator Emily Murphy. “Making this data public will be especially helpful for small businesses who often aren’t able to dedicate resources to navigate the government contracting process. Increasing competition and improving transparency supports the priorities I have established while leading GSA and will ultimately enable GSA contracts to produce greater value for the American taxpayer.”

    “Stakeholders have been asking for access to eBuy for some time, this pilot enables GSA to explore the best options to improve transparency in the eBuy program,” said Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Alan Thomas. “Not only will publishing post-award RFQ information publicly give our industry partners greater insight, but it will also encourage more vendors to pursue opportunities with GSA.”

    The one-year eBuy Open GSA First pilot will collect and analyze data from a test group and a control group. The test group includes contracting officers from the GSA Office of Internal Acquisition, and the FAS Region 7 Southwest Supply and Acquisition Center for GSA funded procurements. These test groups were selected because they are the most active on eBuy.

    During the pilot, the test group will upload the award notice of each individual eBuy award, including a copy of the RFQ, on FedBizOpps for public viewing. Enter the keyword “eBuyPilot” in the search box on FedBizOpps to find these award notices.

    The pilot will run until October 9, 2019.




    Credit: U.S. General Services Administration
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  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Activates Aid for Uninsured Floridians Needing Medicine after Hurricane Michael

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Activates Aid for Uninsured Floridians Needing Medicine after Hurricane Michael



    (October 18, 2018) - - Thousands of uninsured Floridians are eligible for no-cost replacements of critical medications lost or damaged by Hurricane Michael. This relief comes from the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP), managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).

    The program pays for prescription medications for people without health insurance who are affected by disasters. More than 4,900 Florida pharmacies participate in EPAP, and more than 72,000 pharmacies participate nationwide.

    “The Emergency Prescription Assistance Program provides vital assistance to people without insurance who rely upon certain prescription medicines to protect their health after disasters,” said HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “I encourage citizens in Florida who can use this assistance to take advantage of it to ensure they have an adequate supply of the medicines they need.”

    At no cost to uninsured patients, those needing certain prescription medications during an emergency can obtain a 30-day supply at any EPAP participating pharmacy through Nov. 15. Most prescription drugs exit disclaimer icon are available.

    Uninsured patients also may use the program to replace specific medical supplies, vaccines or medical equipment, such as canes and walkers, damaged or lost as a direct result of Hurricane Michael or as a secondary result of loss or damage caused while in transit from the emergency site to an emergency shelter.

    EPAP provides an efficient mechanism for enrolled pharmacies to process claims for prescription medication, specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment for eligible individuals in a federally identified disaster area.

    Uninsured Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael can call 855-793-7470, to learn if their medication or specific durable medical equipment is covered by EPAP and to find a participating pharmacy or visit www.phe.gov/epap .

    HHS also has Disaster Medical Assistance Teams working alongside local healthcare providers to care for emergency department patients at damaged or overwhelmed hospitals. In addition, these federal medical teams have triaged people found by Urban Search and Rescue and provided basic medical care for residents in local emergency shelters. Since arrival, these teams have seen more than 1,500 patients.

    A U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps behavioral health team also is providing behavioral health support for emergency responders.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has information available to help citizens understand the safe use of medical products, including insulin and devices, exposed to flooding or unsafe water after Hurricane Michael. This information includes the safe use of temperature-sensitive drugs when refrigeration is temporarily unavailable.

    The FDA also continues to monitor Hurricane Michael’s impact on companies that develop products the FDA regulates, including medicines, medical devices, food, and the blood supply, to help ensure safety and availability. There have been no reports of significant impacts on companies that produce critically important medical products, and no shortages of these products are expected at this time.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention subject matter experts are working with the state health department to determine and meet any long-term public health effects of the hurricane and providing public health information such as safe clean up and preventing common post-disaster diseases.

    The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is providing waivers and flexibilities to assist healthcare providers and suppliers in providing necessary care and services to beneficiaries throughout the emergency.

    CMS is working with the Kidney Community Emergency Response network and dialysis providers to check on the well-being of dialysis patients and reschedule their dialysis services at open dialysis facilities after the hurricane.

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration activated its Disaster Distress Helpline, a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. The Disaster Distress Helpline is toll-free, multilingual, and confidential. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (for Spanish, press 2 or text Hablanos to 66746) to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The helpline has received almost 200 calls from Floridians in the past week.

    HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared public health emergencies in Florida and Georgia to authorize flexibilities for CMS beneficiaries, following President Trump’s emergency declarations in those states due to Hurricane Michael. These actions and flexibilities are retroactive to Oct. 9, 2018, in Georgia and Oct. 7, 2018, in Florida.

    HHS, through ASPR, leads the federal government’s public health and medical response and recovery support for states and territories after disasters. HHS works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. ASPR’s mission is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats.

    Information on disaster health and HHS actions is available on www.phe.gov/emergency . Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available on https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html .





    Credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services...
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  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma Statement on Burden Reduction Accomplishments

    Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma Statement on Burden Reduction Accomplishments



    (October 17, 2018) - - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma's Statement on Burden Reduction Accomplishments:

    “I would like to thank President Trump for his leadership and commitment to reducing burdensome federal regulations and Secretary Azar’s action to moving our healthcare system towards providing value for patients. CMS will continue our efforts to eliminate unnecessary regulations that take providers away from patients and stifle innovation. Every hour saved from reducing needless administrative burden is an hour more that our healthcare system can spend improving Americans’ health outcomes, and every duplicative requirement we eliminate saves patients and taxpayers money.

    Upon taking office, President Trump made reducing burdensome regulations across the federal government a top priority, establishing his 'Cut The Red Tape Initiative.' At CMS, we took this directive and created our 'Patients Over Paperwork Initiative' last year. For 2018 through 2021, CMS projects final rules and current proposals under the Patients Over Paperwork initiative will eliminate more than 53 million hours of burden for providers and save our healthcare system close to $5.2 billion.”




    Credit: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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  • U.S. General Services Administration Announces Hurricane Michael Relief Efforts and Special Emergency Procurement Authorities

    U.S. General Services Administration Announces Hurricane Michael Relief Efforts and Special Emergency Procurement Authorities


    GSA’s senior procurement executive signed memo raising certain minimum thresholds to directly support Hurricane Michael relief efforts


    Washington, DC - - (October 17, 2018) - - The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has raised the micro purchase threshold, the simplified acquisition threshold, and the simplified leasing acquisition threshold, in order to address the needs created by Hurricane Michael.

    Raising the thresholds will help Heads of Contracting Activities and contracting officers quickly gain access to resources needed in providing direct support for Hurricane Michael relief efforts.

    The new thresholds do the following:
    • increase the micro-purchase threshold to $20,000;
    • increase the simplified acquisition threshold to $750,000 or $13,000,000 for commercial items; and
    • increase the simplified lease acquisition threshold to $750,000.

    The thresholds were raised through a Senior Procurement Executive (SPE) memo signed October 11, 2018. Since Hurricane Michael was declared an emergency by President Trump, it meets the legal definition of "emergency" in accordance with GSA's Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), Class Deviation - Exercise of Special Emergency Procurement Authorities, allowing the thresholds to be raised. The increased thresholds will remain in effect until February 28, 2019, unless otherwise rescinded, modified or extended.

    GSA also raised these thresholds for Hurricane Florence relief efforts through an SPE memo signed September 13, 2018.

    For more information on GSA’s assistance to the public, first responders and federal employees, visit GSA.gov/emergency .




    Credit: U.S. General Services Administration
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  • U. S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Announces Participants in New Value-Based Bundled Payment Model

    U. S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Announces Participants in New Value-Based Bundled Payment Model




    Participation is robust in Administration’s Bundled Payments for Care Improvement-Advanced model, which is designed to improve quality and reduce costs for inpatient & outpatient care



    (October 9, 2018) - - Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that 1,299 entities have signed agreements with the agency to participate in the Administration’s Bundled Payments for Care Improvement – Advanced (BPCI Advanced) Model. The participating entities will receive bundled payments for certain episodes of care as an alternative to fee-for-service payments that reward only the volume of care delivered.

    The Model participants include 832 Acute Care Hospitals and 715 Physician Group Practices – a total of 1,547 Medicare providers and suppliers, located in 49 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Of note, BPCI Advanced qualifies as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (Advanced APM) under MACRA, so participating providers can be exempted from the reporting requirements associated with the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

    “To accelerate the value-based transformation of America’s healthcare system, we must offer a range of new payment models so providers can choose the approach that works best for them,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “The Bundled Payments for Care Improvement – Advanced model was the Trump Administration’s first Advanced Alternative Payment Model, and today we are proud to announce robust participation. We look forward to launching additional models that will provide an off-ramp to the inefficient fee-for-service system and improve quality and reduce costs for our beneficiaries.”

    Under the traditional fee-for-service payment system, Medicare pays providers and suppliers for each individual service they perform. However, under this new episode payment model, participants can earn an additional payment if all expenditures for a beneficiary’s episode of care are less than a spending target, which factors in measures of quality. Conversely, if the expenditures exceed the target price, the participant must repay money to Medicare.

    The BPCI Advanced Model was publicly announced in January 2018, and runs from October 1, 2018 through December 31, 2023. It builds on the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) Initiative, which ended on September 30, 2018.

    Some key differences between the BPCI initiative and the new BPCI Advanced Model are:
    • BPCI Advanced offers bundled payments for additional clinical episodes beyond those that were included in BPCI, including – for the first time – outpatient episodes.
    • BPCI Advanced provides participants with preliminary target prices before the start of each model year to allow for more effective planning. The target prices are the amount CMS will pay for episodes of care under the model.
    • BPCI Advanced qualifies as an Advanced APM. Participating clinicians assume risk for patients’ healthcare costs and also meet other requirements including meeting quality thresholds, potentially qualifying them for incentive payments and exempting them from the MIPS program.
    BPCI Advanced will initially include 32 bundled clinical episodes - 29 inpatient and 3 outpatient. Currently, the top three clinical episodes selected by participants are: Major joint replacement of the lower extremity, congestive heart failure, and sepsis.

    Today, CMS also released the fifth evaluation report for Models 2-4 of the original BPCI Initiative. To view the report, please use this link - https://downloads.cms.gov/Files/cmmi...yr5evalrpt.pdf

    To view the accompanying “Findings At-A-Glance” document for the BPCI Initiative Models 2-4 fifth evaluation report, please use this link - https://innovation.cms.gov/Files/rep...evalyrs1-3.pdf

    The BPCI Initiative had encouraging results. CMS designed the BPCI Advanced Model taking into account evaluation results and lessons learned from other Innovation Center models, industry experience with bundled payment, and stakeholder input from healthcare providers at acute care hospitals, physician group practices, and other providers and suppliers.

    For more information about the BPCI Advanced Model, please visit: https://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/bpci-advanced.





    Credit: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services...
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  • U.S. General Services Administration Awards NewPay BPA for Software-as-a-Service for Payroll and Work Schedule and Leave Management

    U.S. General Services Administration Awards NewPay BPA for Software-as-a-Service for Payroll and Work Schedule and Leave Management



    10-year, $2.5 billion BPA provides agencies with technology and services to modernize and improve payroll processing across government


    Washington, DC - - (September 27, 2018) - - Today, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced the award of a 10-year, $2.5 billion NewPay blanket purchase agreement (BPA) that will provide payroll and work schedule and leave management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions and services. Payroll modernization aligns with the fifth Cross Agency Priority goal from the President’s Management Agenda, which calls for streamlining administrative services across the federal government.

    The BPA uses common, governmentwide standards built collaboratively with current payroll providers and subject matter experts from across government. These standards allow the government to adopt innovative commercial solutions and gain efficiencies and economies of scale.

    “GSA is excited to deliver increased value to taxpayers and offer our partners in government a modern, efficient and effective approach to payroll through NewPay,” said GSA Administrator Emily Murphy. "NewPay strongly aligns with the Trump administration’s efforts to be more efficient, make wise investments of taxpayer funds and shift the focus from low to high-value work by modernizing government processes and systems. Additionally, by utilizing SaaS solutions, NewPay will continue to create ongoing value by empowering agencies to continue modernizing their systems.”

    “Today’s announcement of the NewPay awardees is an important step in our Shared Services journey as part of the President’s Management Agenda,” said Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent. “I look forward to seeing federal agencies have the opportunity to utilize leading business capabilities and dedicate greater agency focus on mission.”

    “NewPay demonstrates how the government will better coordinate and document common business needs across agencies by focusing on outcomes, data, and cross-functional end-to-end business processes,” said GSA Deputy Associate Administrator for Government-wide Policy Beth Angerman. “Common standards are the key that will drive economies of scale and leverage the government’s buying power.”

    BPAs were awarded to the following teams:
    • Team Carahsoft: Carahsoft Technology Corporation, Immix Technology, and Deloitte Consulting LLP
      • Solution: Kronos and SAP
    • Team Grant Thornton: Grant Thornton, The Arcanum Group, Inc., and CGI Federal
      • Solution: Infor





    Credit: U.S. General Services Administration...
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  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Announces 2.6 Million Dollars in Prizes to Redesign Dialysis as Part of KidneyX

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Announces $2.6 Million in Prizes to Redesign Dialysis as Part of KidneyX




    (September 28, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) have committed $2,265,000 in prize money for “KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis,” a prize competition that challenges the public to develop better treatment options for patients with kidney failure. This prize competition is the first in a planned series of Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX) prize competitions designed to develop innovative solutions that can prevent, diagnose, and/or treat kidney diseases.

    “With this first prize, KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis, we are looking for solutions that completely disrupt the way kidney failure is currently treated,” said Ed Simcox, HHS Chief Technology Officer, “We are asking innovators like engineers and scientists to propose and develop new technologies to redesign treatment for kidney failure. We look forward to seeing what the best and brightest envision for the future of kidney failure treatment in the first phase of Redesign Dialysis.”

    “In addition to redesigning dialysis, we are also redesigning how HHS tackles complex problems,” said Sandeep Patel, HHS KidneyX Program Director. “Innovators currently must navigate a disjointed and expensive path to bring new products and practices to market. KidneyX has brought together colleagues across our funding (National Institutes of Health), regulatory (Food and Drug Administration), and payment (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) roles to offer a more coherent and transparent path for innovators.”

    HHS and ASN designed this first prize after a year of gathering input from key stakeholders, including patients, nephrologists, investors, and researchers through listening sessions, Twitter chats and two Requests For Information.

    The Redesign Dialysis prize will run in two phases with a total prize purse of $2,625,000. The first phase, which will award up to 15 prizes of $75,000 each, launching in late October and running through February 2019 asks participants to design solutions or components of solutions that can replicate normal kidney functions and improve patient quality of life. The second phase, planned to run from April 2019 to January 2020, will ask participants to develop initial prototypes; this phase will award up to 3 prizes of $500,000 each. Participants may compete in the second phase even if they do not submit a solution in the first phase.

    Mark D. Okusa, MD, FASN, President of the American Society of Nephrology added, “The American Society of Nephrology is excited and honored to partner with HHS to collaborate on the first KidneyX Prize: Redesign Dialysis. We hope to attract new interest, potential collaborators, and ideas from across the medical and scientific communities to accelerate the development of disruptive new therapies.”

    Submissions for the first phase of the Redesign Dialysis prize will launch on Thursday, October 25, 2018 at ASN Kidney Week 2018. For more information on the ReDesign Dialysis prize visit, hhs.gov/idealab




    Credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services...
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  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Announces New Streamlined User Experience for Medicare Beneficiaries

    Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Announces New Streamlined User Experience for Medicare Beneficiaries




    (October 1, 2018) - - Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a multi-year initiative that will empower patients and update Medicare resources to meet beneficiaries’ expectation of a more personalized customer experience. The eMedicare initiative will modernize the way beneficiaries get information about Medicare and create new ways to help them make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

    The eMedicare initiative’s goal is to provide a seamless online health care experience to meet the growing expectations for this generation of Medicare beneficiaries. CMS has a cohesive, multi-year strategy of consumer data integration and web product development to modernize Medicare.gov and improve access to personal health care data. The road map for this program will enhance opportunities to go digital, offer additional self-serve options, and create a seamless multi-channel customer service experience.

    “Since day one, President Trump has been committed to strengthening the Medicare program—eMedicare puts his leadership into action by giving Medicare beneficiaries a simpler, more intuitive customer experience,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “Our intent is not to replace traditional channels that beneficiaries trust and depend on, but to improve and enhance them with the emerging digital options to create a user-centered, seamless consumer experience.”

    Some of the new eMedicare initiatives that CMS is launching ahead of Medicare Open Enrollment are:
    • An improved coverage wizard to help beneficiaries compare options at a deeper level as a way to decide if Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage is right for them;
    • A stand alone, mobile optimized out of pocket cost calculator that will provide information on both overall costs and prescription drug costs;
    • A simplified log in for the Medicare Plan Finder (https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan...ions/home.aspx) tool using their online account (instead of the current process of entering 5 pieces of information to authenticate);
    • A webchat option, which will be available within the Medicare Plan Finder for some beneficiaries; and
    • New easy to use surveys available across Medicare.gov so beneficiaries can continue to tell us what they want.
    These changes are building on previous improvements including:
    • Giving beneficiaries the ability to print their Medicare card online;
    • Re-designing the Mymedicare.gov homepage for easier navigation;
    • Launching consumer-facing Blue Button (https://www.medicare.gov/manage-your...blue-button-20) features in Mymedicare.gov;
    • Providing an online version of the Medicare & You Handbook (https://www.medicare.gov/medicare-and-you) in a mobile-friendly format. We’ve also added simple, graphical explanations at the beginning of the Medicare & You handbook;
    • Improving email communications. Medicare emails more than 8 million beneficiaries with information about Open Enrollment, preventive benefits, money saving tips, and fraud prevention.
    • Enhancing social media presence—Medicare’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/medicare/) has grown to almost a half-million followers;
    • Distributing the electronic version of the Medicare Summary Notice, allowing people with Medicare to view their explanation of benefits in a more timely manner online at Mymedicare.gov (https://www.mymedicare.gov/); and
    • The eMedicare initiative will expand and improve upon current consumer service options. People with Medicare will continue to have access to paper copies of the Medicare & You handbook and the Medicare Summary Notice.
    CMS launched the initiative with a new video (https://youtu.be/YUiHOnmun8s) that includes insights from Medicare beneficiaries on what they expect from Medicare and remarks from Administrator Verma outlining her vision for modernized program. Approximately 10,000 people join Medicare each day. The Medicare population is expected to increase to more than 80 million beneficiaries in 2030, up from 54 million in 2015. As of 2016, about two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries indicate they use the Internet daily or almost daily (65%).

    Read a Medicare.gov blog about eMedicare: https://www.medicare.gov/blog/emedic...ening-medicare .




    Source: U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services...
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  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Selects Pilot Projects to Demonstrate Better Approach to Disaster Medical Care

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Selects Pilot Projects to Demonstrate Better Approach to Disaster Medical Care




    (September 27, 2018) - - Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the following information:

    In a disaster, thousands of Americans may require immediate medical specialty care, surpassing the care available in the community. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) today awarded two $3 million grants to demonstrate how a new Regional Disaster Health Response System could meet these needs, including trauma, burn or other specialty care, during a national emergency and save more lives.

    “Our nation faces real and serious threats that represent a looming risk to healthcare delivery,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec. “This system offers a powerful way to form alliances and build specialized capabilities that save more lives in overwhelming, catastrophic emergencies. The system draws on the existing U.S. healthcare infrastructure, pulling together private sector and federal resources in a way that has never been done. I encourage all healthcare delivery facilities and providers to get involved.”

    Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, received the grants from ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program to conduct pilot projects that show the potential effectiveness and viability of a Regional Disaster Health Response System.

    The Regional Disaster Health Response System will build on local health care coalitions and trauma centers, creating a tiered system of disaster care. The system will integrate local medical response capabilities with emergency medical services, burn centers, pediatric hospitals, labs, and outpatient services, to meet the overwhelming health care needs created by disasters.

    More than 31,000 health care organizations participate in health care coalitions nationwide, which are funded by the Hospital Preparedness Program. Coalitions create partnerships among health care facilities and providers in communities, primarily from the private sector, to prepare for disasters and respond.

    In demonstrating a Regional Disaster Health Response System, each pilot project must:
    • build a partnership for disaster health response to support clinical specialty care;
    • align plans, policies, and procedures for clinical excellence in disasters;
    • increase state-wide and regional medical surge capacity;
    • improve state-wide and regional situational awareness, such as the availability of hospital beds; and
    • develop metrics and test the regional system’s capabilities.

    Nebraska Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital were selected from among 19 applicants nationwide by a panel of experts from professional associations, academia, and federal agencies.



    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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