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Access to Covid-19 Vaccine for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Providers and Consumers

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HHS-OIG Requests Recommendations for New or Updated Safe Harbor Provisions

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Wednesday requested proposals and recommendations to develop new, or to modify existing, safe harbor provisions under the Social Security Acts federal anti-kickback statute.

The statute applies criminal penalties for whoever knowingly—and willingly—offers, pays, solicits, or receives money to induce or reward the referral for, or purchase of, items and services that are reimbursed under any federal healthcare program. Because of the statute’s broad reach, there was concern that the statute included relatively harmless business arrangements.

This has had an especially negative effect on implementing “contingency management/motivational incentive treatment” practices in which individuals receive small rewards for improving treatment outcomes. Contingency management is an evidence-based practice that the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration developed as a joint initiative in 2001.

This treatment intervention is especially critical for individuals with stimulant use disorders, for which there are no effective treatment medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses involving psychostimulants increased 33.3% between April 2019 and April 2020, the highest percentage increase of all categories of drugs involved in overdoses for that time period.

Healthcare providers and others could comply with safe harbor conditions so that they are not subject to the federal anti-kickback statute.

The OIG will accept comments on the proposed rule until Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Click here to learn how to submit recommendations.

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Biden Chooses California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to Lead HHS

President-elect Joseph Biden has selected Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, as his nominee to lead U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS).

Becerra, who represented California in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2017, was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus from 2013 to 2017 and served on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He earned his bachelor and law degrees from Stanford. If confirmed, Becerra would be the first Latino to lead HHS.

A fierce champion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Becerra is leading 20 states and Washington, D.C.  to protect the seminal 2010 healthcare law from being dismantled. He would also oversee the department at a critical time during the Covid-19 pandemic, as caseloads surge and a massive vaccination effort is set to launch soon.

Meanwhile, Biden chose Vivek Murthy, M.D. to reprise his role as U.S. Surgeon General. Murthy served as the nation’s 19th U.S. Surgeon General during the Obama administration from December 2014 until January 2017. Murthy completed his internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and also led and managed medical teams as a faculty member.

Biden also named Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Walensky also serves as professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and is an expert on AIDS and HIV.

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NABH Letter to NGA on Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution

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NABH Participates in NQF Webinar

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HHS to Host Hospital Data Reporting Webinar on Nov. 13 

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) will host a webinar on Friday, Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. ET to review the updated guidance for hospital data reporting requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This webinar is the fourth webinar HHS has hosted to provide guidance to the nation’s healthcare providers on this topic and will include a question-and-answer period.

Click here to register and here for the webinar slide deck.

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CMS Corrects Announcement to Say Providers Cannot Use PRF When Repaying Medicare Loans

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has corrected a misstatement in its Oct. 8 news release to say the nation’s healthcare providers and suppliers cannot use Provider Relief Funds (PRF) to repay Medicare loans the agency has made during the Covid public health emergency.

The correction first appeared in an FAQ on Oct. 9. CMS subsequently corrected its original news release

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CMS Gives Medicare Part A & B Providers One More Year to Repay AAP Loans

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said Thursday it will give Medicare Part A and B providers and suppliers an additional year to repay loans the agency made to them during the Covid-19 public health emergency (PHE).

CMS had advanced payments to Medicare Part A and B providers and suppliers through the Accelerated and Advance Payment (AAP) program to help cover costs as the PHE disrupted healthcare services this year. Initially CMS had required providers to start making repayments in August 2020.

“CMS’ advanced payments were loans given to providers and suppliers to avoid having to close their doors and potentially causing a disruption in service for seniors,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in an announcement. “While we are seeing patients return to hospitals and doctors providing care we are not yet back to normal,” she added.

According to the agency’s new terms, after that first year, CMS will automatically recoup 25% of Medicare payments otherwise owed to the provider or supplier for 11 months. After that period, CMS will increase the recoupment amount to 50% for another six months.

CMS said it will send letters to providers who have any outstanding balances after the entire period—a total of 29 months— informing them that repayment will be subject to a 4% interest rate. Those letters will also include guidance on how to request an Extended Repayment Schedule (ERS) due to financial hardship. The agency’s announcement urged providers and suppliers to contact their Medicare Administrative Contractor for information about how to request an ERS.

An ERS will allow a provider or supplier to repay these debts over the course of three to five years. CMS also said providers and suppliers may use Provider Relief Funds to repay these Medicare loans.

CMS said it will communicate with each provider and supplier about the amount they owe and all applicable terms in the coming weeks.

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