IHA Daily Briefing: June 15

Wednesday, June 15, 2022
SCOTUS Rejects 340B Payment Cuts
Grant Notice: Rural Emergency Hospital Tech Assistance
REGISTER: IDPH OB/Neonatal Unit Discussion Webinar
REGISTER: Surgeon General’s COVID Therapeutics Webinar
Audio-Only Telehealth Guidance Issued by HHS OCR
WHO Emergency Cmt. to Meet on Monkeypox
Illinois COVID-19 Update
Briefly Noted

SCOTUS Rejects 340B Payment Cuts
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned reimbursement cuts instituted by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) for 340B-acquired drugs. Led by the American Hospital Association (AHA), the case challenged HHS’ 2018 and 2019 reimbursement rates, which resulted in a $1.6 billion annual cut to reimbursement for 340B-acquired drugs. In Illinois, 340B hospitals experienced an annual estimated $69 million reduction in reimbursement.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh authored the opinion, which states that, “Because HHS did not conduct a survey of hospitals’ acquisition cuts, HHS acted unlawfully by reducing the reimbursement rates for 340B hospitals.”

In a joint statement, AHA, the Association of American Medical Colleges and America’s Essential Hospitals called the decision a “decisive victory for vulnerable communities and the hospitals on which so many patients depend,” underscoring that “340B discounts help hospitals devote more resources to services and programs for vulnerable communities and increase access to prescription drugs for low-income patients.”

Looking to the future, the statement emphasized that, “Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, we look forward to working with the Administration and the courts to develop a plan to reimburse 340B hospitals affected by these unlawful cuts while ensuring the remainder of the hospital field is not disadvantaged as they also continue to serve their communities.”

Since 2018, IHA has adamantly opposed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) 340B reimbursement reduction, as well as the survey CMS fielded in 2020 to ascertain 340B hospital acquisition costs. Protecting the 340B program remains a top federal advocacy priority, with recent IHA efforts leading to continued eligibility for the 340B program for hospitals that would otherwise lose eligibility due to patient mix changes during the COVID-19 public health emergency.


Grant Notice: Rural Emergency Hospital Tech Assistance
Rural hospitals eligible to convert to the Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) model are encouraged to apply for a grant recently posted by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The program is intended to provide rural hospitals and the communities they serve with the information and resources necessary to make informed decisions as to whether the REH is the best model of care for their communities, and help facilitate a successful implementation of REH requirements for those hospitals converting to this new provider type.

The award recipient will provide technical assistance to rural hospitals and communities by:

  • Assessing feasibility of the REH model;
  • Assisting with the application to CMS for REH designation; and
  • Providing ongoing support to REHs implementing new services and achieving REH compliance standards.

For each of the three objectives, the award recipient should develop resources for broad dissemination and provide in-depth technical assistance to individual hospitals and their communities. Hospitals and rural communities considering this new model will need assistance across a broad range of issues, including financial analysis (including how to apply the REH Alternative Monthly Payment); workforce or staffing planning; establishment of referral relationships and processes; and determining REH service lines, community health needs and impact on the community health system (including emergency medical services).

The REH model is in the final stages of regulation development at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in preparation for the start date of Jan. 1, 2023. The award recipient will need to align and adjust plans to those final rules.

The application deadline is July 27. Click here for more information.


REGISTER: IDPH OB/Neonatal Unit Discussion Webinar
The Illinois Perinatal Quality Collaborative (ILPQC) in partnership with the Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) is hosting their COVID-19 Strategies for OB/Neonatal Units Discussion webinar this Friday, June 17 from noon to 1:15 p.m.

Leaders from OB and Neonatal units from around Illinois will share COVID-19 cases, lessons learned and answer questions on key issues that OB/neonatal providers and staff are currently facing. Pre-registration is required. You can register for the webinar by clicking here.

Can't make it live? A recording of the webinar and FAQs will be available following the webinar here. You can also access the previous OB and Neonatal COVID-19 Discussion webinars at the ILPQC webpage.


REGISTER: Surgeon General’s COVID Therapeutics Webinar
While COVID-19 vaccines and boosters continue to offer the best protection against severe illness, safe and effective therapeutics are widely available that can help reduce hospitalization or death among those at highest risk.

To ensure these critical therapeutics are available to communities across the nation, healthcare providers are encouraged to join a webinar tomorrow, June 16 from 10 – 11 a.m., which will focus on the COVID-19 therapeutic landscape, their appropriate use and how to access these drugs. Hosted by the U.S. Surgeon General and representatives from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the panel will also discuss opportunities for increasing utilization of these therapeutics.

Click here to register for the webinar, which was designed specifically for healthcare providers.


Audio-Only Telehealth Guidance Issued by HHS OCR
Guidance has been issued by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (HHS OCR) intended to help healthcare providers and health plans comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The guidance specifically offers information to help healthcare providers and plans understand how to use remote communication technologies for audio-only telehealth in compliance with HIPAA Rules, including after OCR’s Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications (Telehealth Notification) is no longer in effect.

As a reminder, the Notification will remain in effect until the Secretary of HHS declares that the public health emergency no longer exists, or upon the expiration date of the declared public health emergency, including any extensions, whichever occurs first. OCR will issue a notice to the public when it is no longer exercising its enforcement discretion. This guidance is intended to help ensure that individuals can continue to benefit from audio-only telehealth, by providing clarification on how covered entities can provide telehealth services and to help increase public confidence that covered entities are protecting the privacy and security of their health information.


WHO Emergency Cmt. to Meet on Monkeypox
In response to the growing number of monkeypox cases across the globe, it was announced yesterday that an emergency committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet next week to determine whether monkeypox is a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Approximately 1,600 cases of the disease have been recorded in recent weeks. According to The Hill, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO believes a coordinated response is necessary due to the geographic spread, noting, “I think it’s now clear that there is an unusual situation, meaning even the virus is behaving unusually from how it used to behave.”

Additionally, the WHO Director also announced this week that the organization has been “working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes.” Director-General Ghebreyesus said the new names will be made public as soon as possible. Scientists around the world have called for the name change, encouraging the use of “nomenclature that is neutral, non-discriminatory and non-stigmatizing.”

This week, the Chicago Dept. of Public Health (CDPH) encouraged residents to take proper precautions when congregating at summer events, such as festivals. Seven monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the city as of Monday, and CDPH is working with the Illinois Dept. of Public Health and other local health departments to identify other possible cases.

In a statement, CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said that, “While the risk in Chicago remains low, CDPH wants the public to be able to make informed choices about gathering in spaces or participating in events where monkeypox could be spread through close or intimate contact.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made available information, resources and related guidance for healthcare professionals, which can be accessed here.


Illinois COVID-19 Update
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 5,737 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, and 5 COVID-19 deaths.

Most recent IDPH hospitalization data show 1,177 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 125 patients were in the ICU and 59 patients were on ventilators.

The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily in Illinois is 10,636 doses. IDPH reported that 77.9% of Illinoisans (18 years and older) have been fully vaccinated, while 86.1% have received at least one vaccination dose. For the Illinois population 12 years and older, 76.7% have been fully vaccinated, while 84.8% have received at least one vaccination dose. For the Illinois population 5 years and older, 73.3% have been fully vaccinated and 81% have received at least one dose.

Yesterday, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel voted unanimously to authorize the expansion of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to children and teens ages 6 to 17. The FDA is expected to act on the panel’s recommendation in the coming days, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention poised to consider the issue as early as this Friday.


Briefly Noted
The first systemic treatment for severe alopecia areata was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday. This is the first FDA approval of an alopecia areata treatment for the entire body, rather than a specific location. More than 300,000 people are impacted each year by alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own hair follicles, often resulting in patchy baldness.