In the News

House Committee Hearing ‘Setting the Stage’ for Home Care Support, Policy Expert Says

McKnight’s Home Care | By Adam Healy
 
A House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week reinforced congressional support for home care, stakeholders said. Home-based kidney care and telehealth were two big topics of discussion.  
 
“Seemingly, the hearing was setting the stage for consideration of a number of pieces of legislation on these topics,” Mollie Gurian, vice president of home based and HCBS policy at LeadingAge, said during a policy update call on Wednesday. “A lot of the committee members on both sides of the aisle showed up and almost all of them were touting a bill that they were working on in one of these spaces.”
 
Such bills ranged from narrow regulatory fixes to broader policy change, she said, including legislation that could make permanent some waiver flexibilities implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, telehealth and hospital-at-home programs received waiver extensions as a result of the pandemic. 
 
“It was a very interesting hearing and there was a lot of support for expanded care at home, generally, which we found to be very positive,” she said. 
 
Experts supporting home dialysis, hospital-at-home, telehealth and more testified last Tuesday. Among those testifying was Ateev Mehrotra, MD, a professor of health policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, who recommended policy changes that could make virtual care services more accessible to Medicare beneficiaries.
 
“I believe it is critical to give Medicare as much flexibility as possible in adapting telehealth policy,” Mehrotra said in his testimony. “Telehealth use is rapidly changing, and policy must adapt accordingly.”
 
And Nathan Starr, medical director of home services and tele-hospitalist programs at Intermountain Health, advocated for the expansion of home-based services such as hospital-at-home during the Tuesday hearing.
 
“I have personally seen patient, family, community, and caregiver benefits of care at home,” Starr said. “Our positive experience has reinforced our commitment to increasing access to care at home. That is also why we are so pleased to be here today to advocate for the federal health policy changes needed to enable and support current and future hospital-at-home and patient needs.”

 

Breaking Down Biden's $7.3T Proposed Budget for 2025: Here are his Top Health Priorities

Fierce Healthcare | By Noah Tong

President Joe Biden unveiled a proposed $7.3 trillion budget for fiscal year 2025 on Monday, which continued upon and expanded key health items from previous years.

The administration said his budget (PDF) will lower healthcare costs and drug prices, expand access to prescription drugs, build upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and fortify Medicare through a tax on the wealthy. Many of these priorities were previewed during Biden's State of the Union address last week.

Biden argues his plan will reduce the deficit by $3 trillion, whereas Republican-backed plans do the opposite over 10 years. The national debt would rise to $45.1 trillion by 2034.

"The national debt is on a steady march upwards, and it would take nearly $8 trillion of savings just to stabilize the debt over the next decade," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, in a statement. "It’s dangerous that we’ve let things get this bad, and we need to treat it like the priority that it is. The President’s call for over 3 trillion of deficit reduction is a welcome start, and he deserves credit for presenting a budget that pays for new initiatives and improves our fiscal situation, but the budget doesn’t go nearly far enough."

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said the fiscal year budget proposes $130 billion in discretionary spending and $1.7 trillion in mandatory funding.

While not necessarily a focus of the budget itself, much of the news briefing was dedicated toward the administration's stance on defending abortion rights.

"The department is fighting tooth and nail to protect and expand reproductive health care including making contraception, IVF, and basic pre- and postnatal healthcare not only available, but more affordable," said HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm during a press briefing.

Becerra said federal agencies are focused on how they can help protect reproductive rights. He cited the FDA working to protect patient access to mifepristone along with the Office of Civil Rights allowing patients to receive the right care for them.. He also referenced the Braidwood case, where the federal government is trying to protect the ACA's preventive services clause in court, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) working to provide adequate maternal health care.

Click here for three of the top health policies to be aware of in the budget.

 

Video and Photos: APTA 2024 Combined Sections Meeting

Networking, learning, celebrating, and more: Reminisce or see what you missed — and get on-demand access to 100+ sessions starting March 15.

The APTA Combined Sections Meeting 2024 has come and gone, but if you were there, chances are you won't be forgetting the event any time soon.

More than 16,000 members of our community came together in Boston for learning and networking. This year's event featured more than 1,200 research posters, 400 sessions from APTA’s 18 specialty sections, 450 exhibitors, the 55th Mary McMillan Lecture, and a specialist recognition ceremony. There were also countless opportunities to connect, including the PT Fund Celebration of Diversity and PTPAC's annual party.

If you missed it, more than 100 sessions, along with digital posters, will be available for on-demand viewing from March 15 to April 15.

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Join APTA for a Trip to Capitol Hill (and More), April 14-16

APTA

The physical therapy profession's advocacy voice continues to grow stronger. And now's your chance to join in.

Coming April 14-16: APTA Capitol Hill Day, a one-of-a-kind event that brings together PTs, PTAs, and students from across the country for a day of focused, in-person engagement with legislators and their staff. It's an opportunity to make direct connections with policymakers to educate them on the value of physical therapy and the changes needed to improve patient access to needed care. But it's more than a one-day experience.

The visit to Capitol Hill, on April 16, comes after a day of education around some of the major issues facing the profession, as well as training on how to make your meetings with legislators as effective as possible. The program includes special speakers, breakout sessions (including one specifically for students), and state delegation meetings — all capped off by a party to celebrate PTPAC, the profession's political action committee. Cost is $250 for APTA members, $100 for students, and free for Federal Affairs Liaisons, PTPAC Eagle Club members, and APTA component executive directors.

Registered attendees will also be able to participate in an exclusive pre-event webinar on April 10 at 8 p.m. ET that will provide information on logistics and target advocacy issues, with a recording available for registrants who can't make the live event.

Check out the tentative agenda, watch a video, and register now at the APTA Capitol Hill Day webpage.
 

Health Care Quality Took a Big Hit During COVID, Medicare Report Finds

Axios | By Maya Goldman
 
Progress on many key health care quality measures was reversed during the first two years of the pandemic, according to a new comprehensive federal review. 
 
Why it matters: The report identified a "significant worsening" of patient safety measures and "persistent" health equity gaps for historically disadvantaged patients as COVID-19 overwhelmed the health care system. 
 
Context: The federal government asks providers to report on a wide set of several hundred measures meant to assess health care quality. 

  • Before the pandemic, from 2016 to 2019, providers' performance on more than half of quality metrics improved, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. 
  • CMS relaxed reporting requirements when the pandemic hit, but the agency said it continued to collect enough data to compare performance with long-term trends. 


Zoom in: Performance on 38% of measures came in worse than expected in 2020, and 47% worse in 2021, CMS said. 

  • About half of safety measures came in worse than expected in those two years. 
  • In the starkest example, a measure of central line-associated bloodstream infections was 94% worse than expected in 2021.

 
Quality scores decreased more significantly for minority populations on some measures. 

  • For instance, osteoporosis management for Black Medicare Advantage enrollees was 22.4 percentage points worse in 2021, while it fell 14.4 percentage points for white enrollees. 

 
The bottom line: CMS said the data and feedback from focus groups show the need to develop measures that "address bias in care delivery and deficits in cultural competency, unmet health-related social needs, access, and health literacy."

 
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