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For two decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has supposedly been blocked from conducting research into the health effects of gun violence by a budget amendment. HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a different opinion, telling members of Congress Thursday he would allow the CDC to conduct research which doesn’t veer into advocacy.

Providers have until March 12 to apply for CMS’s new Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) Advanced model, though the program was only unveiled on Jan. 9. Considering the details CMS has given about the model, that’s not enough time for hospitals to decide whether to participate, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).

In his first congressional testimony since being confirmed as HHS Secretary, Alex Azar argued the department’s proposed budget would extend the life of Medicare while making HHS more efficient by cutting nearly $18 billion in funding.

The budget proposed by President Donald Trump involves several major cuts to Medicare payments for hospitals, reductions that are “unsustainable” and “staggering,” according to the Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) and the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The second federal government shutdown of 2018 lasted only six hours, but the budget deal that ended it will have an impact on the healthcare industry for years to come through changes to Medicare payments, the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and repealing one of the most controversial parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


Recent Headlines

Misclassified drugs cost Medicaid $1.3B

Pharmaceutical manufacturers paid $1.3 billion less to Medicaid by receiving rebates on misclassified generic drugs, according to a report from the HHS’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

ACA bills for reinsurance, insurer subsidies won’t be considered this year

After previously saying she had secured a commitment to pass the legislation by the end of 2017, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said bills to fund the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies and provide $5 billion in reinsurance will be left out of a year-end spending package.

What happens to the ACA without the individual mandate

The Republican tax cut plan, including a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, has passed through Congress, giving the party a victory in its yearlong struggle to find consensus on legislation to substantially alter the ACA.

HHS withholding comments critical of loosening religious exemptions

In October, the Trump administration had asked for public comments on how to reduce HHS regulations on religious and faith-based groups. Of the 12,302 comments received, the agency has only posted 80, which mostly back the administration’s efforts and attack Obama-era policies on abortion and treating transgender patients.

CMS denies Oklahoma’s request to use Medicaid funds for med school recruitment

The medical schools and teaching hospitals at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University could require an immediate injection of funds after CMS denied a request by the state to use federal Medicaid funds to pay those schools to recruit, train and retain physicians.

CDC director denies report of ‘banned words’ in budget documents

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disputed a report in the Washington Post that seven words or phrases, including “fetus,” “transgender” and “science-based,” had been banned from the agency’s budget documents, while other officials said the motivation was to avoid words that could limit chances of obtaining funding from Congress.

Which states would see the largest cuts due to 340B changes

CMS’s move to cut Medicare payments made through the 340B drug discount programs would see the biggest impact in California, New York and North Carolina, according to an analysis by Avalere Health, though for most hospitals it will reduce their total Part B revenue by less than 5 percent.

House Republicans introduce plan to delay ACA taxes

The Affordable Care Act’s taxes on health insurance, high-cost health plans and medical devices would be delayed under a series of bills introduced by House Republicans, with the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) quickly coming out in support of suspending the device tax.

Democrats ask for extension of ACA open enrollment

Two Senate Democrats have asked CMS and HHS to make a last-minute extension of the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s insurance exchanges, arguing the Dec. 15 deadline will leave too many interested customers either without health coverage or automatically enrolled into plans which “may no longer be the best choice for their families.”

ACA funding bills would cancel out hikes from repealing individual mandate

The repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate has been projected to cause insurance premiums to rise by an average of 10 percent through 2027. Those hikes would be mitigated, however, if Congress funded the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies and a $10 billion, two-year reinsurance program, according to an analysis from Avalere.