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In a significant shift for HHS’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), a new “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” is being created dedicated to complaints from healthcare professionals who feel they were discriminated against due to refusing to perform certain services based on religious or moral objections.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, led a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee where he explored whether Medicaid expansion is at least partially to blame for the rise in opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Federal data, however, shows those problem began more than a decade earlier.

Days after CMS first issued policy guidance on how states could require “able-bodied” Medicaid beneficiaries to work or face losing their coverage, Kentucky has become the first with an approved waiver to test out those requirements.

Major healthcare associations had a decidedly mixed reaction to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recommending to Congress that the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) be eliminated, with some stakeholders saying such a major change would be premature less than three years after the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) was passed.

Full-year quality reporting will be required in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for the first time in 2018, but clinicians haven’t received word from CMS on whether they’re eligible to participate, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).


Recent Headlines

Final MACRA rule too strict for some, too loose for others: ‘Do we need MIPS at all?’

While the proposed rule for the second year of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA)’s Quality Payment Program (QPP) earned mostly praise from the healthcare industry, the finalized rule earned a mixed reaction from groups alternating saying it’ll burden providers and it’s allowing too many physicians to avoid the program altogether.

Healthcare policy put to voters in Maine, Ohio on Election Day 2017

Two state ballot referendums on Nov. 7 dealt with healthcare issues, with voters in Maine approving an expansion of Medicaid eligibility while Ohio voters soundly rejected a measure to tie pharmaceutical prices paid by the state to rates paid by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

CMS administrator signals big changes to Medicaid

States will have more flexibility to change their Medicaid programs, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a speech that criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s expansion of eligibility and called opposition to work requirements for able-bodied beneficiaries “soft bigotry” from the last administration.

More clinicians will be exempt from MIPS in 2018, won’t be able to opt in

CMS has finalized the rule for the second year of Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act’s (MACRA) Quality Payment Program (QPP), raising the low-volume threshold for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) but not allowing clinicians the option to participate if they don’t meet the minimum requirements.

5 things about the final OPPS rule and hospitals’ lawsuit over 340B change

CMS released its final hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS) rule for 2018, which included a significant cut to drug payments to hospitals which use the 340B drug discount program. The result was the quick threat of a lawsuit from three major medical groups.

10 things Democrats want from the next HHS Secretary

The top Democrats on the Senate’s finance and health committees have outlined 51 criteria for judging President Donald Trump’s next nominee to run HHS, with many of their priorities going against the policies touted by Trump and former HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD.

CMS proposes letting states change ACA’s essential health benefits, medical loss ratio

The definition of “essential health benefits” which Affordable Care Act-compliant health plans have to cover would be up for states to decide under a rule proposed by CMS, echoing similar provisions which had been included in Republican legislative efforts to repeal and replace the ACA.

6 states could be out of CHIP funds by January

Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired at the end of September, and with no quick renewal expected from Congress, states are on their own to keep the program afloat. According to a report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, six states won’t be able to do so past early January.

Trump declaration of public health emergency on opioids could impact physicians

President Donald Trump followed through on a months-old promise to declare a national public health emergency on the opioid addiction epidemic, which could increase access to addiction treatment and additional training for physicians prescribing opioids.

Judge denies request to block Trump from halting ACA insurer subsidies

A federal judge in California denied the request of 19 attorneys general to force the immediate reinstatement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies to insurers, which were cut off by President Donald Trump.