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February 09, 2024

Washington Roundup

From Washington, DC

  • The Department of Health and Human Services informs us,
    • “On Monday, February 5, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra met virtually with pharmacy CEOs, including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and pharmacy leaders, to discuss COVID-19 therapeutics commercialization. Secretary Becerra reconvened pharmacy leaders as a follow-up to his larger meeting with pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers, and insurers on January 9, 2024.
    • “During the call, Secretary Becerra made it clear that no patient should be charged hundreds of dollars for Paxlovid at the pharmacy counter – stressing the importance of pharmacist education and clear communication to patients. Secretary Becerra re-iterated the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to equitable access to COVID-19 therapeutics, reminded pharmacy leaders of the pathways for access that HHS negotiated with Pfizer, and made it clear that HHS would continue to engage with pharmacist leadership as needed.
    • “While HHS is no longer managing the distribution of COVID-19 therapeutics since they transitioned to the commercial market, the Biden-Harris Administration has been closely monitoring the therapeutics commercialization process and remains committed to equitable access to lifesaving COVID-19 therapeutics, including Paxlovid. Thanks to the pathwaysthat HHS negotiated with Pfizer, all individuals on Medicare and Medicaid can receive Paxlovid for free through 2024 and individuals who are uninsured can receive Paxlovid for free through 2028. * * *
    • “To learn more about Paxlovid access, go to Pfizer’s PAXCESS Website
  • Health Payer Intelligence points out a KFF study on how various types of payer cover COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines post-public health emergency. 
  • The American Hospital Association News tells us,
    • “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday released FAQs clarifying coverage criteria and utilization management requirements for Medicare Advantage plans under its final rule for calendar year 2024, which includes provisions intended to increase program oversight and create better alignment between MA and Traditional Medicare. Topics addressed by the FAQs include medical necessity determinations; algorithms and artificial intelligence; internal coverage criteria; post-acute care; the two-midnight benchmark for inpatient admission criteria; prior authorization; and enforcement.”
  • STAT News adds,
    • “In recent months, the federal government has repeatedly told Medicare Advantage insurers that they cannot use artificial intelligence or algorithms to deny medical services the government routinely covers.
    • “But in finalizing a rule to that effect, it also stepped into a thicket of questions from insurers about a technology that is especially difficult to pin down: What is AI? Can it be used at all to make decisions about the coverage of older patients? If so, how?
    • “This week, the federal agency that oversees Medicare sought to boil it all down into a simple directive: Put the circumstances of the individual patient first, and your algorithm second.
    • “An algorithm that determines coverage based on a larger data set instead of the individual patient’s medical history, the physician’s recommendations, or clinical notes would not be compliant” with federal regulations, the government wrote in a memo to Medicare Advantage insurers on Tuesday.”
  • Health plans have been using algorithms in claims processing long before AI exploded on the scene. On a related note, Health IT analytics explores the benefits of predictive analytics in healthcare. 
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