New COVID-19 cases are plummeting nationally, with a 63% downward trend over the last two weeks. That’s great news for the nation as a whole and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is hemorrhaging funding to pay for the nation’s uninsured COVID-19 patients.
The Provider Relief Fund has already paid out more than $17 billion to providers for care for the uninsured throughout the pandemic, and HHS has announced that there is only $7.6 billion left. According to Modern Healthcare, HHS expects funding to run out in the next few months, which is cause for alarm as Congress isn’t currently considering making more funding available.
Meanwhile, several states are already steps ahead, requesting guidance from the Biden administration on when the COVID-19 public health emergency will formally end. Fierce Healthcare reports that during a meeting of the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), Director Jeff Nelson of the CHIP Program and bureau of eligibility policy for the Utah Department of Health asked:
The No. 1 question I’ve asked every single day… is when will this PHE end?
The federal government allowed states not to drop Medicaid beneficiaries in exchange for a 6.2% FMAP increase during the PHE. State officials say they are trying to get their systems ready to review Medicaid eligibility of enrollees.
The Biden administration did acquiesce to public pressure and has agreed to cover over-the-counter COVID-19 at-home rapid tests through the Medicare program. According to a news alert from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), this is the first time that Medicare has covered an over-the-counter test at no cost to beneficiaries.
CMS released guidance around the OTC COVID-19 testing equipment, which provided greater clarity to what kinds of direct-to-consumer products fall under compliance. Healthpayer Intelligence reports that the guidance explained that the requirement to provide access to the tests entails establishing an in-person method of receiving the tests and a direct-to-consumer shipping option. It also outlined what kinds of tests count as OTC tests eligible for coverage and that does not include tests that need to be processed outside the home.
Health IT Analytics reports that researchers from Regenstreif Institute and Indiana University have demonstrated how machine learning models trained on clinical data from statewide health information exchange can predict the likelihood of hospitalization for individuals with COVID-19. From Suranga Katsuri, PhD, the study’s first author and Regenstreif Institute research scientist:
What we thought to do was to take advantage of this urgent need to create machine-learning solutions that could help healthcare decision-makers come up with broad population health-level decisions on the populations that they serve. The idea being with different types of the COVID virus coming out, and with the relaxations of various mandates, the need of care has changed quite a bit. We’ve gone from hospitals being very overburdened and constrained for resources to limited requirements of need.
A panel of clinicians, researchers and patients in the United Kingdom reached a standardized research definition of “long COVID” as it pertains to children and young adults. According to MedPage Today, the definition of long COVID was published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.