New Coronavirus CPT Code

A new CPT code has been created for novel coronavirus testing offered by U.S. hospitals, health systems, and laboratories. Effective March 13, 2020, the code will be used as the industry standard for reporting of novel coronavirus tests. The code will arrive as a part of the complete CPT code set in the data file for 2021 later this year. Until then, the code descriptor will need to be manually uploaded into EHR systems.

How Risky Are Meetings During a Pandemic?

Many meetings and public events are being cancelled in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. While the chance of a meeting being attended by an infected individual depends on both the size of the meeting and the extent of spread in the community, Politico Pro has prepared the graphic below to illustrate the risk to various meeting sizes based on total U.S. cases.

CBO Shares Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act Score

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that a revised version of the bipartisan drug pricing legislation advanced by the Senate Finance Committee would save more than $95 billion over the next decade. The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act would save $72 billion in out-of-pocket spending for Medicare Part D enrollees, a significant increase over the previous $27 billion estimate. The CBO score predicts premium savings for the updated measure, however, would decrease from $5 billion to $1 billion over 10 years. The latest bill text is expected to released in the near future: the CBO notes that its estimate is based on the bill version posted on December 6, 2019 “with modifications discussed with staff.” Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is still trying to drum up support for the bill amongst his Republican colleagues, which he considers necessary to convince Senate GOP leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

In related news, President Trump has sent his principles for drug pricing reform to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The White House calls on Congress to cap Medicare Part D beneficiary annual out-of-pocket pharmacy expenses; provide an option to cap Part D beneficiary monthly out-of-pocket costs; offer protection for seniors against the out-of-pocket cost cliff; give insurance companies an incentive to negotiate better prices for costly drugs; and limit drug manufacturers’ price increases.

Grassley Warns Universities About Threats to Research from China

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has sent letters to 77 universities regarding the academic research and national security threats posed by Confucius Institutes on campuses. Confucius Institutes are organizations backed by the Chinese government; U.S. government agencies and the intelligence community have asserted that these organizations are being used as a tool for propaganda within U.S. universities. The letter outlines Chairman Grassley’s concerns that the Chinese government has taken steps toward stealing intellectual property from taxpayer-funded research projects, and discusses the need for the government to protect its research from foreign interference or influence that could result in damage to or theft of American intellectual property. Grassley urges each university to request a briefing from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to fully understand the risks to their institutions.

MedPAC March 2020 Report to the Congress

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has released its March 2020 Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy. The report includes examinations of Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) payment adequacy, Medicare Advantage (MA) and the prescription drug benefit (Part D), health care provider consolidation and its effects on the Medicare program, beneficiaries, and the delivery system, and an analysis of expanding Medicare’s inpatient hospital post-acute care transfer policy to hospice. An executive summary of the report can be found here and the entire report can be found here.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing “An Emerging Disease Threat: How the U.S. is Responding to COVID-19, the Novel Coronavirus – Part 2;” 10:00 a.m., 216 Hart Bldg.; March 18

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