Clyburn Issues Subpoenas Related to Political Interreference at CDC

Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chair Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) has issued subpoenas to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield over allegations of political interference by the administration in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “The subpoenas were necessary because the Select Subcommittee’s investigation has revealed that efforts to interfere with scientific work at CDC were far more extensive and dangerous than previously known,” Clyburn’s letter to the two officials states. The letter details that over the period of four months, Trump administration appointees attempted to alter or block at least 13 scientific reports related to the virus.

CA Secretary of State Padilla Tapped to Replace VP Harris in Senate

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has been tapped by Gov. Gavin Newsom to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate. Padilla is a former Los Angeles city councilman and state senator. He will be the first California Latino to serve in the Senate. He has already filed to retain the Senate seat when it is up for reelection in 2022.

Representative-Elect Dies of Complications from COVID-19

Louisiana Republican Representative-elect Luke Letlow has died following a battle with COVID-19. Letlow was elected in November to represent Louisiana’s fifth district during the 117th Congress. He had been the chief of staff to Rep. Ralph Abraham, the seat’s previous occupant who retired last year. A special election will be held on March 20 to fill the congressional seat.

Judge Blocks Part B Drug Pricing Model

Two federal judges have blocked the Trump administration’s Most Favored Nation Model, which was set to begin on January 1. First, Maryland District Judge Catherine Blake issued a temporary restraining order; a few days later, a federal judge in California granted a preliminary injunction, based on the government’s failure to complete the notice and comment procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act. The injunction enjoins the government “from implementing the rule pending completion of those procedures.” The comment period does not end until January 26, 2021, but it is unclear whether the incoming Administration will pursue the Model. Per the Model, Medicare reimbursement for a list of high cost Part B drugs covered would be tied to the cheapest prices paid in certain other countries, and doctors would be paid a flat fee for administering the drugs instead of a percentage-based add-on. The policy was proposed through an interim final rule late last year. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has argued that there was good cause to forego the advance notice and comment period because of the need for affordable Part B drugs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus far, the courts have not agreed.

Biden To Halt Pending Regulations Upon Inauguration

President-elect Joe Biden will issue a memo on Inauguration Day that will block any regulations that are still pending from the Trump administration. According to incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the move is an attempt to curb ‘midnight actions’ from the previous administration. By freezing regulatory actions that have been announced but not yet published in the Federal Register, the incoming administration can revise or call off such regulations without the formal notice-and-comment process that would be required if a rule had already been published.

U.S. Purchases 100 Million More Doses of Pfizer Vaccine

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have purchased an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Under the agreement, the company will manufacture and deliver up to 100 million doses to government designated locations – with at least 70 million doses provided by June 30, 2021, and the balance delivered no later than July 31, 2021. The government had previously contracted with Pfizer for an initial 100 million doses. This latest agreement includes options for an additional 400 million doses of the vaccine. As a part of the deal, President Trump will invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to increase access to nine products that are necessary for the Pfizer vaccine. President-elect Joe Biden has also announced plans to invoke DPA to increase the production of coronavirus vaccines.

COVID Coordinator Birx Announces Plans to Retire

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx announced plans to retire from government service as soon as her assistance with the Biden transition team’s preparations have concluded. Birx’s 40-year career in government began in the military, and she went on to serve at the National Institutions of Health (NIH) and later at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She was later tapped by President Obama to be the global AIDS coordinator and head of the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

VA Releases 2021 Fee Schedule

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has published its community care fee schedule payment rate calculations for 2021. Instead of rates being calculated based on the location of the referring VA medical center, rates will now be calculated based on the location of where the care is provided starting on January 1, 2021. VA generally reimburses hospital care, medical services, and extended services at the applicable Medicare rate determined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The recently published rate changes only apply to services being reimbursed under the VA fee schedule, which is mainly used for geriatrics and extended care services, along with a small number of health care services not covered by the CMS schedule.

Hart Health Strategies COVID-19 Resources

Hart Health Strategies Inc. continues to update the following resources related to the coronavirus pandemic. Please remember to clear your cache to ensure you download the most recent documents.

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