ABL Healthcare Member News & Industry Trendletter * March 2, 2021

>>> John Dao is a Principal at Wipfli, LLC where he leads Wipfli's Strategic Capital and Facility Planning consulting service line, focused primarily in healthcare, with clients nationwide. With nearly 20 years of experience, John's consulting career has spanned a wide breadth of hospital and ambulatory settings, ranging from large academic hospitals and integrated delivery systems to smaller rural and critical access hospitals. Combining this wide range of experiences with strong analytical skills and a solid understanding of efficient healthcare operations/design, John is able to quickly and competently match clinical/business needs with effective, creative solutions. His specialties include healthcare facility planning, market/demand analyses, strategic planning, service line development, replacement hospital feasibility planning and functional space program design. Prior to joining Wipfli in 2005, John was a Senior Consultant with Allina Health System, and a Senior Consultant with Kurt Salmon Associates. John has joined the ABL-Health OAK Round Table.

>>> Lynn McComas, DNP, ANP-C, is President and CEO of PreceptorLink, which works nationwide to provide preceptor placement solutions for the nurse practitioner and advanced practice nursing profession in order to develop excellent NP/APRN graduates. PreceptorLink's vision is to provide excellent comprehensive solutions to the current nationwide preceptor crisis. The company works collaboratively with all involved parties to reduce barriers to precepting, demonstrate to preceptors that their role holds value, and provide quality and comprehensive clinical education for NP students and preceptors. Lynn has 20+ years of experience as an NP and is an active leader in the community. She has worked in primary care and has been a coach, advisor, mentor, and preceptor for countless NPs, nurses, medical assistants, and medical professionals over the years. She has led PreceptorLink since 2015, and has helped connect hundreds of practitioners nationwide. She also maintains some clinical practice as an NP, so she can stay current on clinical related issues as well. Lynn has joined the ABL-Health OC Round Table.

    To ensure the safety of our Members, these upcoming invitation-only events will be held via ZOOM. See your Round Table invitation for participation instructions, and the ABL.org Members Only website for all the Healthcare Round Table invitation specifics. (If you haven't already received an invitation to a ZOOM Table you would like to attend, please email [email protected] for details.)

  • 3/03 - ABL-Health OC Zoom Table
  • 3/09 - ABL-Health SV Zoom Table
  • 3/10 - ABL-Health SF Zoom Table
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  • 3/19 - ABL-Health OAK Zoom Table
  • Explore Membership in ABL's Executive Round Tables >>>
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4 Ways COVID's Catapulted Healthcare Innovation

                     Blog by Mimi Grant

First, when you look up the word "innovation" in the Healthcare Dictionary, you'll undoubtedly find a picture of Karen Murphy. Prior to joining Geisinger, as their EVP and Chief Innovation Officer, Karen had been Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health, after she'd led the State Innovation Models Initiative that CMS invested $990 million in, to accelerate healthcare innovation nationally. Beginning her career as an RN, she later capped her formal education with a PhD in Business. Yet she credits the COVID pandemic with positioning her to lead change in the post-COVID environment. As she shared in Will COVID-19 be the Catalyst for Creating A More Sustainable Healthcare System?, a feature article last month in Modern Healthcare, "A year ago in terms of digital strategies it would have taken us a while to educate doctors. I think now when we have a problem, instead of asking how many people do we need to solve it, we'll be thinking digital first. Shame on us if we slide back to where we were before."

Second, and closer to home, Elizabeth Lee, CalOptima's PACE Director, reflects that "It's pretty amazing to look back and see how far we've come knowing that it's probably never going to look the same again for us." Blocked from providing clinical care as they always had, during the pandemic her clinical care team members consulted with the seniors they serve through telehealth, while vans delivered meals, medical equipment and supplies to their members. And mobile phlebotomists conducted blood drives, while mobile radiologists performed ultrasounds and X-rays in the patient homes.

Third, prior to COVID, telehealth companies like MDLIVE, Teladoc, Amwell, and Doctor on Demand originally made their reputations as "online urgent cares." During COVID, a handful of insurers and employers began partnering with them - by using their tele-technology platforms - to offer their members and employees virtual primary care services with their regular primary-care physician, who they could now see via telehealth. While not surprising, as reported in Modern Healthcare, nearly half of all patients who sought healthcare during the pandemic used either audio- or video-based telehealth services, according to a RAND Corp. survey. What is surprising, is that the vast majority of patients who used telehealth, said their visit was with a provider they had seen before.

And fourth, a year ago CVS was known as a drug store - where you could also get cosmetics and candy, but not cigarettes. And Aetna was still the nation's third-largest health insurer - although it was acquired by CVS for $69 billion in November of 2018. But then along came COVID, and suddenly CVS used its customer-facing clout to forge a major role with Covid-19 testing - during which its 9,900 pharmacies connected to eight million new customers, who gladly shared their email addresses and phone numbers with CVS to get discount coupons for cosmetics and candy. Thanks to the Federal Pharmacy Program, CVS anticipates it will be able to administer 20-25 million COVID vaccine doses a month. So all those customers who were COVID-tested will be contacted again to come in for their COVID vaccines - and browse and shop in the store's aisles as they wait-out their 15 minutes post-vaccination. The result is that across the country, CVS Health will be re-entering the ACA's insurance marketplaces next year, using their CVS brand name, which The Wall Street Journal marks as the latest sign that the ACA marketplaces (like Covered California) - once money losers for insurers, have gained a firmer footing. But no doubt, marketers will attribute the move to The Power of Brand.


Alvaka Networks Spotlighted in Industry Journal Cover Story

ChannelPro Network recently featured Alvaka Networks and its CEO Oli Thordarson in a cover story - Building a Rapid Response Brand - in which Oli details how his MSP company focuses on rapid response, recovery, and prevention, with a staffed 24/7/365 network operations center, serving always-on businesses in healthcare, finance, manufacturing, biotech, and technology. (Oli Thordarson, OC)

Anthem Blue Cross Helps Hundreds of FQHCs to Expand Services

Amid the ongoing pandemic and economic fallout, Anthem Blue Cross has assisted hundreds of Federally Qualified Health Centers with $2+ million in financial support for telehealth, patient outreach, operational upgrades, and other enhancements that allow them to keep up with emerging needs. FQHCs play a critical role in serving nearly five million Californians who live in urban, rural, and underserved areas, especially those with low incomes and inadequate or no health insurance coverage.
Meanwhile, Anthem and the Los Angeles Sparks, WNBA team, have announced a multi-year partnership aimed to serve under-resourced communities through social justice initiatives, health and wellness activations, and athlete advocacy. (David Pryor, MD, LA)

Biospectal OptiBP Praised in Recent Forbes Article

A recent Forbes article - Two Lifesaving Features Could Be Coming To Smartwatches - spotlights the Biospectal OptiBP, which uses a smartphone's built-in optical camera lens to record and measure a user's blood flow at the fingertip in half the time it takes with a traditional cuff (about 20 seconds). The Biospectal OptiBP for Android app is in public beta and available now in the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. An iOS app is planned for release later this year. (Eliott Jones, SV)

Choice in Aging Makes News for Ensuring Assisted Living Facility Residents Get Vaccinated

Choice in Aging (CiA) announced that to date they have delivered over 1,700 doses (and counting) of the COVID-19 vaccine to 41 different sites, where those at greatest risk for poor COVID outcomes live. These sites all have the greatest potential risk of exposure and spread due to close living quarters and reliance on staff that must care for many residents simultaneously.
Read more about CiA in this recent coverage:
>> Vaccines Go Mobile to Keep Seniors From Slipping Through the Cracks.
>> The Toll Of COVID-19 In Assisted Living Homes Is A 'Black Hole.''
>> Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a confusing maze for many CA seniors; largely depends on luck.
Meanwhile, the most recent episode of the "Dishing with Debbie" video series - Housing, Seniors, & Pandemania, Oh My! - is available to watch here, featuring special guest Mariana Moore, Director of Ensuring Opportunity. (Debbie Toth, OAK)

Cigna's Evernorth to Acquire MDLive

Cigna's health services subsidiary Evernorth will acquire telehealth provider MDLive, in a deal that is expected to close sometime in Q2. With MDLive, Evernorth believes it can build a connected care delivery model that is more convenient, could more quickly identify patients' needs, more easily facilitate specialist or behavioral health referrals, and broadly reduce costs. (Chris De Rosa, OC)

Competitive Health Partners with Great Speech to Add Speech Therapy Services

Competitive Health, Inc. (CHI) has partnered with Great Speech Inc. to add tele-speech therapy to CHI's ever-expanding telehealth offerings. CHI can now provide nationwide access to this care to people of all ages via state-licensed and ASHA-certified speech therapists. CHI offers this benefit to employer groups and associations through its digital healthcare marketplace. Additionally, CHI delivers a consumer savings version of Great Speech's platform through the WellCard Savings membership program. (Kim Darling, OC)

GeBBS Proclaimed a Top Performer in Outsourcing & Revenue Cycle Extended Business Office

GeBBS Healthcare Solutions has been named for the sixth year in a row to the IAOP Global 100 Outsourcing List, an annual listing of the world's best outsourcing service providers, judged in four categories: Delivery Excellence, Top Innovation, Customer References, and Corporate Social Responsibility. AND, GeBBS has been recognized as a "Top Performer" for Revenue Cycle - Extended Business Office in the 2021 Best in KLAS Report. In addition to being "Top Performer," GeBBS also received top grades across loyalty, operations, services, relationship, and value.
Meanwhile, on March 4, GeBBS and RISE Health will present a panel webinar - Insourced or Outsourced: Take Control of Your Risk Adjustment and HEDIS Initiatives, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific. (Gabe Stein, LA)

Inglewood Imaging Center Publishes Videos on MRI, X-Ray & Breast Health Tech

Brad Schmidt, CEO of Inglewood Imaging Center (IIC) has provided several short, informational videos on:
>> Magnetic Resonance Imaging - click to watch;
>> X-Ray Technology & History - click to watch; and
>> IC's proprietary breast health technology & protocols - click to watch.
(Brad Schmidt, LA)

King & Spalding Webinar to Address Class-Action Litigation Trends in California Healthcare

On March 17, King & Spalding will present a webinar - Issues Facing California Healthcare Providers: Class Action Litigation in the Wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic and Developing Legislation - at 9 a.m. PDT. An experienced panel of litigators will discuss recent developments in litigation targeting healthcare providers, including hospitals, post-acute and long-term care facilities, focusing on trends currently developing in California class-action litigation.
Meanwhile, the Chambers Global 2021 guide has again named K&S one of the top international law firms. (Marcia Augsburger, JD, SF & Travis Jackson, JD)

LifeLong Medical's Vaccinating Thousands of Patients & Announces 45th Anniversary Gala

Josh Fryday, California's Chief Service Officer and a member of Gov. Newsom's Cabinet, recently visited LifeLong Medical Care's West Berkeley Family Practice outdoor vaccination site to see LifeLong's AmeriCorps Members in action, as they observe patients for the required 15-minutes after vaccination. As of February 22, LifeLong had vaccinated 3,000+ patients since its first clinic on January 30. LifeLong will be allocated additional vaccine doses directly from the federal government, beginning March 1.
Meanwhile, on the evening of April 24, LifeLong will hold its 45th Anniversary Gala, a dynamic, interactive virtual gala "unlike any other." (Mike Stacey, MD, OAK)

LigoLab Part of Article on Text Messaging's Growing Role in Life Sciences Industry

MedCity News highlighted LigoLab and its direct-to-consumer portal, TestDirectly, in a recent article - How text messaging is transforming the life sciences industry - which includes: "According to Suren Avunjian, CEO of LigoLab, text messaging is an important part of how communication is handled within the TestDirectly platform. After self-registering for a test, the patient receives text messages that confirm the order and the appointment, as well as text appointment reminders. When ready, the patient is notified to check the test results via another automated text message." (Suren Avunjian, LA)

Mazzetti Debuts New 'M' Brand, Announces Virtual Workshop

Mazzetti has introduced its new 'M' brand, declaring: "How our industry has operated the past 25 years will look dramatically different in the next 25 years. This includes the need for new expertise, new tools, new policy, etc. We feel strongly we must help catalyze change for our clients' benefit, for our benefit, for our greater ecosystem's benefit, and for future generations' benefit. We must continue to evolve too."
Meanwhile, on March 18 and 25th, Mazzetti's Sextant will present "Reimagining the NICU" Virtual Workshop. (Walt Vernon, JD, SF)

Mission Hospice Offers Virtual Events to Deal with Serious Illness & Death

Upcoming events from Mission Hospice include:
>> a Virtual Conversation with BJ Miller, MD, and Ladybird Morgan, RN, on March 4 at 2 p.m. PST, on how to support patients navigating the practical, emotional, and existential issues of serious illness; and
>> The Five Invitations, virtual discussion #3: Bring Your Whole Self, on March 17 at 2 p.m. PDT, a facilitated exploration of what death can teach us about living fully. (Dolores Gomez, SF)

Nelson Hardiman Shares Key Takeaways from "The Economy, the Vaccine & the Future"

Harry Nelson, JD, of Nelson Hardiman, recently moderated a webinar, "The Economy, the Vaccine, and the Future," with Moderna's CFO, David Meline, and Dr. Matthew Fienup, Executive Director of The Center for Economic Research and Forecasting. In this short video, Harry provides several major key takeaways from the event.
Meanwhile, a Nelson Hardiman senior counsel was interviewed in this recent article, Rule speeds approvals for "breakthrough" devices, other commercially covered services. (Harry Nelson, JD, LA)

OneLegacy Heralds Record-Setting Year in Heart Transplants

OneLegacy recently announced that 2020 was another record-setting year for heart transplants, giving patients with end-stage heart failure or severe coronary artery disease a second chance at life. OneLegacy was able to work with local transplant centers to make 181 heart transplants possible, up from 176 the prior year and a 22 percent increase over the past four years. Overall, in 2020 OneLegacy enabled the transplant of a record 1,661 organs from 548 donors. This marked the sixth consecutive year of record-breaking increases in lifesaving and healing organ donation and transplantation. (Tom Mone, LA)

PreludeDx Partners with GenesisCare on Precision Medicine Test for Women with Breast Cancer

Prelude Corporation (PreludeDx) and GenesisCare, a leading provider of integrated cancer care globally, have formed a strategic partnership aimed at increasing access to personalized breast cancer treatment and improved patient outcomes. PreludeDx's DCISionRT test assesses a woman's 10-year risk of recurrence of DCIS or development of invasive breast cancer. The partnership will make DCISionRT testing available in Australia, as well as increase patient access in the U.S. through GenesisCare's network of integrated cancer treatment centers. The companies will also investigate the clinical development of precision medicine tests, for breast or other cancers, with global real-world evidence. (Dan Forche, OC)

Royal Ambulance CEO Offers Tips on Hiring & Engaging Superior Employees

Steve Grau, CEO of Royal Ambulance, received many "how do you do it?" questions following his company being named to the "2021 Glassdoor Best Places to Work" list. In his recent LinkedIn post, Steve shares some insights on achieving a high level of employee engagement and finding and hiring superior employees. (Steve Grau, SV)

Santa Cruz Surgery Center Voted Best in the County

The Santa Cruz Sentinel Readers' Choice Awards recently voted Santa Cruz Surgery Center as the "Best Surgery Center in Santa Cruz County" CEO Lisa Cooper remarked, "2020 was a very challenging year for many. For healthcare providers caring for critical healthcare needs in outpatient settings, it was especially difficult when care needed to stop. It was difficult not just on a financial level but emotionally as well. Knowing that patients needed you, but you were unable to help, can bring feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. I am very proud of the team at Santa Cruz Surgery Center that despite the starts and stops of surgeries, the slow-downs then the surge of cases, they kept to their core mission to provide high quality care at affordable rates. And with smiles behind those masks." (Lisa Cooper, SV)

Savi Group Explains Why Labs Should Outsource Medical Billing Coding

In Why Laboratories Should Outsource Their Medical Billing Coding, Savi Group notes that problems with proper coding, payment structures, and billing errors can make it harder for laboratories to stay financially healthy. As such, they can reap many benefits of outsourcing their billing operations, and free up valuable internal resources. (Sumit Mahendru, OC)

Chris Selecky joins Patrick Soon-Shiong's ImmunityBio Board with John Brennan & Wesley Clark - Prior to Reverse Merger with NantKwest

ImmunityBio, Inc., a privately-held immunotherapy company, recently appointed John Brennan, former CIA Director, and Wesley Clark, retired U.S. Army General, to the company's board of directors. This expands the board to four directors, including Christobel Selecky, who was appointed to the board in August 2020, and Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, Chairman and CEO of ImmunityBio. All four directors are expected to serve on the combined board of ImmunityBio and NantKwest upon completion of the pending merger of the two companies. (Chris Selecky, OC)

SimpleTherapy Chosen by Maxis Global Benefits & Earns Claims Cost Reduction Validation

Maxis Global Benefits Network has partnered with SimpleTherapy to help its multinational clients tackle the issue of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions - now able to offer their employees access to SimpleTherapy's range of support programs, which include evidence-based exercise therapy; personalized, real-time feedback; and more.
Meanwhile, SimpleTherapy has earned the first official certification of MSK claims cost reduction from the Validation Institute. In a two-year medical claims analysis with a Washington-based employer covering 125,000+ members, SimpleTherapy reduced participants' MSK claims by $4,795 for spine care, $4,890 for shoulders, $3,751 for knees, and $2,938 for hips. (Arpit Khemka, SV)

VivaLNK Offers Untethered Wearable ECG Monitor Solution for 6-Minute Walk Test

VivaLNK has announced availability of a wearable ECG monitoring solution designed to wirelessly capture ECG and heart rate during a six-minute walk test (6MWT), a common exercise routine used for patients with pulmonary hypertension, congestive heart failure, pre-lung transplant evaluation, interstitial lung disease, or COPD.
And, VivaLNK CEO Jiang Li, Ph.D. wrote a recent article in TrialSite News - The Evolving Role of Digital Tools & RPM in Clinical Trials. (Jiang Li, Ph.D., SV)

Wipfli Publishes Info on CMS 1720-F; Rural Healthcare in 2021; & Cybersecurity Tips

In Valuation and compensation: What the CMS final rule means for hospitals and physicians, Wipfli provides important information about CMS's final rule 1720-F that has modernized Stark Law, and went into effect on January 19.
Meanwhile, Wipfli has also published Rural healthcare in 2021: What lies ahead? and a Cybersecurity Tips eBook. (Jeff Johnson, Steve Rousso & John Dao, SF & OAK)

Eckert & Ziegler to Build U.S. Facility for Radiopharma Services + Wins Contracts & Awards

Eckert & Ziegler (EZ) is expanding its site near Boston to include a new production facility for the contract manufacturing of radiopharmaceuticals, and has won a contract from the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group in the Netherlands to build hot cells.
Meanwhile, Pentixapharm GmbH, an EZ associate, received confirmation from the European Medicines Agency that its Pentixafor may be tested directly in a phase III clinical study. The Gallium-68 labelled radiodiagnostic detects CXCR4-positive solid tumors and CXCR4-positive hematological malignancies. Further, for the second time in a row, EZ has received an "Excellent Training Quality" award from the Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce. (Frank Yeager, ABL-Tech SGV)

Tanner Research CEO to Present Virtual Nutrition Science Workshops

On the evenings of March 11 (click here) and April 6 (click here), John Tanner, Ph.D., of Tanner Research, will present free Nutrition Science Virtual Workshops, via Zoom, where he will relay to participants the scientific information they need to avoid heart disease and other leading killers. The group will discuss strategies for change and John will field questions. (John Tanner, Ph.D., ABL-Tech SGV)

J&J Vaccine Available in 1-2 Days, CEO Says

The FDA authorized Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine Feb. 27, and on Feb. 28, the CDC officially recommended the vaccine's immediate use. The J&J vaccine should be available to eligible Americans within one to two days, CEO Alex Gorsky said in a March 1 interview on NBC's Today. The company intends to deliver 20 million vaccines to Americans this month and 100 million doses by June. (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/j-j-vaccine-available-in-1-2-days-ceo-says-house-passes-1-9-trillion-relief-plan-5-covid-19-updates.html)

Meanwhile, US News & World Report reported on Feb. 24 that FDA scientists confirmed that, overall, the J&J vaccine is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and about 85% effective against the most serious illness. The agency also said J&J's shot is safe. (https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2021-02-24/j-j-single-dose-covid-19-shot-poised-for-fda-decision)

California Stats on Covid Vaccine Doses Distributed/Administered, Percent Testing Positive & More

On March 1, Becker's Hospital Review reported the following stats regarding COVID-19 in California:
Vaccine doses distributed to state: 11,587,650
Doses administered: 8,821,044
Percentage of distributed vaccines that have been administered: 76.12%
State's ranking by percentage of vaccines administered: 38th
[Nationally: 15.08% of the U.S. has received at least one dose of the vaccine and 7.51% have been fully vaccinated]

2.4% testing positive
New daily cases: 3,336
Tests per 100,000: 515.5
Current number of patients in hospital beds: 5,674
State's hospital bed capacity: 72,511

March 1, Worldometers data for California
1328 deaths per million population
Population: 39,512,223
Total deaths 52,489

How & Where to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

CDC.gov has created a web page - Getting Ready for Your COVID-19 Vaccine - with information for your specific state on how, when and where to get the vaccine, plus other helpful information.

Tips to Avoid a Negative Reaction to Second Moderna Dose

Several people have reported having nasty, albeit relatively short-lived, reactions to the second Moderna vaccine ("The whole shamu - fever, diarrhea, painful cough, malaise"). However, the Methodist Health System, in Omaha, NE posts these things you can do prior to and after getting vaccinated that may help minimize some of the uncomfortable side effects. And rest assured, they add, [this] "advice won't hinder or lessen your immune response." And while the following is NOT medical advice: anecdotally, Scott Frost (CSS Consulting Group, ABL-Health LA) reports that, "I am hearing loading up on vit C and D3 is the big trick. I saw a study on D3 the day after my episode. Something about how it shuts down the cytokine activity to something reasonable. I have had friends with the second Moderna that did this 'preloading' and had no symptoms."

HHS Secretary Nominee, Xavier Becerra, Pledges Support for Permanent Telemedicine Expansion

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is President Biden's nominee to lead HHS, signaled his support for permanent telehealth expansions during his recent Senate confirmation hearing. Telehealth will be a key component of his strategy for decreasing health inequities, particularly in remote areas where it's difficult for people to get in-person access to care. If confirmed, Becerra will still need Congress to push forward telehealth policies that have been extended during the pandemic. (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/telehealth/hhs-secretary-nominee-pledges-support-for-permanent-telemedicine-expansion-4-details.html)

Biden Strengthens Requirements that Plans & Issuers Cover COVID-19 Testing Without Cost Sharing; Ensures Providers are Reimbursed for Administering Covid Vaccines to Uninsured

In accordance with the Executive Order President Biden signed on January 21, CMS recently issued new guidance removing barriers to COVID-19 diagnostic testing and vaccinations and strengthening requirements that plans and issuers cover diagnostic testing without cost sharing. This guidance makes clear that private group health plans and issuers generally cannot use medical screening criteria to deny coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic tests for individuals with health coverage who are asymptomatic, and who have no known or suspected exposure to COVID-19. Such testing must be covered without cost sharing, prior authorization, or other medical management requirements imposed by the plan or issuer. For example, covered individuals wanting to ensure they are COVID-19 negative prior to visiting a family member would be able to be tested without paying cost sharing. (https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/biden-administration-strengthens-requirements-plans-and-issuers-cover-covid-19-diagnostic-testing)

CMS Announces Additional Navigator Funding to Support Marketplace Special Enrollment Period

CMS is making approximately $2.3 million in additional funding available to current Navigator grantees in Federally-facilitated Marketplace (FFM) states to support the outreach, education and enrollment efforts around the 2021 Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that runs through May 15, 2021. The 30 organizations eligible to receive these funds work across 28 FFM states to help consumers access financial assistance through HealthCare.gov, complete their applications, and enroll in coverage through the Marketplace, Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

CMS will invest in the future of the Navigator program this year, and plans to increase funding significantly for the upcoming 2021 Navigator Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) grants to facilitate a robust applicant pool and increase access to assistance for consumers in the future. CMS plans to publish the NOFO this spring to allow sufficient time to award a new round of Navigator grants in advance of Open Enrollment for the 2022 plan year. The current 2020 Navigator grant awards run through August 29, 2021. (https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-announces-additional-navigator-funding-support-marketplace-special-enrollment-period)

Biden Administration Taps Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to Lead CMS

President Biden recently nominated Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to serve as CMS Administrator. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first Black woman to lead the agency. Brooks-LaSure formerly oversaw implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the Obama Administration in her role as Deputy Director of CMS's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which oversees health insurance markets. (https://kslawemail.com/128/7612/pages/art1.asp?sid=4bf1262b-f128-4275-bee8-6e473f7d21bf)

House Passes Biden's $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Plan

The House passed President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan early Feb. 27, sending the proposal to the Senate for debate this week. The House bill includes $20 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and $50 billion for testing and tracing efforts. It also includes $1,400 stimulus checks and funding for state and local governments, school reopenings and more. (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/j-j-vaccine-available-in-1-2-days-ceo-says-house-passes-1-9-trillion-relief-plan-5-covid-19-updates.html)

HHS Releases New FAQs Regarding CARES Act Provider Relief Funds

Last week, HHS released new and modified Frequently Asked Questions regarding payments distributed to providers via the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund. They cover the relationship between cost-based reimbursement and Provider Relief Fund payments, Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments, and more. The new FAQs broadly discuss: use of funds; auditing and reporting requirements; and Phase 3 General Distribution. (https://kslawemail.com/128/7638/pages/article-1.asp?sid=908a85b3-d39d-464b-82aa-3addb729c35c)

U.S. Health Giants Form Startup to Share, Analyze Patient Data

Fourteen of the largest U.S. health systems, led by Providence, have formed a startup to pool patient information, aiming to streamline efforts to analyze anonymous data to improve care, develop better therapies and drugs, and promote more equitable treatment of underrepresented groups. Called Truveta, the Seattle-based startup is led by former Microsoft Corp. executive Terry Myerson, who ran the software maker's Windows business. It will combine records representing about 13% of U.S. hospitals, which will be anonymized to protect confidentiality, said Rod Hochman, Providence CEO and chair-elect of the American Hospital Association. The venture, which is co-owned by the participating hospital systems, includes Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health, Tenet Healthcare, Trinity Health, Bon Secours Mercy Health and New York's Northwell Health. The goal is to let Truveta backers, as well as researchers at other institutions and in government, run analyses and use machine learning to draw conclusions from the massive volume of data the systems generate. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-11/startup-truveta-links-u-s-health-systems-to-share-patient-data)

Top Health Industry Leaders Launch Historic Coalition to Modernize California's Health Information Systems

On March 1, Connecting for Better Health, a diverse array of healthcare advocates, nonprofit and industry leaders, and major employers officially launched their coalition in support of California's first-ever statewide health information exchange (HIE) network. The fundamental policy goals that the coalition supports include: creation of infrastructure for a single statewide network that leverages existing regional efforts and supports every stakeholder who wishes to join; cementing an ongoing source of funding - potentially combining state and federal resources, as other states have done; encouraging every provider and health plan to participate in the network, and share necessary data, so that the whole care team, regardless of where they are in the state, has the information they need to serve their patients. (https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210301005271/en/Top-Health-Industry-Leaders-Launch-Historic-Coalition-to-Modernize-California%E2%80%99s-Health-Information-Systems)

HealthTech Startup Raises $7 Million for Senior -Focused Fitness Program

Bold, a digital health and wellness service, plans to prevent chronic health problems in older adults through free and personalized exercise programs. Bold recently picked up $7 million in seed funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz. (https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/04/health-tech-startup-bold-raises-7-million-in-seed-funding-for-senior-focused-fitness-programs/)

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