ABL Healthcare Member News & Industry Trendletter * October 5, 2021
  • 10/06 - Orange County ZOOM Table - "Adventist Health's Blue Zones: Inspiring Health, Wholeness and Hope" - Featured Guest Presenter: Dexter Shurney, MD, ED, Blue Zone Institute and SVP/CMO of Adventist Health's Well-Being Division

  • 10/12 - Silicon Valley ZOOM Table - "COVID's Shadow Pandemic" - Featured Guest Presenter: Mark Heinemeyer, CEO of PRODEO LLC and co-founder of PRODEO Institute

  • 10/13 - San Francisco ZOOM Table - Discussion Topic: "Health Tech: Breaking Records in a Crazy Year - And Meet Peter Hebert, Co-Founder, LUX Capital"

  • 10/15 - Los Angeles ZOOM Table - "HOW TO REDUCE YOUR STRESS in just 3 minutes a day" - Featured Guest Presenter: Mark Levine, MD, Founder & CMO of Mind to Mindful and "How VUCA's Impacting Strategic Planning for 2022," led by Bob Kelley, ABL's CEO and Tech Round Table leader

  • 10/21 - Oakland ZOOM Table - "Caring of Seniors 'at Home' During COVID" - A Joint Presentation by Featured Members Tara McGuinness of HumanGood & Charles Symes of Alegre Home Care

  • Explore Membership in ABL's Executive Round Tables >>>
Click on Headlines to Read Articles
Alvaka Networks Provides Ransomware Q&As

Oli Thordarson's popular ransomware resource page on Alvaka Networks' website, contains the most common Q&A's victims of ransomware immediately ask. It also contains content researched by those researching ransomware, some of which is syndicated by Google in those little boxes as the top answer to popular searches, such as seen in the image below.
Also, read Alvaka's recent blog: How Much Cyber Breach Insurance Do I Need? (Oli Thordarson, OC)

Alvaka Networks Ransomware Recovery Time Frames
Angle Health Provides Insights on Covid-19 Booster Shots

In What You Need To Know About COVID-19 Booster Shots and Third Vaccine Doses, Angle Health discusses if the COVID-19 booster shot is the same as a third vaccine dose; when you may be eligible to receive either the booster shot or third vaccine; and what to do until then. (Andy Leeka, LA)

Anthem Blue Cross Increases Access to Whole Health Benefits in MA Plans

Anthem Blue Cross in California has announced expanded access to health and wellness services offered through many of its 2022 Medicare Advantage plans. Members will be able to choose from a package of nine benefits, which include: Flex Card (for dental, vision, and hearing services); Healthy Groceries; In-Home Support; Assistive Devices; Health & Fitness Tracker; Healthy Meals; Personal Home Helper; Pest Control; and Transportation. The Essential Extras package will give members the ability to choose, at no extra cost, one or two benefits - depending on the plan - among the package of options. (David Pryor, MD, LA)

Biospectal Honored with Fast Company's Innovation by Design Award

Fast Company included Biospectal's OptiBP "software only" mobile blood pressure monitoring platform as one of only 29 winners out of 4000 applicants for its Innovation by Design in Health Award. (Eliott Jones, SV)

Greg Buchert Spotlighted in Article on Vaccination Equity Initiative

Greg Buchert, MD, as Chief Medical Officer of the California Health Medical Reserve Corps (CHMRC), is quoted in a recent Microsoft blog - Developing public-private partnerships to address health inequities, which discusses Microsoft's Vaccination Equity Initiative, currently focused on deploying COVID-19 vaccinations, comprised of a coalition of non-profits, including CHMRC, healthcare organizations, technology enablers, local public health, community-faith-based groups, and others.
Says Greg: "This pandemic has spotlighted the health inequalities that many communities experience every day. Critical components in the system did not have the capacity or the tools to ensure accurate and real time data exchange which slowed down the efforts to get vaccinations to the communities that needed it the most. The work that we are doing to bridge these gaps is rooted in the community-first approach with a lens of equity and inclusion. It is imperative that we engage with the trusted voices within the community to help guide our efforts, which will help address hesitancy as well as get more people vaccinated. Our focus is to have the greatest local impact through data sharing, collaboration and ensuring equity." (Greg Buchert, MD, OC)

Choice in Aging to Present Annual Party + Online Discussions

Choice in Aging will hold its annual Bedford Block Party on October 9, as both an in-person and virtual event. The evening will include food, drink, live music, and more. Plus an online auction will run from Oct. 5-12.
Meanwhile, recent episodes of "Dishing with Debbie" include:
>> Assisted Living and the 3 Cs: Compassion, Community, and Caring, with guest Lori Thames, Executive Director of TreVista Senior Living.
>> Self-Care Awareness, with guest Jacques Bernou, an acupuncturist, herbalist, and body worker with 30+ years of healing experience. (Debbie Toth, OAK)

Cigna Expands Medicare Advantage Plans for Third Consecutive Year

Cigna announced its third consecutive year of record geographic expansion in Medicare Advantage (including into three new states - Oregon, Washington and Connecticut) while maintaining affordability. Cigna now offers plans in 477 counties across 26 states and DC. Some benefits designed specifically for seniors include a Social Connection Program to combat the loneliness epidemic among older adults; affordable diabetes care; and incentives for well visits. In addition, Cigna will continue to offer meal delivery following a hospital discharge; transportation available in many plans to and from doctors' offices and pharmacies; and fitness benefits in most plans, including a home fitness kit and a fitness tracker. (Chris De Rosa, OC)

Competitive Health Partners with eFamilyCare, Adding Caregiver Support

Competitive Health is partnering with eFamilyCare in order to connect family caregivers to expert Care Advisers who coach them on caring for their chronically ill loved ones, which in turn helps reduce costs associated with unnecessary hospitalizations. CEO Kim Darling adds: "Our Companion Care product has always focused on care for seniors - however, by adding caregiver support through eFamilyCare we have created a holistic offering. We can now offer an end-to-end package which encompasses both the patient and the caregiver." Competitive Health is offering this caregiver benefit to employer groups and associations through its digital healthcare marketplace. (Kim Darling, OC)

Chris Dyer, Remote Work Expert, Offering Services as Fractional Remote Executive

Remote Workplace Culture guru Chris Dyer, in addition to being CEO of PeopleG2, is now helping corporate leaders transition their teams to working remotely - and more productively - for the longer term. To take the next step beyond the DIY lessons shared in Chris's and Kim Shepherd's new book, Remote Work, Chris is now available as a fractional member of a select number of Executive Teams. Contact him directly to learn more about how to optimize your company's flow while saving your budget. (Chris Dyer, ABL-Tech SGV)

ECLAT Health Solutions Names Gabe Stein as CEO

ECLAT Health Solutions, a leading provider of global and domestic revenue cycle management services, announced that Gabe Stein has been named its new Chief Executive Officer, to lead the payer business and also grow the provider practice. Gabe joins ECLAT with 20+ years of executive experience growing healthcare organizations and working to create innovative changes for companies seeking technology-enabled, SaaS solutions. Most recently, he was EVP of GeBBS Healthcare Solutions. (Gabe Stein, LA)

El Camino Health to Grant $3.5M to Local Health Initiatives

As El Camino Health (ECH) celebrates its 60th anniversary, it's using its Community Benefit Program to provide foundational support for local health initiatives by investing $3.5 million in grants and sponsorships in fiscal year 2022. Every three years, ECH collaborates with other local providers to conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment, which most recently prioritized programs addressing healthcare access and delivery, diabetes and obesity, behavioral health, cognitive decline, domestic violence, oral health, and economic and housing stability. ECH approved funding for 44 programs to support in FY 2022, which include school districts, nonprofits, safety-net clinics, and community service agencies. (Cecile Currier, SV)

Elemeno Health Featured in Numerous Media + Deemed a Top Deal by Independent Analyzer

Elemeno Health and CEO Arup Roy-Burman, MD, are profiled in a recent India-West newspaper feature article - Indian American-led Health Tech Startup Offers 'Expert at Your Fingertips' to Address Nursing, COVID-19 Crises.
And, Arup is included in a recent ABC 7 News piece: UCSF nurses demand change amid nationwide shortage.
Also, Elemeno has been rated a top deal by KingsCrowd, which independently vets and analyzes startups across the entire online crowdfunding market and is used by 100,000+ investors. KingsCrowd places Elemeno among the most promising equity crowdfunding campaigns currently available for investment. Plus, the KingsCrowd podcast interviewed Arup, discussing what investors should look for in a startup founder.
Meanwhile, Elemeno has so far raised over $1 million in its StartEngine campaign. (Arup Roy-Burman, MD, OAK)

Enovachem & Nubratori RX Report on Low-Dose Naltrexone & NSAID Warning

In Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN), Enovachem reports that LDN provides an alternative in medical management of chronic pain disorders as a novel anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory. At the low dosage level, naltrexone exhibits paradoxical properties, including analgesia and anti-inflammatory actions, which have not been reported at larger dosages. At 1 through 5 mg, naltrexone paradoxically increases opioid signaling, contributing to pain relief.
And, in FDA says NSAIDS increase risk of heart attack, Nubratori RX and Enovachem share that the FDA is strengthening an existing label warning that NSAIDs increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, especially at higher doses. (Robert Nickell, Pharm, OC)

Hospice East Bay Presents Tree of Lights 2021

Hospice East Bay will celebrate its 35th annual Tree of Lights in November and December, an opportunity for families and friends to honor their loved ones through the symbolism of light and the reading of names. Funds raised by these events help Hospice East Bay provide hospice and palliative care services to everyone in its communities, regardless of their ability to pay. They also help fund additional supportive services and programs, such as music therapy and children's grief programs, which are not covered by insurance. (Cindy Hatton, OAK)

Kaiser Permanente Among Nation's Best for Stroke & Heart Failure Treatment

For 2021, all 39 Kaiser Permanente (KP) hospitals were honored with the American Heart Association Get With The Guidelines Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. In addition, 22 KP hospitals received the AHA's Get With The Guidelines Heart Failure Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The AHA annually recognizes hospitals across the nation that are committed to using the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines grounded in the latest scientific evidence. The goal is speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients and reducing hospital readmissions for heart failure patients. (Marcos Vasconcelos, OAK)

King & Spalding Named a Firm of the Year by LMG Life Sciences

LMG Life Sciences has named King & Spalding its 2021 Government Investigations Firm of the Year for the second consecutive year. These awards honor firms, individuals, and companies behind the most innovative and challenging life sciences work of the past year as identified from research it conducts through surveys and interviews with lawyers and clients, as well as public information. King & Spalding's Life Sciences and Healthcare industry team comprises 400+ lawyers across the firm's litigation, transactional, and regulatory teams who devote all or a substantial portion of their practice to serving clients in every segment of the Life Sciences and Healthcare sectors. (Marcia Augsburger, JD, SF)

Life Adjustment Team Describes Assertive Community Treatment

In What is Assertive Community Treatment (ACT)?, Cynthia Sampson, COO of Life Adjustment Team, explains that ACT is a kind of mental health care provided outside of a hospital or recovery facility for individuals who suffer from severe mental illnesses or addictions that prevent them from independently fulfilling everyday responsibilities and managing mental health symptoms. Individualized and highly specialized services from medical professionals are available to assist patients with all aspects of their lives 24/7/365. Treatment is provided in the patient's home or neighborhood, fostering a level of comfort that many psychologically ill individuals do not experience when they seek conventional inpatient treatment. (Cynthia Sampson, LA)

LigoLab's TestDirectly Portal Now Supports SMART Health Cards

LigoLab Information System announced that its TestDirectly Direct-to-Consumer Portal now supports SMART Health Cards, digital versions of clinical information that can be immediately and easily displayed via a QR code to prove that a patient has been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19. CEO Suren Avunjian said, "Now any patient with a TestDirectly account can access our platform and conveniently share his or her current health status to ensure a safe return back to work, school, travel, and other normal life activities." The SMART Health Card acts as a third-party verification tool that's not associated with any single organization, corporation, or government entity.
Also, LigoLab recently earned a "High Performer" badge from G2 in the LIMS category, representing high customer satisfaction scores. (Suren Avunjian, LA)

Mazzetti CEO Lauded at Healthcare Design's HCD 10 Awards

Walt Vernon, CEO of Mazzetti, has been named to Healthcare Design's HCD 10 Awards, in the Building Professional category. These awards recognize 10 outstanding individuals across 10 different categories. As an Electrical Engineer, Walt demonstrates his relentless drive to design "healthier, enduring" healthcare environments; however, his focus transcends the building: He is trying to help the industry de-carbonize and to show the world the public health imperative for doing so.
Meanwhile, read Walt's article, How do we make Healthcare's Response to Climate Change Socially Just? (Walt Vernon, JD, SF)

Mission Hospice to Celebrate Virtual Fall Gala

On the evening of October 9, Mission Hospice Auxiliary will present Diamonds & Denim Virtual Fall Gala, featuring stories, music, an auction (online auction begins Oct. 6), and more. Funds raised from this event stay in Mission's community, supporting care for patients not covered by insurance, or when insurance doesn't cover the actual costs of delivering quality care - which is often the case. (Dolores Miller, SF)

Nelson Hardiman Quoted in CNBC Article on Vaccine Mandates + Announces Webinar

Harry Nelson of Nelson Hardiman contributed to CNBC's recent article - Vaccine mandates for travel are legal in the U.S. - and more are probably coming. Among Harry's quotes, he says: "I expect that, for the most part, the vaccine mandates will stand up."
Meanwhile, Nelson Hardiman will hold a webinar on October 14 - Strategies for Successfully Disputing Payer Refund Requests - which will address the issue of post-payment audits frequently leading to overpayment determinations and flags that result in automatic claims denials. (Harry Nelson, JD, LA)

"On Lok Day" Proclaimed in San Francisco

September 16 was declared On Lok Day in San Francisco by Mayor London Breed, in celebration of On Lok's 50th anniversary. Also, San Francisco City Hall and the San Jose City Hall Rotunda were illuminated at sunset in On Lok's colors. (Grace Li, SF)

OneLegacy-Funded Clinical Trial Completes Transplant Without Lifetime of Immunosuppressive Drugs

A OneLegacy Foundation-funded clinical trial at UCLA Health announced its first two successful kidney transplants with the potential for no immunosuppressive drugs, a feat that will open the door for safer, more effective organ transplants for the 107,000+ Americans in need. The transplants were made possible by a $2 million research grant from OneLegacy and demonstrates the importance of cross-collaboration between Organ Procurement Organizations, transplant surgeons, and hospitals. (Tom Mone, LA)

Savi Group Suggests Strategies for Finding & Retaining Healthcare Workers

In Great Ways to Find & Retain Healthcare Workers, Savi Group discusses some tactics. They include: Reassessing your work environment and optimizing it for employee well-being; Connecting with existing staff members and asking them for feedback; Make sure to have a smooth and easy-to-use hiring process in place; It also helps to ensure that programs are in place to protect the mental wellbeing of workers while offering them the recognition they need to feel appreciated within your organization. (Sumit Mahendru, OC)

Select Data Introduces SmartCare, Using AI to Identify Key Patient Data from Patient Referrals

Select Data announced a breakthrough in improving coding accuracy and patient care planning: SmartCare, which leverages artificial intelligence to identify key diagnosis phrases immersed throughout large referral documents. By applying AI models that in seconds understand and summarize patient information important to home health admissions, SmartCare assists the full spectrum of the clinical team. Equipped with these insights, field staff have a more efficient approach to preparing for patient visits and completing patient documentation, while coders and clinical review staff have unprecedented functionality to a now highlighted and searchable referral document, providing efficiencies in workflow and driving better patient outcomes and more accurate reimbursement. (Ed Buckley, OC)

Eckert & Ziegler Gets Manufacturing OK in Germany & Acquires Brazilian Isotope Specialist

Eckert & Ziegler (EZ) Radiopharma GmbH has received manufacturing authorization from the Lower Saxony authorities for several thorium and lutetium compounds in accordance with the German Medicines Act. This authorization enables EZ to supply its pharmaceutical industry customers with therapeutic radioisotopes for clinical trials and beyond. The radioisotopes are the central active ingredients in a series of innovative cancer drugs that are currently being tested in advanced phases by numerous drug manufacturers.
Also, EZ has acquired Ambientis Radioproteção, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a company with 25 years of experience in radiation protection services and which holds Latin America's only ISO-17025 certified counting laboratory. (Frank Yeager, ABL-Tech SGV)

Tanner Research CEO to Present Virtual Nutrition Science Workshops

On the evenings of October 19 (click here) and on November 17 (click here), John Tanner, Ph.D., of Tanner Research, will present his free Nutrition Science Virtual Workshop, via Zoom, where he will relay to participants the scientific information they need to avoid heart disease and other leading killers with a proper diet. The group will discuss strategies for change and John will field questions, plus give a free book to participants. (John Tanner, Ph.D., SGV)

Q3 2021 Digital Health Funding: To $20B and Beyond!

2020 was the first year to blast past $10 billion in total digital health funding. 2021 has already shattered that record with this year's investment totaling well beyond $20B, with three months left to go. Rock Health's Q3 digital health funding recap analyzes how Q3's $6.7B and 2021's overall swell is changing market expectations and empowering investors to venture beyond historical funding patterns. (https://rockhealth.com/insights/q3-2021-digital-health-funding-to-20b-and-beyond/)
Meanwhile, Modern Healthcare reports that digital health companies around the globe raised a collective $8.1B in venture capital from investors in 2021's third quarter - a record for the sector, according to new data. (https://www.modernhealthcare.com/technology/digital-health-companies-raked-81-billion-q3)

Apple Working on iPhone Features to Help Detect Depression, Cognitive Decline

Apple Inc. is working on technology to help diagnose depression and cognitive decline, aiming for tools that could expand the scope of its burgeoning health portfolio, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Using an array of sensor data that includes mobility, physical activity, sleep patterns, typing behavior and more, researchers hope they can tease out digital signals associated with the target conditions so that algorithms can be created to detect them reliably, the people said. Apple hopes that would become the basis for unique features for its devices, according to the people and documents. The efforts spring from research partnerships that Apple has announced with UCLA, which is studying stress, anxiety and depression, and pharmaceutical company Biogen, which is studying mild cognitive impairment. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-wants-iphones-to-help-detect-depression-cognitive-decline-sources-say-11632216601?mod=hp_lead_pos12)

Amazon Looks to Bring Telehealth, In-Person Care to 20 More Cities, Including LA, SF & SJ

Amazon is reportedly looking to launch its app-based home visits in 20 major U.S. cities through 2022. According to Insider's Blake Dodge, Amazon Care will bring the "full package" of telehealth and in-person services to Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, and Boston in 2021, followed in 2022 by Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, San Jose, and St. Louis. That would bring the total number of cities up to 22, in addition to the entirety of Washington state. (https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/amazon-looks-bring-telehealth-person-care-20-more-cities)

Amazon Launches Elder-Care Subscription Service

Amazon has announced a new subscription service called "Alexa Together," designed for families with aging family members who are still living independently, but who may need extra support. The $19.99 per month subscription expands on Amazon's existing product, Alexa Care Hub, an earlier investment in elder care, by taking many of Care Hub's features and adding on new protections, like an urgent response feature and access to a professional emergency helpline. (https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/28/amazon-launches-an-elder-care-subscription-service-alexa-together/)

Walmart Deploys Epic Medical Records Tech Across its Health Centers, Virtual Care Services

Walmart has tapped Epic to use its electronic health records system to connect records across all of its healthcare services, including virtual care. Epic's EHR system will first be rolled out in four Walmart Health centers in Florida in early 2022. Epic's technology will eventually support all of Walmart's health and wellness lines of business. The partnership will enable a more unified healthcare experience for consumers, the retail giant said. The partnership also signals a strategic move for Walmart as it ramps up its healthcare business. Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, made a splash a year ago when it opened the first of its clinics in Dallas, Georgia. Walmart Health has since grown to include plans to open at least 22 such locations in Georgia, Florida, Illinois, and Arkansas by the end of 2021. (https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/tech/walmart-taps-epic-for-medical-records-platform-across-its-health-centers-virtual-care)

Sensor-Studded Smart Clothes Just Might Save Your Life

Startups are developing clothing to take the place of tests typically performed at a doctor's office, from taking blood pressure and body temperature, to listening to the heart and lungs, to running an electrocardiogram to monitor the heart's electrical activity. From a prescription bra that signals cardiac arrest to a mosquito-proof textile, startups and scientists are developing garments for healthier living. (https://www-wsj-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.wsj.com/amp/articles/these-sensor-studded-smart-clothes-just-might-save-your-life-11631030505#)

CMS Proposes Cancelling Automatic Medicare Coverage for Breakthrough Devices

On September 15, CMS published a proposed rule to repeal a final rule that would have allowed Medicare to automatically cover certain medical devices as soon as they receive FDA approval. The final rule, entitled "Medicare Program: Medicare Coverage of Innovative Technology (MCIT) and Definition of 'Reasonable and Necessary'" was originally published in the Federal Register in January 2021. Although the MCIT Final Rule was set to take effect on March 15, 2021, CMS issued a series of extensions, which culminated in the Proposed Rule to repeal the MCIT Final Rule altogether. Comments on the Proposed Rule are due by October 15, 2021. (https://www.kslaw.com/news-and-insights/health-headlines-september-20-2021)

OIG Identifies Disproportionate Use of Chart Reviews and Health Risk Assessments as a Driver of Improper Payments in the Medicare Advantage Program

In a recent report, OIG investigated concerns that some Medicare Advantage companies leveraged chart reviews and health risk assessments to maximize risk-adjusted payments without beneficiaries receiving care for those diagnoses. OIG concluded these unsupported risk-adjusted payments have been a major driver of improper payments in the MA program and highlighted the need for more targeted oversight. (https://www.kslaw.com/news-and-insights/health-headlines-september-27-2021)

Peter Lee to Leave as Executive Director of Covered California After 10 Years Leading the Nation's Largest State-Based Marketplace

Covered California has announced that executive director Peter V. Lee has informed the board that he will leave the organization in early 2022. Lee has served as Covered California's first and only executive director, helping launch the exchange in 2012 and leading the organization that has provided millions of Californians with access to affordable, quality health coverage. Covered California's Board of Directors, chaired by California Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, will initiate a national search to find its next executive director. (https://www.coveredca.com/newsroom/news-releases/2021/09/16/peter-v-lee-to-leave-as-executive-director-of-covered-california-after-10-years-leading-the-nations-largest-state-based-marketplace/)

Merck Pill Intended to Be Covid-19's Tamiflu Succeeds in Key Study

Merck & Co. and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP said their experimental Covid-19 pill helped prevent high-risk people early in the course of the disease in a pivotal study from becoming seriously ill and dying, a big step toward providing the pandemic's first easy-to-use, at-home treatment. The pill cut the risk of hospitalization or death in study subjects with mild to moderate Covid-19 by about 50%, the companies said. The drug, called molnupiravir, was performing so well in its late-stage trial that Merck and Ridgeback said they stopped enrolling subjects after discussions with the FDA. The results put molnupiravir on track potentially to be authorized by the end of the year and to finally provide an option for doctors who have spent the pandemic seeking a drug that infected people could easily take at home to prevent them from becoming hospitalized. Merck plans to ask the FDA to authorize the drug's use in the coming weeks, Chief Executive Rob Davis said. The U.S. has agreed to pay Merck $1.2 billion for 1.7 million courses of treatment, should regulators green light use of molnupiravir. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/pill-intended-to-be-covid-19s-tamiflu-succeeds-in-key-study-11633082401?mod=hp_lead_pos6)

Also, in "Big Pharma Isn't Done Rolling Out Covid Treatments," The Wall Street Journal reports that new antiviral drugs under development might be the pharmaceutical industry's next big opportunity, adding that in addition to Merck mentioned above, Pfizer and Roche are conducting late-stage clinical trials for experimental oral antiviral treatments, with results expected by the end of the year. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/big-pharma-isnt-done-rolling-out-covid-treatments-11632394801?mod=hp_minor_pos19 )

CMS to Pay for COVID-19 Booster Shots

On September 24, CMS announced that it will pay for Medicare beneficiaries' COVID-19 booster doses without any cost sharing. Medicare beneficiaries currently pay nothing for COVID-19 vaccines or their administration, with no applicable copayment, coinsurance, or deductible. This will now also include COVID-19 booster shots following FDA's recent authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 booster for high-risk populations. In addition, COVID-19 booster shots will be covered for nearly all Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries with no cost sharing. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 requires coverage of COVID-19 vaccines and administration for nearly all Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries without cost sharing. This will now include COVID-19 boosters for eligible consumers of most commercial health insurance plans. (https://www.kslaw.com/news-and-insights/health-headlines-september-27-2021)

Labcorp Receives EUA for At-Home Collection Kit for Combined COVID-19 and Flu Detection

Labcorp has received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for a combined home collection kit that detects COVID-19 and influenza A/B simultaneously in individuals as young as 2 years of age. The kit will be available at no upfront cost to those who meet clinical guidelines, which may include experiencing symptoms, being exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if asked to be tested by a health care provider. (https://www.labcorp.com/labcorp-receives-emergency-use-authorization-home-collection-kit-combined-covid-19-and-flu)

Covid-19 Charges at Hospitals Can Vary by Tens of Thousands of Dollars: WSJ Analysis

The cost of similar Covid-19 treatments can vary by tens of thousands of dollars a patient, even within the same hospital, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of pricing data that indicates pandemic care hasn't escaped the complex economics of the U.S. health system. One kind of patient, with a type of severe respiratory condition that is common among those admitted with Covid-19, is an example of the wide range. The rates for these patients usually spanned from less than $11,000 to more than $43,000, the analysis found, but some prices could be far higher, depending on the severity of the case. The range of prices shows how similar hospital services can generate widely disparate bills. Even during the pandemic, and within the same hospital, the prices often reflect the leverage that an insurer has to wrangle discounts, as well as the hospital's market power to drive up its rates. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-charges-at-hospitals-can-vary-by-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars-a-wsj-analysis-finds-11633262403?mod=hp_lead_pos4)

Study Shows Hospital M&A Deals Linked to Improved Quality of Care

A research study published September 20, 2021 in JAMA Network Open found that mergers and acquisitions of rural hospitals are associated with better mortality outcomes for certain conditions as compared to rural hospitals that remained independent, King & Spalding reports. This study is important evidence of the value that mergers between rural hospitals and acquisitions of rural hospitals by larger systems can bring to patients in those communities. The researchers found a "significantly greater" reduction in inpatient mortality for several conditions - including acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke, and pneumonia - among patients admitted to the merged and acquired hospitals as compared to the independent hospitals. (https://www.kslaw.com/news-and-insights/study-shows-hospital-ma-deals-linked-to-improved-quality-of-care)

How U.S. Employers Can Help Provide Better Health Care: Harvard Business Review

For employers, health care during the Covid-19 pandemic went from being a human resources issue to a business continuity issue. Enterprises gained new capabilities and skillsets as they mitigated the effects of a pandemic on their people and their operations. Large employers (5,000+ employees) have an opportunity to learn from these experiences to change how they pay for and manage the health of their populations and move the entire U.S. health care system forward, so it delivers better, more affordable care.
Given these experiences, it's clear that employers should make these areas priorities for investments, including: High-quality telemedicine and digital health; Home-based services; Self-testing; An integrated approach to mental health; Minimizing the Social needs and health disparities particularly of their low-income employees; Enter into risk-based contracts; Onboard medical expertise; Continue to leverage data; Offer navigation services; and Forge partnerships. (https://hbr-org.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/hbr.org/amp/2021/09/how-u-s-employers-can-help-provide-better-health-care)

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