HRSA Strategic Plan: 2019-2022

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the U.S. Public Health Service has an updated version of its Strategic Plan. The agency is renewing its message of cooperation to its many partners to deliver health care to individuals most in need. 

The Strategic Plan can be obtained at https://www.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/hrsa/about/strategic-plan/HRSA-strategic-plan-2019-2022.pdf.

Federal Health Insurance Exchange Weekly Enrollment Snapshot: Week 1

More than 177,000 individuals selected a 2020 health plan through HealthCare.gov November 1-2, the first two days of open enrollment, according to an announcement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today. Nearly three-quarters of those selecting plans were renewing coverage and the rest were new consumers. Thirty-eight states are using HealthCare.gov for 2020 open enrollment, which runs through December 15.  

More information can be obtained at https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/federal-health-insurance-exchange-weekly-enrollment-snapshot-week-1.

National Survey Of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans

Health benefit cost will top $13,000 per employee this year, according to an annual Mercer survey. The average total health benefit cost per employee grew 3.0% to reach $13,046, following a rise of 3.6% in 2018. It is the eighth consecutive year of health benefit cost growth in the low single digits, and employers expect cost to rise at a similar pace next year. Cost increases continue to outpace overall inflation, however, and health benefit cost management remains an imperative for most organizations. 

Additional information an be obtained at https://www.mercer.com/newsroom/mercer-survey-finds-us-employers-shifting-to-innovative-strategies-to-make-healthcare-more-affordable-for-more-employees.html.

CMS Releases January 2020 Hospital Compare Hospital Data For Preview

Today begins the 30-day preview period for hospitals to see the data that will be publicly reported on Hospital Compare next year. As part of the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting (IPFQR), Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR), Hospital Outpatient Quality Reporting (OQR), and Prospective Payment System (PPS)-Exempt Cancer Hospitals Quality Reporting (PCHQR) programs, hospitals have 30 days to preview their data prior to public reporting on Hospital Compare. As part of this preview, hospitals (excluding cancer hospitals) also will see an updated Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating that will be publicly reported on Hospital Compare next year.

Department of Education Publishes State Authorization and Accreditation Regulations

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education published their final regulations on state authorization and accreditation. The regulations, based on the negotiated rulemaking session which found consensus in April, will take effect July 1, 2020. The rule preserves state receiprocity under NC-SARA.

More information is available here.

The U.S. Department of Education press release is available here.

The NC-SARA press release is available here.

The regulations are available here.

House Committee Advances Higher Education Act Reauthorization  

Today the House Education and Labor Committee advanced H.R. 4674, the College Affordability Act, by a party line 28-22 vote on the third day of its committee markup which saw numerous amendments considered. The Democratic bill would reauthorize the Higher Education Act and incorporates more than 30 proposals.

Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), said, “a quality, college degree remains the surest path to financial security and a rewarding career. Accordingly, we must fulfill the promise of making higher education affordable for all students. The College Affordability Act is a comprehensive bill that will immediately lower the cost of college while putting a down payment on investments that we need to make in the future. I applaud my colleagues for their work on behalf of student and families, and I look forward to bringing this legislation to the House Floor.”

Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), said, “Students and families can no longer afford the status quo. The same tired idea of throwing more money into the existing system and hoping that this time things will be different is the very definition of insanity. Government overreach and unnecessary intervention has contributed to a bloated postsecondary education sector at the expense of students. My Democrat friends across the aisle seem to have missed this lesson and instead double down on this failing notion. A representative of the higher education sector has weighed in and said that the so-called College Affordability Act will ‘increase the cost of doing business for most institutions.’ Republicans know – and Democrats should know – that this cost won’t be borne by schools, but like any other business will instead get passed to consumers in the form of higher tuition and fees. We can do better.”

More information may be accessed here and here.

ASAHP’s detailed summaries can be found for each day: Day 1 and Day 2 (including Day 3 vote counts).

Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act Introduced in the Senate

On Wednesday, the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act was introduced in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), authorizes a new $5 million per year grant program to increase educational opportunities in the professions of physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, and speech language pathology.

“Having a diverse, abundant and well-trained health care workforce is essential to improving quality of care. In order to ensure our health care delivery system is successful, we must make allied health training programs as successful as possible. A characteristic of a successful program is a diverse student body. This is why I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation which will work towards creating a truly diverse field of allied health professionals,” said Sen. Casey.

“As the nation struggles with healthcare provider shortages, perhaps no one feels that more than rural areas such as Alaska. Across our state, our communities could benefit from a more robust workforce, particularly in fields such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech language pathology, and audiology,” said Sen. Murkowski.

On Monday the House passed the EMPOWER for Health Act of 2019, a Title VII HRSA health professions workforce reauthorization bill which included the House’s version of the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act.  

The Senate legislation may be accessed here.

Appropriations Watch: Fiscal Year 2020

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget tracks appropriations legislation as it progresses from committee to the House and Senate floor, and to the President's desk to be signed into law. The 2020 fiscal year began on October 1, 2019. A continuing resolution (CR) funds the government through November 21. The House and Senate are expected to use the next few weeks to continue negotiations on full appropriations for the rest of FY 2020.

Additional information can be obtained at https://www.crfb.org/blogs/appropriations-watch-fy-2020.

How Private Equity Helps Increase Health Care Prices

During the past decade, private equity and venture capital firms have ramped up their investment in health care, buying up everything from physician practices and health technology start-ups to addiction treatment facilities. An essay from the Commonwealth Fund argues that investors will benefit most if they add true value to the U.S. health system. 

The essay can be obtained at https://hbr.org/2019/10/the-role-of-private-equity-in-driving-up-health-care-prices.

RWJ Fellows Program Applications Due Next Week

Applications to become one of six Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellows are due next week. The Fellowship provides up to $165,000 for a midcareer health professional to work in federal health policy issues in Washington, DC beginning on September 1, 2020.  

The application can be found here
More information about the RWJ Fellows program can be found here

House Passes the EMPOWER for Health Act to Reauthorize Title VII Workforce Programs and New Diversity Grants

On Monday the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2781, the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) for Health Act of 2019 by voice vote. The bill, which reauthorizes Title VII HRSA health professions workforce programs including the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program and Geriatric Academic Career Awards, also includes the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act, which authorizes funding for a new grant program to increase educational opportunities in the professions of physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology.

Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), said, “I am pleased that the underlying bill includes my legislation: the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act. The current lack of diversity in the Allied Health industry is shocking.  Many patients of color, whether they are seeking physical therapy, occupational therapy, or similar forms of health care, are unable to be find a provider who is a person of color, and research has shown us that this lack of diversity leads to worse healthcare results for these patients…My amendment will only serve to strengthen the EMPOWER for Health Act by authorizing the necessary funding to diversify allied healthcare providers, ultimately leading to better outcomes for all patients.”

ASAHP is grateful towards the U.S. House of Representatives, including key leaders on this bill such as Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Greg Walden, Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D., and Rep. McMorris Rodgers. The EMPOWER for Health Act was introduced in May and passed the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously in July. The Senate has yet to move forward with their Title VII reauthorization and Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act bills.

H.R. 2781 may be accessed here: https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20191028/BILLS-116hr2781-SUS.pdf

A press release from Rep. Bobby L. Rush may be accessed here: https://rush.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rush-legislation-to-diversify-allied-healthcare-providers-passes-house-0

A press release from Rep. Jan Schakowsky may be accessed here: https://schakowsky.house.gov/press-releases/house-passes-schakowsky-burgess-empower-for-health-act/

A press release from Rep. Burgess, M.D., may be accessed here: https://burgess.house.gov/blog/?postid=402229

A press release from Rep. McMorris Rodgers may be accessed here: https://mcmorris.house.gov/mcmorris-rodgerss-allied-health-workforce-diversity-act-passes-house/

Open Enrollment For Individual Health Insurance Market Begins November 1

Consumers in many states who would like to learn about 2020 individual market health plans, prices and quality rating information now can do so. Open enrollment through the federally facilitated exchange and most state exchanges will become available on November 1, 2019 and end on December 15 of this year.  

More information can be obtained at www.HealthCare.gov.

Potential For Public Plans To Reduce Premiums Of Competing Insurers

Considerable interest exists in making a public option available in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) non-group marketplaces. A report from the Urban Institute analyzes commercial insurers’ experiences competing in marketplaces with managed-care organizations, which, prior to ACA implementation, only offered coverage within public programs (either Medicaid only or Medicaid and Medicare). 

The report can be obtained at https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/101221/is_there_potential_for_a_public_option_to_reduce_premiums_of_competing_i_1.pdf.

2020 ASAHP Leadership Development Program Now Accepting Applications

In 2005, the Association’s Board of Directors approved the creation of a leadership development program aimed at individuals in ASAHP member institutions. The eighth iteration of this offering will occur in 2020 with Part I scheduled for May 15-16 in Columbus, Ohio. Part II will take place in Long Beach California on October 26-27 immediately prior to the 2020 Annual Conference, which is on October 28-30.

Individuals who are accepted for the program also will be expected to register and participate in the Annual Conference and pay the full registration costs for that meeting.

The program will feature outstanding guest speakers who possess significant expertise and experience in various aspects of higher education administration. The period between May and October will be devoted to a combination of team projects. Participants will have the opportunity to pursue issues of interest while also developing personal leadership skills.

· No fewer than 10 and not more than 16 participants will be selected. Normally, no more than one person will be chosen from any single member institution.

· Eligible applicants: Priority will be given to department chairpersons/directors, associate/assistant deans, and new deans (appointed within the previous 24 months at the time of applying). Others would be considered based on space availability. Self-nominations are permissible.

· The registration fee for each participant is $1,500. Expenses for lodging, travel, conference registration, and meals will be the responsibility of either the individual participant or the institution.  

· Applications must be submitted electronically by November 30, 2019 to jacoby@asahp.org  

The application form may be found here.  Participants will be notified of their selection in January 2020.

How Measures Are Brought to the Floor Of The U.S. Senate

A new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) describes two basic methods the Senate uses to bring legislation to the floor for consideration: (1) The Senate, at the majority leader’s request, grants unanimous consent to take up a matter or (2) it agrees to his motion to proceed to consider it.  

The report can be obtained at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS20668.pdf.

The Pathways to Health Careers Act of 2019 Advances in House

Today, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced, as amended, H.R. 3398, The Pathways to Health Careers Act of 2019, by a vote of 24-16. The bill, which House Democrats introduced earlier this year, reauthorizes the Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG) program at significantly increased funding levels and greatly expands opportunities for individuals to develop the education and skills required to enter a host of allied health professions and nursing, particularly for low income individuals. 

Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), said, “this legislation will make the Health Profession Opportunity Grant program, which has a proven track record of success, available to workers in all 50 states, tribal communities, and the U.S. territories. Not only do HPOGs help struggling Americans get good jobs, they also strategically address our country’s health worker shortage.”

ASAHP worked closely with House Committee staff in support of this legislation.

Chairman Neal’s Opening Statement may be accessed here.

Chairman Neal’s statement upon passage may be accessed here.

H.R. 3398 may be accessed here

HPOG Fact Sheet may be accessed here.

Impact Of Medicare For America On The Employer Market And Health Spending

The Medicare for America Act of 2019 (H.R. 2452) was introduced into the House of Representatives on May 1, 2019. If enacted, this legislation automatically would enroll much of the U.S. population into a single federal comprehensive health insurance program. A study by KNG Health Consulting estimates that it would result in nearly one in four workers previously offered employer-sponsored insurance losing access to it by 2023 and one in three by 2032. 

The report can be obtained at https://www.aha.org/system/files/2019-03/the-impact-of-medicare-X-choice-final-report-2019.pdf.

 

HPNEC Hill Briefing on HRSA Workforce Development

The Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition (HPNEC), of which ASAHP is a member, will be holding a hill briefing on Wednesday, October 30, from 12-1 pm in 485 Russell Senate Office Building,  titled “HRSA Workforce Development: Innovating our Health Care Pipeline, Training, Delivery Systems”. The briefing, which aims to educate congressional staffers, will include the following speakers:

• Ellen Flaherty, PhD, MSN, APRN, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine, Co-Director, Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

• Marja Hurley, M.D, Professor of Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, Associate Dean Department of Health Career Opportunity Programs, Founding Director, Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative, University of Connecticut Health Center

• Lepaine Sharp-McHenry, DNP, RN, FACDONA, Dean of the College of Natural, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, Simmons University

More information can be found here.