Late last week, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay on the OSHA rule requiring covered employers to ensure workers have received the COVID vaccine or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Employers with at least 100 employees will need to determine the COVID-19 vaccination status of their employees and develop a written vaccine-or-testing policy under the OSHA rule.
To give employers time to comply, OSHA will not enforce any requirements under its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) until Jan. 10. Additionally, the agency "will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard's testing requirements before Feb. 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good-faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard," according to an OSHA update.
The U.S. Supreme Court could decide to block this directive again.
Also last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a nationwide injunction put into place on Nov. 30, ruling that the injunction halting enforcement of the CMS vaccine mandate nationwide should apply only to the 14 states involved in that lawsuit. Eleven other states had previously challenged the CMS Rule in separate actions.
The end result is that the CMS vaccine mandate remains in place in the 14 states who were parties to the original litigation: Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. The CMS vaccine mandate is also enjoined for the time being in the 10 states litigating in the District of Missouri: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
HCAOA will provide up-to-the-minute updates as they become available. Click here for an updated memo from Polsinelli with the latest information about the mandates.
Overall, the number of Medicare Advantage plans offering at least one of five recently expanded supplemental benefits – including home care – jumped 43% (575 to 824) from 2021 to 2022, while the number of plans offering more than one benefit increased 15% (175 to 202). A new brief released last week by Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) and prepared by the actuarial consulting firm Milliman highlights the continued expansion of supplemental benefits in Medicare Advantage for Contract Year 2022.
At the same time OSHA released its ETS on vaccine mandates last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule requiring vaccines for all health care workers participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs. The rule comes just weeks after CMS’ new rule requiring vaccinations for nursing home employees, and extends similar requirements to a wide array of healthcare industry employees.
The deadline to comply is January 4, 2022 – the same as the compliance requirement for the OSHA ETS.
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Last week, President Biden announced that a compromise was reached for the framework for his “Build Back Better Plan.”
Sadly, the Credit for Caring Act, which would have provided a tax credit to families caring for loved ones at home, was not included as the White House and Democratic Leadership were forced to trim more than $1.5 billion from the plan. The provision was included in the House Ways & Means Committee plan passed by the Committee in early September.
HCAOA urges all members to send a message right now to their Representatives and Senators telling them it’s time to support the 43 million family caregivers in the U.S. by providing a tax credit for caregiving expenses. Click here to visit the HCAOA online legislative action center, enter your address, and the message is already written – just click send.
HCAOA partnered this week with the Better Medicare Alliance and more than 50 senior health organizations to send a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer to thank Congress for taking steps to protect Medicare Advantage beneficiaries when adding new benefits, such as dental, vision and hearing benefits, and encouraging lawmakers to keep this language in the final bill.
Last week, President Biden announced vaccine mandates for workers in “most health care settings” that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement. This includes hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies. HCAOA continues to monitor this development and those of various states to determine the impact on home care agencies providing personal care.
Social and Economic Factors Drive 40% of Health Outcomes: Better Medicare Alliance Releases Report on Social Determinants of Health
As many HCAOA members know, the Medicare Advantage landscape is changing quickly! Health plans can now offer additional supplemental benefits and services that are not primarily health-related and that target beneficiaries with certain chronic conditions. These changes led to a dramatic increase in plan activity to address social needs and prompted new business and technology innovations. To further dive into the changes happening surrounding social determinants of health (SDOH) or “the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes,” last week Better Medicare Alliance released a new study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago that outlines the many ways Medicare Advantage is taking action to address social determinants of health while acknowledging the barriers that still remain, and offering solutions for reform.
PHI recently released a report, Federal Policy Priorities for the Direct Care Workforce, offering detailed federal policy recommendations to strengthen the direct care workforce across eight key areas: financing, compensation, training, workforce interventions, data collection, direct care worker leadership, equity, and the public narrative. COVID-19 put the direct care workforce in the spotlight more than ever before - reinforcing the value of these workers.
Daniel Tsai has been named the new CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. In this role, Tsai will be responsible for leading CMS efforts around health equity and serving vulnerable populations, including seniors. Prior to his appointment, Tsai served as the Assistant Secretary for MassHealth (the Massachusetts Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program) and as Medicaid Director at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.