What Happened, What You Missed: October 30-November 3, 2023


White House Orders HHS to Develop AI Safety Program

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is tasked with establishing a safety program to document and address artificial intelligence (AI) harms and unsafe practices in health care, according to an executive order (EO) signed by President Joe Biden.  The EO attempts to strike a balance between recognition of the risk AI poses to Americans and acknowledgement of AI’s potential to improve health care delivery and develop new therapeutics.  Other health care components of the wide-ranging EO include the expansion of grants for AI research and a requirement for HHS to develop a strategy to determine whether AI tools are safe enough to use in health care settings.  While health care stakeholders have so far reacted positively to the EO and its unified approach to AI, questions remain on how the EO will be implemented.

HHS and CMS Publish Rule-a-Rama

In addition to last week’s End-Stage Renal Disease final payment rule, HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a slew of payment rules for 2024.  CMS posted final rules for Home HealthHospital Outpatient/Ambulatory Surgery Centers, and the Physician Fee Schedule, resolving months of lobbying efforts to impact payment and policy changes proposed by the agency earlier this year.   CMS also released details of the remedy for 340B-acquired drug payments for 2018 to 2022. Health care providers who commit information blocking could face additional penalties, according to a newly-proposed rule from HHS.

New Guidelines Urge More Smokers to Get Screened for Lung Cancer

5 million additional Americans who smoke or used to smoke should undergo annual screenings for lung cancer, according to updated guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS).  While previous guidelines said annual screenings are not necessary for people who quit smoking less than 15 years ago, the new guidelines say all former smokers should be screened annually, regardless of how long ago they quit.  ACS updated the guidelines in response to new research that found that the risk of lung cancer for former smokers remains elevated for at least 20-30 years compared to people who never smoked.  Cigarette smoking is responsible for 80% of lung cancer cases, which can usually be treated if detected early through screening.

Infant Mortality Rate Rises for First Time in 20 Years

A 3% bump in the US infant mortality last year marks the first time the rate has grown in two decades, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  All ethnic and racial groups saw rates grow, although the only statistically significant increases were observed among infants born to American Indian women and white women.  While the CDC did not provide a reason for the uptick in infant death, public health experts say it could be attributed to a rise in flu and RSV respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases last year as well as limited access to maternal care and abortions.  It remains unclear if the infant mortality rate’s increase is a temporary aberration or a sign of more pressing health care issues.

ICYMI: Romney Emcees Annual “Bipawtisan” Halloween Parade

In an era of historic partisan gridlock, dogs in costumes seem to be one of the few things left that are capable of bringing lawmakers from both parties together.  A few days ago, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) hosted the widely attended Bipawtisan Howl-o-ween Dog Pawrade, which Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) launched in 2017 to encourage congressional pups and their owners to show off their costumes.  Tillis, the usual parade host, couldn’t participate this year after coming down with COVID-19.  Notable costumes from this year’s parade include a Chinese spy balloon from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a lobster from the office of Sen. Angus King (I-ME), and an astronaut from the office of Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ).

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