Voters Approve Medicaid Expansion, Medical Debt Reform, Flavored Tobacco Ban
Voters in Tuesday’s midterm elections weighed in on several key health care questions in handful of states. In South Dakota, 56% of voters approved expanding Medicaid, which will allow 42,000 state residents to become eligible for Medicaid coverage. The vote makes South Dakota the seventh Republican-controlled state to expand Medicaid. In Arizona, voters passed a proposition to reduce medical debt by dropping interest from 10% to 3%. The proposition will also increase the value of the debtor’s home protection from and decrease the portion of weekly disposable income subject to debt collection. In California, voters approved a ban on most flavored tobacco products and rejected a measure that would have required a doctor, nurse practitioner or physicians’ assistant to be present during treatment at outpatient dialysis facilities.
SFC Offers New Policy Recommendations on Mental Health
The Senate Finance Committee put forth several legislative proposals to address mental health in a discussion draft released on Thursday morning. The discussion draft includes proposals to create a bundled payment in Medicare for crisis stabilization, create a standardized payment in Medicare for mobile crisis response team services, and increase payment rates to help providers integrate behavioral health and primary care. While there is interest among members of both parties to advance mental health reform, next steps on the discussion draft are unclear as control of the next Congress has yet to be determined.
Stakeholders Call for Additional PHE Extension
The current public health emergency (PHE) related to COVID-19 is set to expire on January 11, 2023, and with the new year fast approaching, stakeholders are already calling on the administration to extend the PHE at least one more time. This week, Families USA said an extension is necessarily to give states more time to prepare for one-year Medicaid redetermination process that will begin as soon as the PHE ends. Families USA said the extra preparations are needed to ensure states can connect the millions of beneficiaries who are expected to lose coverage with other sources of coverage. Earlier this month, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) similarly called for another PHE extension to help prepare for coverage disruptions. With COVID-19 case numbers projected to rise during the winter, many expect the administration will indeed extend the PHE at least one more time next year.
Study: Antivirals Could Reduce Risk of Long COVID
Antivirals like Paxlovid could lessen a person’s chances of getting long COVID, according to a new study from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The study found that patients who took Paxlovid were 26% less likely to develop one of more symptoms of long COVID such as heart issues, fatigue, and trouble breathing within one to three months from infection. Researchers conducted the study analyzing electronic health records (EHRs) from more than 56,000 patients in the VA health system who tested positive for COVID-19 between March and June 2022 and compared health outcomes with 9,000 patients that had taken Paxlovid with 47,000 who did not. Currently, Paxlovid is only authorized for use in patients who have risk factors for complications with COVID-19, like being older or having underlying health conditions.
ICYMI: Debate Continues on Reopening of the Capitol
Senior House Republicans are pledging to fully reopen US Capitol Complex to visitors once they regain a majority in the House of Representatives, as current trends indicate. All visitors to the House and Senate office buildings are currently required to have a staff escort, and while virtual meetings are likely to persist to some extent, many advocacy professionals agree that in-person meetings are the most effective way to get a message across. However, in the wake of the attack on husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), many Democratic lawmakers remain concerned about security, and questions remain on how the US Capitol Police will handle a fully-reopen Capitol amid ongoing staffing issues.