The month of January was busier than ever for the healthcare sector. The Activate Health team pulled together a list of need-to-know stories for marketing agencies, healthcare communications professionals, and others to catch up on top news.
In January, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) renewed the public health emergency, and additional provider relief funds were announced as COVID-19 cases reached record numbers. In regulatory news, CMS issued 335 hospitals warnings for price transparency violations. Staffing shortages continue to impact hospitals and health systems, and US health care spending is up 9.7%. The health insurance marketplace closed with a record 14.5 million Americans signing up for coverage during open enrollment.
During the pandemic, hospitals and other healthcare providers have been compensated for financial losses and unanticipated costs by Congress as part of the $178 billion Provider Relief Fund. $143 billion has been disbursed, including $14.8 billion to support vaccine development and distribution. HHS expects to distribute another $6 billion to providers in early 2022.
Amid pushback from health professionals, the CDC has reiterated guidance shortening the isolation period for COVID-19-positive, asymptomatic individuals from 10 to five days.
The FDA announced Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has received full approval for use in people 18 and older.
In a deal speculated to be near $1B, IBM announced they are selling the healthcare data and analytics assets from their Watson Health business to investment firm Francisco Partners.
Revenue cycle management company R1 RCM announced plans to acquire Cloudmed in an all-stock transaction valued at roughly $4.1 billion. Cloudmed uses artificial intelligence and automation to analyze large volumes of medical records to identify opportunities to deliver additional revenue for healthcare providers including more than 400 of the largest health systems in the U.S. and 47 of the top 50 hospital systems.
Government insurance giant Centene Corporation has completed its acquisition of Magellan Health in a $2.2B deal, creating one of the country’s largest behavioral health platforms with 41 million unique members.
After a federal court tossed Texas’ lawsuit and preliminary injunction contesting the requirement, all 50 states are now subject to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) healthcare workforce mandate.
CMS has pulled a controversial Trump-era model that would have tied Medicare Part B drug reimbursements to prices paid by countries overseas. While CMS’ decision is a major win for the pharmaceutical industry, provider groups also benefit as they continue to fight the pandemic.
According to the Wall Street Journal, CMS has issued warnings to more than 300 hospitals for violations of rules requiring them to disclose prices, but the agency hasn’t penalized hospitals for noncompliance. The maximum penalty for non-compliance is $2 million and the agency hasn’t disclosed when penalties will begin.
LATEST RESEARCH & EMERGING TRENDS
Since November 2021, 14.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance, the highest number ever according to President Biden. Record enrollment was driven in part by The American Rescue Plan pandemic relief package and the re-opening of an online health insurance marketplace last year.
US health care spending jumped 9.7% to $4.1 trillion in 2020, A Health Affairs report found. This jump is largely due to a 36% increase in federal spending associated with the COVID-19 response.
Critical staff shortages are forcing patients to delay treatment in nearly a quarter of US hospitals as health care workers become ill with COVID-19 or contemplate leaving the field altogether. As patients delay care, some facilities are looking outside the US to bridge the gap.