Though the holidays are upon us, the healthcare space didn’t slow down in November. Lucky for you, the Activate Health team has compiled another recap of important stories healthcare marketing and communications professionals can review to stay on top of industry news and trends.

Open enrollment kicked off November 1 with strong early enrollment numbers reported. Headlines continued to be dominated by COVID-19 as U.S. regulators cleared the vaccine for kids ages five to 11 and authorized boosters for all adults. On the regulatory front, President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law, and the final physician fee schedule rule that sets out payment rates for 2022 was released by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, expanding telehealth reimbursement and more. Read on for details on these and other important stories you may have missed.

COVID-19 NEWS

White House says about 900,000 kids ages 5 to 11 got a Covid vaccine in the first week after its approval

Since November 2nd clearance from U.S. regulators, nearly 900,000 children have received their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and an additional 700,000 children have appointments at local pharmacies to get their shots.

Pfizer, Moderna boosters authorized for all adults

The FDA approved the use of a COVID-19 booster shot for all fully vaccinated Americans 18 and older, streamlining eligibility criteria (six months after the second dose for Pfizer and Moderna; two months after the first single-dose J&J shot) and helping eliminate confusion about who needs a third dose.

10 rural states launch lawsuit against CMS’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers

Citing concerns about the ongoing labor shortage, particularly in rural areas, 10 states filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on November 10 asking them to prohibit the Biden administration from imposing a nationwide vaccine mandate through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

US restricts travel from 8 nations as omicron variant spreads — 10 things to know

Amid rising concern over omicron, the first new COVID-19 variant of concern since delta, the U.S. is tightening borders and limiting travel from eight countries. Scientists are currently analyzing omicron’s spike protein to learn how the variant may affect illness severity and vaccine efficacy against the strain.

Biden Administration invests $650 million in rapid diagnostic testing

As part of a broader effort to combat COVID-19, $650 million from the American Rescue Plan has been allocated to make rapid testing more available and strengthen U.S. manufacturing capacity through 2022. The investment is intended to ensure these types of tests are readily available and can provide results quickly, with less reliance on overseas imports.

M&A NEWS

Private equity firms Hellman & Friedman, Bain Capital to buy Athenahealth in $17B deal
Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman, two private equity firms, plan to shell out $17 billion for Athenahealth, marking the second change in ownership in less than three years for health tech company.

GE unveils plan to spin off healthcare business

General Electric (GE) plans to spin off its healthcare operations as a standalone public company with a focus in precision health in early 2023. Peter Arduini, CEO of Integra LifeSciences, will take the helm of the GE healthcare company as president and CEO.

J&J splitting medical device, pharma units from consumer health brands

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced it plans to split off its consumer health products into a separate company over the next 18 to 24 months. The move will allow both companies to be more agile on their own, with a bigger push into drug research for J&J.

Senior care startup Papa valued at $1.4B

Miami-based startup Papa is using technology to match seniors with companions to help with non-medical tasks, such as tech assistance, meal prep, housework and transportation. As the U.S. population ages and seniors face a shortage of caregivers, investors are pouring funds into companies that use software to make help easier to find.

REGULATORY UPDATES

Biden signs $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill: 5 healthcare takeaways
A sweeping bipartisan infrastructure measure was signed into law on November 15, carrying a total price of about $1.2 trillion spread over eight years including $550 billion in new spending.

CMS rule would require payers to share data on drug spending

The Biden administration issued an interim final rule requiring group and individual health insurance plans to send data related to prescription drug spending of both patients and their employers or health plans and average monthly premiums to the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) for inclusion in an annual report. The prescription drug pricing report will also address how drug pricing influences premiums and out-of-pocket healthcare spending, expanding on earlier efforts to monitor pricing and premium trends to identify barriers to low-cost, comprehensive care.

CMS physician fee schedule rule cuts payments, expands telehealth reimbursement past 2023

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final physician fee schedule rule that sets out payment rates for 2022. Also included are several provisions that aim to expand flexibility for telehealth reimbursement for mental health.

LATEST RESEARCH & EMERGING TRENDS

Kaiser Family Foundation: Consolidation fuels 23% drop in Part D plans in 2022

New analysis finds consolidation among standalone prescription drug plans in Medicare Part D caused offerings to decline by 23% for 2022, while Medicare Advantage plans ballooned by more than double the number of plans available in 2017. This underscores the need for consumers to shop around, as enrollees without low-income subsidies will face increases if they stay in their current stand-along drug plan.

1.5 million more American’s sign up during ACA’s open enrollment period

Over 1.5 million Americans have enrolled in an Affordable Care Act plan in the first two weeks alone of the 2022 open enrollment period. That comes after 2.8 million Americans gained health insurance during the marketplace’s special enrollment period that lasted from February to August of this year.  In Arizona, over 40,000 enrolled.