HHS Standing Committee Newsletter | March 2 Edition

3/2/2021

HHS Newsletter

From Congress

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Expanding the Availability of COVID-19 Vaccine | Feb. 23, 2021

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations heard from representatives of vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax. Testimonies from Pfizer and Moderna officials both expressed strong confidence that they will be able to ship 300 million doses by the end of July, while Johnson and Johnson will be ready to ship doses as soon as they are granted emergency use of authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). AstraZeneca and Novavax are both entering or currently engaged in U.S. clinical trials and are confident they will eventually gain approval for distribution.

House Passes Reconciliation Package that Includes COVID-19 Stimulus | Feb. 26, 2021

The reconciliation package includes several health and human services provisions, including $14.2 billion to fund activities related to vaccination and treatment, $1 billion for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and $7.7 billion for state, local, and territorial public health departments to establish, expand and sustain their public health workforce. The legislation also requires that state Medicaid programs cover vaccines and provide coverage and COVID-19 treatment without any cost sharing for a year, and more. Read both the majority and minority party summaries.

From the Administration

New Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse Ratings for Four Additional Programs | February 2021

The Clearinghouse issued ratings for four new programs and of the four programs, two (Family Centered Treatment and The Matrix Model)  were not found to meet criteria, one was found to be promising (Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depressed Adolescents) and the final one was found to be well-supported (Family Check-Up) . 

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) Releases New Report | February 2021

The new report titled, “Freeing Children for Adoption within the Adoption and Safe Families Act Timeline” reviews how often states make exceptions to the timelines created by the Adoption and Safe Families Act and some barriers and challenges experienced by states child welfare agencies.

COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Announced | Feb. 10, 2021

The task force will provide recommendations to address health inequities caused by COVID-19 and prevent such inequities in the future. Disparities that have been identified during the pandemic include: COVID-19 testing, cases, hospitalization and mortality. The task force was part of an executive order signed on Jan. 21 to address COVID-19 related health and social inequities and is chaired by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

Administration Changes Stance on Affordable Care Act | Feb. 10, 2021

The administration and the Justice Department have told the U.S. Supreme Court that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, filing a letter that flips the federal government’s previous position. The letter outlines that if the court decides the insurance mandated is unconstitutional, the justices should “sever” that provision keeping the rest of the law intact. The letter comes three months after the justices heard arguments about the law on Nov. 10. 2020. Opponents in the case say the entire law should be invalidated due to a 2017 tax change that eliminated the individual mandate penalty for not having health insurance.

Medicaid Work Requirements Rescinded | Feb. 12, 2021

The administration has rescinded several letters sent by former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma to states in January that approved waivers, including ones with work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries as a condition of coverage.  During the Trump administration, the CMS approved work requirement waivers for 12 states, four of which were blocked by the courts. Under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is allowed to waive Medicaid rules to permit states to try out new approaches to serving Medicaid beneficiaries.

Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) COVID-19 Vaccination Program Launched | Feb. 15, 2021

Starting the week of Feb. 15, the FQHCs, also known as Community Health Centers (CHC), started directly receiving vaccine supply with the program being phased in with at least one CHC in each state and expanding to 250 centers in the coming weeks. This is part of the administration’s work to maintain a minimum vaccination supply level for the next three weeks as they work with manufacturers to ramp up supply.

Expanded COVID-19 Access Testing | Feb. 17, 2021

The administration announced expanded COVID-19 testing capacity across the country, including improving the availability of tests for schools and underserved populations, increasing the domestic manufacturing of tests and testing supplies and helping prepare for the threat of new COVID-19 variants. The HHS will partner with the Department of Defense to provide $650 million in these investments to expand testing opportunities in several settings.

President Biden Announced “Mask Up” initiative to Reduce Spread of COVID-19| Feb. 24, 2021

The “Mask Up” initiative is set to have Americans wear masks for 100 days to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As a part of this, through a partnership between the HHS and DOD, free masks will be delivered to Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-funded health centers. Read the fact sheet here.

FDA Analysis Finds Johnson & Johnson Vaccine to be Safe and Effective | Feb. 24, 2021

The FDA endorsed the single-dose vaccine’s ability to protect against COVID-19 without posting any health or safety risks. Additional information was provided in a briefing document for the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Panel Committee Meeting on whether to recommend an emergency use authorization for the vaccine.

Spotlight on

  • Community Health Centers: With the recent enrollment period reopening in marketplace Insurance programs, communities can also utilize health care services at the CHCs, which provide comprehensive, culturally competent, high-quality primary health care services regardless of patients’ ability to pay. Services are charged on a sliding fee scale. There are nearly 1,400 HRSA-funded health centers operating 12,000 service delivery sites nationwide. Members of your community can find a CHC with this resource. Additionally, 93% of health centers provide mental health counseling and treatment and 67% provide substance abuse, behavioral and patient services.

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