CMS: State Medicaid Programs Can Directly Pay Home Aides’ Benefits

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a final rule Thursday that removes federal barriers from state Medicaid agencies letting home health aides not working with an agency to have employee benefit premiums and union dues deducted from their pay. In more industry news: the number of Americans carrying medical debt dropped in 2021, but could rise again soon; protesters gather for the sentencing of a Tennessee nurse; and more.

Bloomberg Law:
Medicaid Regains Power To Deduct From Home Health Workers’ Pay

State Medicaid programs will regain the authority they lost in the Trump era to withhold union dues and deductions for benefits from home health workers’ payments. The Biden administration final rule, published Thursday, is the latest move in a back-and-forth disagreement between Democratic and Republican administrations over how Medicaid programs should interact with home health workers and their unions. (Brown, 5/12)

Modern Healthcare:
States Can Again Directly Pay For Home Health Aides’ Insurance

The policy is not mandatory for states, but removes federal barriers for states wishing to use the system, said Dan Tsai, deputy CMS administrator and director of the Center for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Services. Home health is becoming more and more popular with patients, but access problems persist because of a grave worker shortage. Home health jobs often pay little, come with few benefits and offer little access to training, CMS states in the regulation. The median annual wage for home health aides was $29,430 last year, and more than 40% of these workers relied on some type of public benefit program, according to a 2021 report by consulting group PHI. (Goldman, 5/12)

The Amount Of People Who Have Medical Debt Has Declined During The Pandemic, But It Could Bounce Back Soon, Researchers Warn

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has sent more than 4.6 million people to the hospital, the share of Americans with medical debt declined last year, new research shows. However, that trend could reverse soon, researchers warned. The share of adults with medical debt, problems paying medical bills, and medical debt in collections fell in 2021 compared to 2018, an Urban Institute study published Wednesday found. The Urban Institute is a left-leaning nonprofit think tank that conducts research regarding economic and social policies. … The authors of the paper, Michael Karpman, Kassandra Martinchek, and Breno Braga, suggested that the drop in consumers with medical debt was likely due to fewer people seeking health care because of a fear of coronavirus exposure, as well as help from temporary government financial relief and increasing enrollment in Medicaid. (Han, 5/13)

In other health industry news —

Nurses To Protest Sentencing In Tennessee Patient-Death Case

Nurses were traveling from around the country to protest on Friday outside the courtroom where a former Tennessee nurse was scheduled to be sentenced for causing the death of a patient. RaDonda Vaught was found guilty in March of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult after she accidentally administered the wrong medication. She faces up to eight years in prison, although such a long sentence is unlikely given she had no prior offenses. A presentencing report rated her risk of reoffending as “low.” (5/13)

Wyoming Public Radio:
Labor And Child Delivery Services Ending In Rawlins Hospital 

The Rawlins hospital will be ending its labor and child delivery services on June 15. This is a result of the pandemic putting the hospital in a financial crunch. Memorial Hospital of Carbon County is an essential service for the county and surrounding areas. The hospital is roughly 100 miles away in every direction from another facility. Stephanie Hinkle, the hospital’s marketing and communicating director, said the rural nature of the facility always poses challenges when it comes to staffing but the pandemic has worsened it. (Kudelska, 5/12)

The Baltimore Sun:
University Of Maryland Medical Center Hopes New Baltimore Cancer Center Will Advance Treatment, Care 

What if in the next few years patients with cancer in their lungs or blood could sit in a chair, get an infusion of their own modified cells to wipe out their cancer and go home? Cancer researchers and doctors around the country are working on it — not only replacing rounds of toxic chemotherapy with the most advanced immunotherapies but also making the cutting edge treatments more readily accessible and even comfortable. A big piece of the effort locally starts coming together Friday when the University of Maryland Medical Center breaks ground on a new $219 million cancer center. (Cohn, 5/13)

Crain’s Chicago Business:
Healthcare Startup PatientIQ Raises $20 Million

A Chicago health tech startup building software to monitor patient feedback has closed on $20 million from investors. PatientIQ, founded in 2016, makes enterprise software for healthcare providers that quantifies patient outcomes by collecting personal feedback from patients, said co-founder and CEO Matthew Gitelis. The software integrates into electronic health records, and logs feedback directly from patients via surveys before and after treatments, surgeries and other procedures. Capturing data before and after treatments allows providers to gain insight into how effective their treatments are for patients, Gitelis says. (Davis, 5/12)

Houston Chronicle:
UTHealth Grad, 80, Is First In Nation To Earn Doctorate In Health Informatics

Joe Bridges has always been a problem solver. As a mechanical engineer, he spent his career fixing what was broken and improving what could be done better. That mindset made it even more difficult for Bridges to watch his sister struggle for more than a decade with a medical condition that doctors couldn’t identify. When they finally diagnosed her with acquired angioedema, a rare immune system disorder, he wanted to help other families avoid the same frustration. (MacDonald, 5/13)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.


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