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Exclusive: U.S. to give ransomware hacks similar priority as terrorism

Christopher Bing www.reuters.com  

The U.S. Department of Justice is elevating investigations of ransomware attacks to a similar priority as terrorism in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline hack and mounting damage caused by cyber criminals, a senior department official told Reuters.

Internal guidance sent [last] Thursday to U.S. attorney's offices across the country said information about ransomware investigations in the field should be centrally coordinated with a recently created task force in Washington...

Last month, a cyber criminal group that the U.S. authorities said operates from Russia, penetrated the pipeline operator on the U.S. East Coast, locking its systems and demanding a ransom. The hack caused a shutdown lasting several days, led to a spike in gas prices, panic buying and localized fuel shortages in the southeast. read more

Colonial Pipeline decided to pay the hackers who invaded their systems nearly $5 million to regain access, the company said.

The DOJ guidance specifically refers to Colonial as an example of the "growing threat that ransomware and digital extortion pose to the nation."

"To ensure we can make necessary connections across national and global cases and investigations, and to allow us to develop a comprehensive picture of the national and economic security threats we face, we must enhance and centralize our internal tracking," said the guidance seen by Reuters and previously unreported.

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What will home care look like post-COVID-19? Brooks-LaSure will help guide us

McKnight’s Senior Living
Liza Berger 
 
It is not a coincidence that two symbolic healthcare policy events took place [last] week.
 
I’m talking about the Senate’s confirmation of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the introduction of H.R. 3447, the Permanency for Audio-Only Telehealth Act. The latter would allow for Medicare coverage of audio-only telehealth services after the COVID-19 public health emergency.
 
Brooks-LaSure is stepping into CMS at a time when Congress and regulators are making key decisions about healthcare in the post-pandemic world. She will help lead home care and other providers through this major period of transition.
 
Among those big decisions are how to handle telehealth, which perhaps literally and figuratively saved lives during the period of lockdown. Just last week the House introduced H.R. 3371, the Home Health Emergency Access to Telehealth Act (HEAT), which would provide reimbursement for telehealth services in the Medicare Home Health benefit during an emergency period.
 
Brooks-LaSure also will preside over an agency that will be navigating the likely growth of hospital-at-home, a major CMS initiative that, like telehealth, flourished thanks to the pandemic. There is no question that pressure is building on lawmakers to extend the Hospitals Without Walls program, as the executive director of Moving Health Home told McKnight’s Home Care Daily this week.
 
Of course, other issues hang in the balance. These include a possible expansion of Medicaid home- and community-based services, the growth of the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Model, and the possibility of Medicare-covered skilled nursing facility-level care at home. Legislation regarding the latter may be introduced in the coming days.
 
Welcome aboard, Chiquita. You should have more than enough to keep you busy.  

 

AARP Makes Strong Statements re: Future of HCBS

During a roundtable on long-term care last Wednesday (June 2), AARP leaders advocated for expanding long-term care ate home and improving home caregivers’ qualify of life.

Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond stated, “The home is the new health care center. Make no mistake about it. People are not anxious to go to nursing homes -- they want to stay in their homes.”

The organization advocated for a legislative push on, “home-focused long-term care policy,” indicating that the toll on nursing homes exposed the inadequacy of America’s long-term care system, though they recognized that many problems predate COVID-19.

LeaMond declared that in addition to Biden’s HCBS proposal, AARP supports other policies that support home care workers, including family caregivers, like the Credits for Caregivers Act. The pending legislation would provide federal tax credits for people who provide long-term care to family members.

As reported by Inside Health Policy, "Susan Reinhard, senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute said that states should be trying to speed up Medicaid eligibility determinations for people who end up in nursing homes after hospital stays. This could avoid unwanted nursing home stays by making people eligible for HCBS benefits sooner. Some states have already begun using presumptive eligibility models."
 

Top Democrats jump-start push to offer a health care 'public option,' a Biden promise

NBC News
 
Rep. Frank Pallone and Sen. Patty Murray are trying to craft a government-provided insurance option to compete with private plans and extend coverage.
 
May 26, 2021, 9:45 AM EDT
 
WASHINGTON — Two Democratic committee chairs overseeing health care policy are seeking to jump-start a legislative push to craft a "public option" to compete with private insurers.
 
House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., wrote a letter to interested parties on Wednesday seeking their input by July 31 on how to structure a government-provided plan.
 
"We believe bold steps are necessary in order to achieve universal coverage and lower health care costs," the chairs write. "Health care affordability remains a challenge for many American families despite the fact that the United States spends more on health care than any other country."
 
Pallone and Murray touted the Affordable Care Act's successes at extending coverage but noted that "tens of millions of American still remain uninsured or underinsured."
 
A "public option" was one of President Joe Biden's campaign promises, billed as a moderate alternative to rival Bernie Sanders' plan to scrap private coverage and put all Americans in Medicare. But Biden has not included the policy in his economic rescue and stimulus proposals so far, instead seeking to infuse cash in the ACA exchanges and invest in Covid-19 vaccines.
 
But the Democrats are signaling it is still a priority, and aim to introduce a bill by the end of this year, a Murray aide said.
 
It will be a daunting task for Democrats, who have paper-thin margins in Congress and not much hope of winning Republican support. They are likely to face an assault from health industry groups, including insurers who won't want to compete with the government, as well as doctors and hospitals who would complain about likely reductions in reimbursement rates.
 
In their letter, Murray and Pallone requested information that would help them on the design and scope of the legislation, including whether the federal public option should be made available to all individuals or more targeted.
 
And in a statement, they cited a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll that shows 68 percent of Americans favor a public option, "where people can choose from a government-run health program or private insurance."

Recently, Democrats have offered competing bills for a public option, which was considered in the 2010 Affordable Care Act legislation and dropped after some party defections.
 
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., introduced the Medicare-X Choice Act, which would set up a Medicare-style public option. And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., introduced the CHOICE Act to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act.

 

May 2021 Hospice Quality Reporting Program (HQRP) Update Now Available

The May 2021 update is now available on Care Compare, the streamlined redesign of eight former CMS healthcare compare tools on Medicare.gov, including Hospice Compare. [CMS] made several changes. First, data derived from the Post-Acute Care and Hospice Provider Utilization and Payment Public Use File (PUF) have been updated to include calendar year 2018 data. Furthermore, additional data elements from the PUF file have been added to inform users whether a hospice provided service to any Medicare Advantage patients, or patients with both Medicaid and Medicare coverage. Please visit the Public Reporting: Background and Announcements page to view a newly issued Fact Sheet and Question and Answer document. These resources provide an overview of the PUF information on hospices publicly reported by the HQRP.

 

 

In addition, Care Compare visitors can now use a new a link to the FY2021 Annual Payment Update Compliance File to identify hospices which have been compliant with HQRP requirements in their area. This file is already publicly available on the HQRP Requirements page. As an integral part of Care Compare, it will now be more accessible to consumers and thus help inform their decisions.

 

Finally, as of May 2021, [CMS] also updated the claims-based zip codes using CY 2019 Medicare claims data. This routine annual update ensures that the Care Compare search engine continues to provide accurate and up-to-date hospice information to consumers. Hospice Item Set zip code data continue to come from January-December 2019 Hospice Item Set records.

 

Please note that all Hospice Item Set and CAHPS measures remain frozen due to the temporary exemption to the HQRP data submission requirements in responding to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). For additional information on COVID-19 PHE data exemption, please see the Hospice COVID-19 Public Reporting Tip Sheet in the Downloads section of the HQRP Requirements and Best Practices webpage. For more information about public reporting, please see the Public Reporting: Key Dates for Providers webpage.    

 The May 2021 update is now available on Care Compare, the streamlined redesign of eight former CMS healthcare compare tools on Medicare.gov, including Hospice Compare. [CMS] made several changes. First, data derived from the Post-Acute Care and Hospice Provider Utilization and Payment Public Use File (PUF) have been updated to include calendar year 2018 data. Furthermore, additional data elements from the PUF file have been added to inform users whether a hospice provided service to any Medicare Advantage patients, or patients with both Medicaid and Medicare coverage. Please visit the Public Reporting: Background and Announcements page to view a newly issued Fact Sheet and Question and Answer document. These resources provide an overview of the PUF information on hospices publicly reported by the HQRP.

 

In addition, Care Compare visitors can now use a new a link to the FY2021 Annual Payment Update Compliance File to identify hospices which have been compliant with HQRP requirements in their area. This file is already publicly available on the HQRP Requirements page. As an integral part of Care Compare, it will now be more accessible to consumers and thus help inform their decisions.

 

Finally, as of May 2021, [CMS] also updated the claims-based zip codes using CY 2019 Medicare claims data. This routine annual update ensures that the Care Compare search engine continues to provide accurate and up-to-date hospice information to consumers. Hospice Item Set zip code data continue to come from January-December 2019 Hospice Item Set records.

 

Please note that all Hospice Item Set and CAHPS measures remain frozen due to the temporary exemption to the HQRP data submission requirements in responding to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). For additional information on COVID-19 PHE data exemption, please see the Hospice COVID-19 Public Reporting Tip Sheet in the Downloads section of the HQRP Requirements and Best Practices webpage. For more information about public reporting, please see the Public Reporting: Key Dates for Providers webpage.    

 The May 2021 update is now available on Care Compare, the streamlined redesign of eight former CMS healthcare compare tools on Medicare.gov, including Hospice Compare. [CMS] made several changes. First, data derived from the Post-Acute Care and Hospice Provider Utilization and Payment Public Use File (PUF) have been updated to include calendar year 2018 data. Furthermore, additional data elements from the PUF file have been added to inform users whether a hospice provided service to any Medicare Advantage patients, or patients with both Medicaid and Medicare coverage. Please visit the Public Reporting: Background and Announcements page to view a newly issued Fact Sheet and Question and Answer document. These resources provide an overview of the PUF information on hospices publicly reported by the HQRP.

In addition, Care Compare visitors can now use a new a link to the FY2021 Annual Payment Update Compliance File to identify hospices which have been compliant with HQRP requirements in their area. This file is already publicly available on the HQRP Requirements page. As an integral part of Care Compare, it will now be more accessible to consumers and thus help inform their decisions.

Finally, as of May 2021, [CMS] also updated the claims-based zip codes using CY 2019 Medicare claims data. This routine annual update ensures that the Care Compare search engine continues to provide accurate and up-to-date hospice information to consumers. Hospice Item Set zip code data continue to come from January-December 2019 Hospice Item Set records.

Please note that all Hospice Item Set and CAHPS measures remain frozen due to the temporary exemption to the HQRP data submission requirements in responding to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). For additional information on COVID-19 PHE data exemption, please see the Hospice COVID-19 Public Reporting Tip Sheet in the Downloads section of the HQRP Requirements and Best Practices webpage. For more information about public reporting, please see the Public Reporting: Key Dates for Providers webpage.    

 
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