What We’re Reading: CMS Updates Aim for Care Equity; Access to Experimental Therapies; Vaccine Mandates for Health Workers

CMS proposes update to Medicare Physician Fee Schedule; patients with rare diseases struggle to gain expanded access to experimental treatments; a coalition of health care organizations calls on facilities to require the COVID-19 vaccine for workers.

CMS Proposes Fee Schedule Updates to Encourage Health Care Equity

CMS proposed a new rule that would update the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule by promoting health equity and expanding telehealth access among beneficiaries and physicians. According to the CMS press release, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities in the US health care system. “CMS aims to take the lessons learned during this time and move forward toward a system where no patient is left out and everyone has access to comprehensive quality health services,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. Additionally, the proposed rule would decrease the conversion factor by more than a dollar to $33.58 starting January 1, 2022. CMS also aims to enhance diabetes prevention programs, ensure quality care for Medicare beneficiaries, and create equal opportunities for physicians in both large and small clinical practices through this new rule.

Patients With Rare Diseases Less Likely to Get Experimental Therapies

Gaining expanded access to experimental therapies is more difficult for patients with rare diseases than those with more common diseases, according to Kaiser Health News. The article highlighted research showing that whereas 7 of 19 patients with cancer received early access to experimental treatments they had requested, none of the 3 patients with rare diseases were granted access. Although the number of experimental treatments is on the rise, drug makers are concerned that offering a drug before clinical studies are completed could negatively affect its development and jeopardize FDA approval.

Coalition Calls for COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Health Workers

A coalition of national organizations in epidemiology and infection prevention called on medical facilities to require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. “By requiring vaccination as a condition of employment we raise levels of vaccination for health care personnel, improve protection of our patients, and aid in reaching community protection,” the statement reads, adding that “a sufficient vaccination rate is unlikely to be achieved” without a vaccine mandate. The statement from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America cites past research on flu vaccination requirements finding that compliance was 94.4% when health care organizations required influenza vaccination as a condition of employment, compared with 69.6% when they did not.