What We’re Reading: House Passes MA Bill; COVID-19 Deaths Slowing; Higher Alzheimer Risk for Older COVID-19 Survivors

The House passed a bill that would streamline prior authorization requirements under Medicare Advantage (MA) plans; last week had the fewest COVID-19 deaths reported globally since March 2020; older Americans who survived COVID-19 had a 69% higher risk of developing Alzheimer disease compared with their uninfected counterparts.

House Passes Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act

The House of Representatives yesterday passed the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act, a bill that would streamline prior authorization requirements under Medicare Advantage plans. The American Hospital Association, which supports the legislation, reported the bill will establish an electronic prior authorization process, require Medicare Advantage plans to report their prior authorization use and rate of approvals and denials, and encourage these plans to adopt policies that adhere to evidence-based guidelines. To streamline the process, the bill will also reduce the amount of time a health plan can consider a prior authorization request and create a “real-time decisions” process for routinely approved services.

Lowest COVID-19 Deaths Reported Worldwide Since March 2020

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of global COVID-19 deaths reported during the week of September 5 was the lowest since March 2020, marking a possible turning point in the pandemic, The Associated Press reported. In its weekly COVID-19 report, WHO announced that deaths related to the virus fell by 22% last week, with 11,000 deaths reported worldwide. WHO also reported 3.1 million new cases, marking a 28% decrease and a decline in cases seen over the past weeks worldwide. However, WHO noted these numbers may be attributable to relaxed testing and surveillance of the virus, and strengthened efforts to reduce the spread and mutation of COVID-19 are needed to continue with this progress. “We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “Now is the worst time to stop running. Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap all the rewards of our hard work.”

Increased Alzheimer Risk for Older Adults, Older Women Who Survived COVID-19

Older adults who survived COVID-19 infection may have a 69% increased risk of developing Alzheimer disease within 1 year of infection, compared with older adults not infected with COVID-19, CIDRAP reported. This finding was part of a retrospective study of more than 6 million Americans aged 65 and older, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Women aged 85 and older are at a particularly high risk, with women having an 82% higher risk and individuals aged 85 and older having an 89% higher risk. The study authors said it is unclear whether the virus triggers or accelerates the development of Alzheimer disease, and that more research on underlying mechanisms is needed.