AG Grants, X-Waiver Training, and more...

AG Grants Support Healthcare Partnerships

Using funding from recent settlements through its healthcare division, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office last week distributed $3 million in grants to organizations addressing social determinants of health.

“As a state and as a country, we continue to spend most of our health care dollars treating people who are already sick, rather than investing to keep people healthy,” said AG Maura Healey. “These grants will support new partnerships to improve nutrition, housing, and other social determinants to protect the health of every Massachusetts resident.”

Thirteen initiatives across the state were funded, including these involving MHA members:

Cambridge Health Alliance in partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank, Good Measures LLC, Tufts Health Plan, and the Institute for Community Health will operate a free monthly mobile food market in Revere. The coalition will also organize regular health fairs to provide health screenings, vaccinations, information, and assistance with enrollment in social services, along with evaluating the impact of improving access to healthy produce on health and well-being.

Health Care Without Walls, in partnership with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will aim to reduce health disparities and healthcare costs for homeless pregnant and postpartum women and their babies by providing intensive care management. A field team will work to build longstanding personal relationships in the outpatient setting.

Health Law Advocates, in partnership with Boston Medical Center Health System, will support a new site in New Bedford for Health Law Advocates’ Mental Health Advocacy Program, which provides free legal assistance for low-income children who need access to mental health care.

LUK Crisis Center Inc., in partnership with UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, will support families as they cope with addiction through family-centered approaches that address prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery from substance use and opioid addiction.

Baystate Health Care Alliance/BeHealthy Partnership ACO, in partnership with Community Legal Aid, will launch the BeHealthy Medical-Legal Partnership. The combined effort of these organizations will aim to improve the health and well-being of Hampden County low-income residents by adding legal assistance and advocacy to the range of services offered by five community health centers in Springfield: Caring Health Center, Baystate Brightwood Health Center, Baystate Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center, Baystate High Street Health Center Pediatrics, and Baystate High Street Health Center Adult Medicine.

Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, in partnership with the Community Healthlink Inc., Duffy Health Center, and Mercy Healthcare for the Homeless Program, will address chronic homelessness and the impact it has on the healthcare system. The grant will help community health workers engage with long-term homeless individuals who frequently use emergency healthcare and behavioral services in order to help them move toward permanent supportive housing and change how they use healthcare services.

Two X-Waiver Training Sessions, Plus SUD Training from BMC

The most recent opioid law, Chapter 208 of the Acts of 2018, requires acute care hospital emergency departments to have the capacity to initiate opioid agonist treatment, including buprenorphine. To aid hospitals in implementing this policy, Boston Medical Center Grayken Center for Addiction, and DPH’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services are sponsoring free buprenorphine “x-waiver” trainings across the state. To prescribe buprenorphine, clinicians must possess a Drug Enforcement Agency Category X waiver; obtaining this waiver requires specific training. The training sessions target emergency department providers; however they will be open to all. The waiver course prepares physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder.

The next trainings are: Tuesday, January 15, Baystate Health in Holyoke. Register here.  And Wednesday, January 30, St. Luke’s Hospital, New Bedford. Register here.

Also, Boston Medical Center is offering a free, practical, and cased-based tele-education series focused on the provision of comprehensive care for patients with substance use disorders. The series -- known as New England Office Based Addiction Treatment Extension for Community Health Outcomes (NE OBAT ECHO) -- is for nurses, social workers, providers, medical assistants, recovery coaches, and other support team members and can be completed from the participant’s office or home.  CME/CEU credits are offered for free. Those that enroll can choose to participate twice monthly either on Thursdays from February 21 to July 18, 2019, or on Thursdays from August 1, 2019 to January 2, 2020. For More information: e-mail OBATECHO@bmc.org.

Rx Prices in the Crosshairs

Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), along with several Democratic Senate and House members, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), announced the release of three bills intended to lower drug prices:  The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act; and The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act.

Overall, these bills are intended to: fix the price of prescription drugs to the median price in five major countries (Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan); direct the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for Medicare Part D drugs; and allow consumers to import safe and low-cost medicine from Canada and other countries.

Earlier versions of these bills were released during the 115th Congressional Session.  House Oversight Committee Chairman Cummings announced that the committee will hold a hearing on prescription drug price increases on Tuesday, January 29.

Also last week, President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar met to discuss high drug costs.

HHS Releases New Guidance on PTAC Proposals and Demonstrations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a fact sheet related to the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC). This fact sheet specifically covered “value considerations” for new or alternative payment model development and testing. None of the proposals submitted to PTAC have been implemented yet, but HHS has indicated that new models will be released that incorporate elements of the previous PTAC submissions.

The models that are developed would follow past CMS efforts to redesign how care is delivered and paid for. The Comprehensive Primary Care Plus and various accountable care organization models are examples of what is being created. Models have typically been voluntary, although HHS Secretary Alex Azar has indicated his desire to implement mandatory models.

In the fact sheet, HHS describes its value-based transformation vision and notes that it is currently working on several specific model areas, including a primary care-focused model that is expected to be released in the near future.

Flu Dropped a Bit Last Week but is Expected to Worsen

Even though incidences of influenza in Massachusetts dropped slightly last week as compared to the week before, DPH still considers flu "widespread" and at "high" intensity.  Areas most affected are the southeast part of the state (including the Cape and Islands), Central and Northeast Massachusetts. The flu rate is higher than the same time last year and, based on past examples, is expected to keep increasing in the next month or so before leveling off.  Flu results in Massachusetts are mirroring national flu rates. You can review the state’s weekly flu report here.

MHA Solutions Can Be a Great Resource for Your Business

As hospitals, physician practices, or other businesses review and refine their long-term business plans at the start of the new year, they are increasingly looking to MHA Solutions for all of their business and risk management needs.  MHA Solutions is the wholly-owned subsidiary of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association.  Its resources and industry-wide clout put MHA Solutions well above other insurance agencies, and its in-depth knowledge of the healthcare sector solidifies MHA Solutions’ position in the marketplace. To learn more about how MHA Solutions can meet your business, personal or employee benefit needs, please visit here.

52nd Annual Mid-Winter Leadership Forum

Thursday, February 7, 2019; 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Sheraton Hotel, Framingham, Mass.

This is the MHA event of the winter, and the Mid-Winter Leadership Forum promises to be a good one. The confirmed keynote speaker is David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School and senior political analyst for CNN. Gergen (shown at right) has served as a White House adviser to four U.S. presidents of both parties: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. He wrote about those experiences in his New York Times best-seller, Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Additional confirmed sessions include: Elisabeth Rosenthal, M.D., editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News and the author of An American Sickness, which takes a harsh look at the U.S. healthcare system; and Francis X. Campion, M.D., senior clinical informaticist for IBM Watson Health, and an internist at Atrius Health, who will discuss “Artificial Intelligence for High Value Healthcare.” Don’t miss this year’s Mid-Winter Forum.  View more details and registration information here.

John LoDico, Editor