President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday proposed a plan to provide $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief, which would include $20 billion in funding for a national vaccine program, $350 billion for state and local governments, $50 billion for COVID-19 testing, and $170 billion for K-12 schools, colleges and universities. The American Rescue Plan would also provide $1,400 in direct payments to most Americans, boost federal unemployment benefits to $400 per week, raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and extend the eviction and foreclosure bans until the end of September.
An updated report by the CDC indicates that the total number of COVID-19 vaccines distributed as of Jan. 14 has reached 30,628,175 doses, while the number of first doses administered now stands at 11,148,991.
A study in The BMJ found that patients with type 2 diabetes who followed a low-carbohydrate diet for six months had increased diabetes remission rates without experiencing adverse consequences, compared with those on control diets. The findings were based on data from 23 trials encompassing 1,357 participants.
A study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that the adoption of inpatient mammogram screening at Massachusetts General Hospital led to the completion of mammograms in 17 of 21 eligible women, 35% of whom never had a prior mammogram, and others were four years behind their breast cancer screening schedule on average. "Completing preventive screening tests, such as mammograms, during hospitalizations can be one way to help patients who might otherwise miss preventive care," researcher Andrew Hwang, M.D., said.
Women who adhered to lifestyle habits related to weight control, diet, smoking, daily exercise and caffeine intake had a lower risk for gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms, compared with those who did not follow the plan, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The lifestyle changes may prevent up to 40% of the weekly GERD symptoms, researchers wrote.
Primary care physicians' access to COVID-19 vaccines, for themselves and their patients, continues to be challenging as the nationwide rollout continues, although the situation appears to be improving in some areas, and the AAFP and its chapters are lobbying governors to ensure all independent physicians are vaccinated. "We're trying to make sure that the voices of physicians not affiliated with health systems are being heard," said AAFP President Ada Stewart, M.D.
Health care professionals who primarily offer office- or outpatient-based services can maximize reimbursement by ensuring they understand new guidelines for evaluation and management coding and documentation and by contacting private payers to find out to what extent they are adopting the CMS guidelines. Clinicians must base decisions about telehealth availability on patient preferences and reimbursement trends and should ensure they can produce the quality and outcome data that will be needed to maximize value-based payment arrangements.
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission voted Thursday to recommend raising Medicare payment rates to acute-care and long-term care hospitals by 2% next year. The commission also plans to recommend that Congress retain the current payment rate for physicians and lower payments to home health firms and inpatient rehabilitation centers by 5%.
The CMS has finalized a rule to expedite the Medicare coverage approval process for breakthrough medical devices. The Medicare Coverage of Innovative Technology rule will allow Medicare to automatically cover FDA-approved products for a maximum of four years, and after that period or the given timeframe for coverage, the CMS can reevaluate whether it will continue coverage based on patient outcomes.
Some US medical schools are allowing certain students to assist with COVID-19 vaccinations to help speed the vaccine rollout. Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine Dean Thomas Cavalieri, D.O., said its initiative is integrated into the curriculum and the school may study how it affects the students' education.
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