Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

CDC Changes COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance to Okay Mixing Pfizer and Moderna Shots

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quietly changed its guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations, saying it is okay to mix use of Pfizer’s and Moderna vaccine for first and second doses in “exceptional situations” and that it’s also fine to wait up to six weeks to get the second shot of either company’s two-dose immunization. While Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, which both use messenger RNA technology, were authorized to be given 21 and 28 days apart, respectively, the CDC now says you can receive either shot so long as they are given at least 28 days apart, according to new guidance posted Thursday on its website. Read more.

New MA Bulletin Updates Vaccine Administration Fees

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Medical Assistance Programs has issued a new bulletin. The purpose of this bulletin is to inform Medical Assistance (MA) providers about updates related to billing and payment for the administration of the novel coronavirus (SARSCoV-2) vaccines, effective Dec. 1, 2020. MAB 01-20-59 advised providers that the administration fee for first and second doses was $10.00. The new administration fee, going back to Dec. 1, 2020, is now $16.94 for the first dose and $28.39 for the second dose. The new fees are based on what Medicare is paying for first and second dose administration and publication of the bulletin indicates DHS received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to pay at Medicare rates. DHS will also pay FQHCs/RHCs for COVID-19 vaccination not affiliated with an FQHC/RHC encounter at Medicare rates, but has not yet published the MA Bulletin affirming this.

Buprenorphine Waiver Changes for Healthcare Staff

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a rule change to allow physicians to prescribe buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) without a waiver. The move by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) eliminates the eight-hour X-waiver course physicians were required to complete by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) before prescribing buprenorphine treatment. Physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other approved advanced practice nurses will still need to obtain an X-waiver before prescribing buprenorphine for the treatment of OUD. For more information on this change please visit the HHS website.

340B Recertification Deadline March 1

The 340B recertification process is open Feb. 1-Mar. 1, 2020. Covered entities that do not recertify by the deadline of Monday, March 1, will be terminated from the HRSA 340B Program starting on Tuesday, March 2. They will require a new registration and will not be eligible to participate in the 340B Program until July. To recertify, Authorizing Officials and Primary Contacts must first set up user accounts by visiting the HRSA 340B Office of Pharmacy Affairs Information System (340B OPAIS) and choosing “I am a participant.” It is the covered entity’s responsibility to ensure they have created their accounts before recertification to allow successful completion of the process. For questions or assistance, email the 340B call center or call 888-340-2787, Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-6:00 pm.

Marketplace Enrollment Increased for 2021

Pennie ended the 2021 Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment period on January 15 with more than 337,000 Pennsylvanians gaining coverage through our new state-based exchange. This is about a 1.8 percent increase over 2020 enrollment numbers. Consumers on average saw a four percent reduction in premium costs. PACHC affiliated enrollment assisters fielded more than 1900 requests for appointments through Pennie’s online appointment request form. According to data collected by Pennie, assisters who were able to claim and access their Pennie Account enrolled more than 2,000 consumers in health plans. PACHC hosted our first virtual Outreach and Enrollment 2021 Debrief session this week, where assisters were able to provide feedback and answer polling questions regarding consumer and assister experience. Staff from Pennie were present and appreciated the valuable feedback from our assister community which will inform decisions for the 2022 enrollment period.

Biden Administration Tells Governors PHE to Extend through 2021

The Biden Administration sent a letter to the nation’s Governors signaling its intent to renew the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) throughout 2021. Further, the letter indicates that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to terminating the PHE or allowing it to expire. Statute requires the PHE to be renewed every 90 days.

Regulation Implementing EO on Insulin and Epinephrine Delayed

HRSA published a notice in the Federal Register officially delaying the effective date for new regulation implementing President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) on FQHC 340B prices for insulin and EpiPens. The effective date has been delayed by 60 days-–the maximum time allowed under the White House order–until March 22. Per the notice, this delay will “give Department officials the opportunity for further review and consideration of new regulations.” There have been some media coverage and social media posts mischaracterizing the regulation as well as the impact of its delay. For talking points if your health center is contacted or if you want to respond to misrepresentations, contact Eric Kiehl, PACHC Director of Policy & Partnership.