President Orders Special Enrollment Period for Health Coverage under ACA

President Joe Biden issued an executive order Jan. 28 directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to consider opening the HealthCare.gov website for a special enrollment period for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The special enrollment period  is expected to be open from Feb. 15 through May 15, 2021. Because the Michigan health insurance marketplace is federally facilitated, this will allow Michiganders who need healthcare coverage during the pandemic to enroll.

The same executive order directs federal agencies to reconsider rules and other policies that may limit Americans’ access to healthcare and consider actions that will protect and strengthen that access. Agencies are directed to consider policies that may undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to COVID-19; demonstrations and waivers under Medicaid and the ACA that may reduce coverage or undermine the programs, including work requirements; policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or other markets for health insurance; and policies that make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the ACA. For more information, contact Laura Appel at the MHA.

MHA Statement on Reported Lack of Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Reserves

MHA CEO Brian Peters

The following statement can be attributed to Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.    

MHA CEO Brian PetersMichigan hospitals have been working around the clock to vaccinate more than 243,000 Michiganders for weeks, all while calling for clear and consistent communication from the federal government. The Washington Post article published today stating that U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) began releasing vaccine reserves several weeks ago, prior and in contradiction to their announcement this week that those reserves would be made available now, is extremely troubling. If true, it is a total failure of operational management and communication at the federal level. We call on HHS to immediately clarify what vaccines are available now, and what will be available in the coming days and weeks, so that our hospitals can plan accordingly.

MHA Statement on Reduced COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation

MHA CEO Brian Peters

The following statement can be attributed to Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.    

MHA CEO Brian PetersWe find the lack of communication and clarity on the reduced allocation of Pfizer vaccine from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services disappointing and frustrating. Hospitals have gone to great lengths to ensure that front-line caregivers are available to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which pulls vital staff away from treating patients when Michigan is in the middle of a second COVID-19 surge. Any delay in receipt of vaccine prolongs the vaccination process and puts healthcare workers at increased risk for contracting this deadly disease. Hospitals need consistent and accurate communication and allocation estimates to ensure quality of care is not interrupted. We are hopeful this issue will be addressed quickly so that hospitals across the country can focus on caring for our communities.

Efforts to Stop Drug Companies’ Abuse of 340B Program Accelerate

As drug companies increasingly attempt to limit hospital and community clinics’ use of 340B contract pharmacy arrangements to lower drug prices, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters recently joined many of their colleagues in asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to penalize those that set prices at levels higher than permitted by the federal 340B Drug Pricing Program. The program requires drug companies to sell discounted prescription drugs to entities that provide care in underserved communities.

A Sept. 22 news release from the senators’ offices quotes MHA CEO Brian Peters saying, “Michigan hospitals are busy trying to save the lives of COVID-19 and other patients while they face extreme financial hardship from the pandemic; they should not have to worry about drug companies eliminating 340B discounts in direct violation of current regulations.”

In a positive step on this topic, the HHS’ general counsel sent a strongly worded letter Sept. 21 to the general counsel of drug manufacturer Eli Lilly. The letter was in response to Lilly’s request for a pre-advisory advisement opinion regarding its new policy to limit the providers to which it would offer pricing discounts under the 340B program.

The letter notes that the Health Resources and Services Administration has already directly expressed significant concerns regarding the drug manufacturer’s new policy and is continuing its review. The HHS’ general counsel states that Lilly cannot view the absence of questions from the government as an endorsement of its policy and that potential litigation is possible if it “knowingly violates a material condition of the program that results in over-charges to grantees and contractors.”

The American Hospital Association plans to continue its advocacy to end manufacturers’ abusive practices, and the MHA will share further developments with members as they become available. For more information, contact Laura Appel at the MHA.