18 HHS moves in the last month

From a declaration of intention to protect abortion access to warnings over data breaches and cybercriminals, these are 18 HHS moves over the last month:


1. HHS secretary questioned over Biden administration's slow move to regulate junk plans

Senate lawmakers questioned HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on May 4 over when and how the Biden administration will take action against "junk plans," or short-term health plans that are not subject to certain rules under the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Becerra said the agency is in the process of rulemaking. Mr. Becerra also pointed to the strengths of the No Surprises Act, which the administration hopes will work in tandem with the eventual results of the rulemaking process.

2. HHS to payers on draft abortion ruling: 'We intend to continue to enforce the law'

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra addressed big payers about abortion rights May 3 and said the federal agency plans to "double down" to ensure women can continue accessing abortion services nationwide. He said he addressed insurance companies to make it clear the agency plans to continue enforcing the law. "We have heard complaints that some women are not being provided with access to the care that they are entitled to through their insurance plan," Mr. Becerra said. "We will also make it clear what the law requires of anyone who accepts federal funding through Medicare, Medicaid to provide services to all Americans without discrimination." 

3. HHS extends risk adjustment for COVID-19 telehealth services

HHS said April 29 that it is extending telehealth and telephone-only services in its risk-adjustment program for benefit year 2022.

4. California improperly reimbursed $23M for opioid treatments, HHS audit finds

An audit from the HHS Office of Inspector General released April 22 estimated California improperly claimed at least $23.1 million in Medicaid reimbursement for opioid treatment services. The audit found that some services did not meet federal and state requirements. Unallowable services included unsupported counseling services, noncompliant take-home medications and excessive frequency of counseling services. 

5. Medicare Advantage Organization denials of prior authorization requests raise concerns

A report from the HHS Office of the Inspector General released April 27 found Medicare Advantage Organizations sometimes delayed or denied enrollees' access to services even though the request met Medicare coverage rules. 


6. HHS releases first climate and health outlook series

HHS and the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity released the first installment in its climate and health series May 6. 

7. HHS to increase monitoring after audit finds security program 'ineffective'

HHS will implement continuous monitoring of its systems after an audit conducted by the department's Office of Inspector General on April 25 found its information security program "not effective" for fiscal year 2021, FedScoop reported May 6.

8. HHS' surprise billing appeal on hold

HHS requested a hold on its appeal of a Texas federal court ruling that voided part of the arbitration process outlined under the No Surprises Act. 

9. HHS announces $90M for data-driven health disparity solutions

HHS announced April 21 the availability of $90 million in American Rescue Plan funds to support data-driven efforts to reduce health disparities.

10. HHS appealing Texas judge's surprise billing ruling

HHS on April 22 filed a notice of appeal regarding a Texas federal judge's ruling that sided with providers in a lawsuit over the No Surprises Act. 

11. HHS warns of insider threats to healthcare organizations

HHS issued a warning April 20 about an increase in data breaches involving individuals within a healthcare organization, such as employees, contractors and business associates.

12. HHS to revoke healthcare worker 'conscience' rule

HHS is planning to change a "conscience" rule, enacted during the Trump administration, that allows healthcare workers to refuse service that conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs, Politico reported April 19. 

13. HHS sounds alarm on 'exceptionally aggressive' ransomware group

The HHS Cybersecurity Program issued an alert April 19 to healthcare providers warning them to defend against the "exceptionally aggressive" Hive ransomware group.

14. HHS opens portal for providers, payers to report surprise billing disputes

HHS opened an online portal April 15 for providers and payers to report surprise billing disputes.

15. HHS sends $1.75B in aid to providers

HHS dispersed another $1.75 billion in relief payments to 3,680 healthcare providers on April 13.

16. HHS researching algorithm bias to improve health equity

HHS will research algorithm bias as part of the Biden administration's efforts to prioritize equitable health outcomes nationally, FedScoop reported April 13.

17. HHS requests data from 2,000 providers on medical bill collection

The White House is taking steps to relieve Americans' medical debt burden, including having HHS evaluate provider billing practices and their effects on healthcare affordability and medical debt accumulation.

18. HHS warns of cyber gang Lapsus$: 5 things to know

HHS on April 7 issued a threat brief detailing the tactics used by cyber criminal group Lapsus$, which recently attacked Microsoft, Samsung and identity management service provider Okta.

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