RISE summarizes this week’s regulatory headlines.

Francis Collins to step down as director of the National Institutes of Health

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., has announced he will retire as the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by the end of the year. He is the longest serving presidentially appointed NIH director, having served three U.S. presidents over more than 12 years.

“It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade,” said Dr. Collins, adding, “I fundamentally believe, however, that no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future. I’m most grateful and proud of the NIH staff and the scientific community, whose extraordinary commitment to lifesaving research delivers hope to the American people and the world every day.”

A physician-geneticist, Dr. Collins took office as the 16th NIH director on August 17, 2009, after being appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In 2017, he was asked to continue in his role by President Donald Trump, and in 2021, by President Joe Biden. Prior to becoming the NIH director, Dr. Collins served as the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993-2008, where he led the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book.

“Few people could come anywhere close to achieving in a lifetime what Dr. Collins has at the helm of NIH,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “It takes an extraordinary person to tackle the biggest scientific challenges facing our nation—and under three presidents, amidst three distinctly different chapters of American history. Dr. Collins, master of scientific breakthroughs and scientific reason—from mapping the human genome to fighting the most devastating pandemic of a century—has routinely broken ground to save countless lives, while unleashing innovation to benefit humanity for generations to come.”

Known for his accessible, plain-spoken manner, Dr. Collins garnered broad bipartisan Congressional support for NIH research. During his 12-year leadership, NIH’s budget grew by 38 percent from $30 billion in 2009 to $41.3 billion in 2021. Dr. Collins proposed and established bold initiatives—extending from fundamental basic science to translational science to focused projects—to tackle some of the most pressing health issues facing Americans, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, opioid use disorder, rare diseases, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kentucky, Maine, and New Mexico launch state marketplaces for 2022 coverage

The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announced that Kentucky, Maine, and New Mexico have successfully transitioned from HealthCare.gov to their own state-based marketplaces (kynect, CoverME.gov, and beWellnm.) for 2022.

Open enrollment for individual market coverage, including in these three states, begins on November 1. Consumers in Kentucky, Maine, and New Mexico will be able to use their state’s marketplaces to explore options, shop, and enroll in 2022 health care plans. This includes the more than 173,000 consumers currently enrolled through HealthCare.gov for the 2021 plan year, who will have the opportunity to renew their coverage for 2022 directly through their state’s marketplace.

CMS also recently invested $20 million in American Rescue Plan grant funding to state-based marketplaces–including $1 million each to Kentucky, Maine, and New Mexico–to increase consumer access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage. The grants will be used to modernize IT systems and/or conduct targeted consumer outreach activities to help make health care coverage enrollment smoother.

Missouri Medicaid expansion provides coverage eligibility to 275K

CMS also announced this week that approximately 275,000 Missourians are now eligible for comprehensive health coverage due to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Missouri will be eligible to receive an estimated $968 million in additional federal funding for its Medicaid program over the next two years.

Free or low-cost health coverage is now available to Missourians–in many cases for the first time. For example, a single adult making up to $17,774 a year, or a family of 4 making up to $36,750 a year, may qualify for Medicaid through MO HealthNet. This includes parents who have not qualified before, as well as adults without children.

Missouri Medicaid, called MO HealthNet, has received over 17,000 applications since it began accepting applications for Medicaid expansion coverage in August. Once enrolled in coverage, individuals will receive full Medicaid benefits– including access to primary and preventive care, emergency services, substance use disorder treatment, and prescription drug benefits.

The American Rescue Plan incentivizes states to expand coverage through Medicaid by offering a five-percentage point increase in their regular federal matching rate for many medical services for two years. This is in addition to the 90 percent federal matching funds currently available through the Affordable Care Act for medical services for Medicaid expansion enrollees.

With the addition of Missouri, 38 states and the District of Columbia have expanded health coverage through Medicaid. Nearly 4 million more Americans in 12 states stand to gain access to quality health coverage through Medicaid.