RISE summarizes recent regulatory news.

CMS proposes rule to increase access to rural emergency care

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a new rule to establish the Conditions of Participation for Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs) to protect access to care and additional outpatients services in rural communities. The proposed rule will allow small rural hospitals to seek this new health care provider designation and provide continued access to emergency services, observation care, and additional medical and outpatient services. REHs will be eligible to receive payment for services provided on or after January 1, 2023. CMS said the proposal is part of its efforts to reduce health care disparities and maintain access to services in rural communities, which represent a fifth of the U.S. population but have had a significant number of hospital closures since 2010. The closures have occurred disproportionately within communities within a higher proportion of people of color and communities with higher poverty rates. CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule through August 29. For more information, click here for the proposed Conditions of Participation, here for a fact sheet, and here for the announcement.

Study: Single-payer universal coverage could have saved 212K lives during COVID

A recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer reviewed journal of the National Academy of Sciences, examined whether universal health care could have eased the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. Analysts calculated an increase in deaths based on the loss of employer-sponsored insurance and to background rates of uninsurance. They estimated that a Medicare-for-All universal system would have saved 212,000 lives in 2020 alone and saved $105.6 billion in medical expenses associated with COVID-19 hospitalizations over the course of the pandemic.

100 members of Congress urge CMS to expand Medicare dental coverage

More than 100 members of the House of Representatives have signed a letter urging CMS to use its existing executive authority to improve coverage of medically necessary dental services. Lack of insurance coverage, they said, has resulted in Medicare beneficiaries neglecting their oral health. “It is estimated that two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries have periodontal disease, yet nearly half of beneficiaries do not have dental coverage, and those who do must pay additional premiums and copayments for what is often highly restrictive coverage,” the members wrote. “Lack of access to medically necessary dental treatment can worsen other health conditions, thereby increasing Medicare’s costs for treating their illnesses…Providing medically necessary oral and dental treatment has the potential to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes. By providing coverage for the treatment of periodontal disease for individuals with heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, one Avalere study estimates Medicare could save $63.5 billion over 10 years.”

Senators call on DOJ to report on status of federal websites accessibility  

A group of bipartisan senators sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), calling for the agency to produce its biennial report on the federal government’s compliance with accessibility standards for information technology. Despite statutory requirements to do so biennially, the DOJ hasn’t filed a report in 10 years. The last report, published in 2012, found substantial gaps in compliance across the federal government and included recommendations for agencies to meet their accessibility requirements.

“On behalf of the 26 percent of Americans living with a disability, including the 40 percent of people over age 65 who have a disability, we write to urge DOJ to take immediate steps to meet its obligations and once again issue these biennial reports,” the letter said.

The senators asked the DOJ to explain by July 29 why it stopped issuing the biennial reports and to include a detailed timeline indicating when it plans to notify federal departments that it plans to conduct a survey, when it plans to send the survey, and when it plans to issue a report with the results of the survey and recommendations.