Budget Blog

August 13, 2020 - Health Care Issues Update

By Stacey Mazer posted 08-13-2020 02:17 PM


HHS Releases July to December COVID-19 State Testing Plans

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted the July through December COVID-19 testing plans from all states, territories, and localities. The plans include details on responding to surges in cases and reaching vulnerable populations including minorities, immunocompromised individuals and older adults. Each state plan is required to include details of critical parameters for state testing strategies, including target numbers of tests per month; all state testing plans can be found here. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released a dashboard for health center COVID-19 testing, which compiles data from weekly surveys on the number of tests conducted and the distribution of positive test results.


HHS Announces Details on $5 Billion Provider Relief Funds for Nursing Homes

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the details of the CARES Act-authorized nursing home Provider Relief Fund distribution. Announced in late July, the distribution will total $5 billion and be used to increase testing, staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies. HHS expects the initial $2.5 billion distribution to occur in mid-August followed by additional performance-based distributions throughout the fall.


HHS Awards Over $101 Million to Combat the Opioid Crisis

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded over $101 million to combat substance use disorders (SUD) and opioid use disorders (OUD). The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy awarded $89 million to 89 rural organizations across 38 states as part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP). The Bureau of Health Workforce awarded nearly $12.5 million to 28 organizations to expand access to behavioral health services for families affected by opioids and other substance use disorders. 


HRSA Updates FAQs for Rural Health

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) updated their frequently asked questions (FAQs) on rural health. The updates were made to the section on telehealth and address topics including changes to telehealth policy and how rural health providers can start or expand telehealth services.


Altarum Institute Report on National Health Care Spending

National health spending in June 2020 was 7.5 percent lower than June 2019 according to a preliminary report by the Altarum Institute Center for Sustainable Health Spending.  June data showed that the rebound in personal health care spending has continued with April lower by 29 percent and May lower by 16.5 percent relative to the prior years, while June spending was down just 7.5 percent. Dental services were 33.9 percent lower as compared to the 2019 growth of 4.4 percent. The prescription drugs category never declined during the pandemic and has fluctuated from an annual growth of 12.7 percent in March due to people stocking-up on medications, to a 3.8 percent increase in May, and a 5.6 percent increase in June. Altarum is a nonprofit health care research and consulting organization.