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WASHINGTON, DC USA -- EMPLOYEE BENEFIT UPDATE NEWS SERVICE™ -- AUGUST 21, 2020: With the November elections around the corner, Inside Health Policy's exclusive reporting on the major policy shifts at stake is must-reading. In addition, the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive major health care reforms with potentially lasting effects. Now is the time to track Inside Health Policy's coverage of all the key issues affecting you and your organization.

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Questions Abound On Future Relief As HHS Reopens Provider Fund
After a disability service provider in Arkansas and another in New York received $11.30 and $375 respectively in provider relief, the two facilities welcome the additional funds made available by HHS reopening the general distribution on Monday (Aug. 10) -- but experts say the verdict is out on whether HHS and lawmakers will ensure Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program providers will eventually get all the COVID-19 relief they need.

Govt. Plan For Determining COVID-19 Vaccine Prices Becomes Clearer, As Does DOD's Role In Warp Speed
The government's approach to determining how much it will pay for coronavirus vaccines and how much money is on the line for vaccine makers to meet a Jan. 31 deadline has become clearer, as has the reason for including the Defense Department in Operation Warp Speed -- it's faster at signing contracts.

Collins Shoots Down October Estimate For COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins on Thursday (Aug. 13) shot down estimates that a COVID-19 vaccine could be out for distribution earlier than November or December, as an Operation Warp Speed official reiterated that the goal is to get a vaccine distributed by January 2021.

HHS Partners With McKesson To Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines
HHS is partnering with McKesson Corp. to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as part of the president's Operation Warp Speed initiative, the department announced Friday (Aug. 14).

CRS Says At-Home COVID-19 Tests Could Improve Access, Test Capacity
The Congressional Research Service says at-home and over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests that don't require a physician's order and could be quickly read at home, similar to an at-home pregnancy test, would improve testing access, capacity and turnaround time and would facilitate testing in any setting at any frequency, including homes, workplaces and schools.

Giroux Says HHS COVID-19 Testing Investment Will Utilize 'Excess' Supply
HHS' new $6.5 million investment in two commercial diagnostic laboratories aims to expand the U.S. testing capacity by 1 million tests per week by utilizing excess supply and expanding the lab workforce, according to Brett Giroir, HHS assistant secretary.

E&C Dems Ask Major Insurers For Details On COVID-19 Coverage, Profits
House Energy & Commerce Democrats on Thursday (Aug. 13) asked five major health insurers and four dental insurance companies to explain their profits, coverage policies and practices during the COVID-19 pandemic -- a probe Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) recently signaled would be launched as company after company reported record-setting second quarter profits, largely driven by the steep decline in utilization amid the pandemic.

Bicameral Bill Would Improve COVID-19 Data Collection On Pregnancy A bicameral bill would improve data collection on COVID-19's impacts on pregnant and postpartum people, coming after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in June that pregnant people may face higher risks of severe COVID-19.
HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) tells Inside Health Policy that it has received more than 908,700 claims to cover the costs of COVID-19 testing or treatment for uninsured individuals since the reimbursement program went live in May. As of June 17, HRSA says, the 3,940 providers who've agreed to the terms and services of the reimbursement program have been reimbursed $31,569,044 for testing claims and $154, 975,155 for treatment claims.

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