In The News

Confluence of RSV, COVID-19, and Influenza

Healthcare Ready Alert

  • New hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses, especially influenza and COVID-19, are spiking following the Thanksgiving holiday. Flu hospitalizations “remain at a decade high” and COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased more than 20% compared to the previous week.
  • While RSV may have peaked in some areas, overall increases in hospitalizations from COVID-19 and flu in adult and pediatric populations puts additional strain on hospitals that are already at or above capacity. Such strain, especially with months of the respiratory season still ahead, may further constrain capacity to care for critically ill patients of all ages across the US. 
    • Some facilities have reported upticks in illness in staff, creating staffing impacts that further constrain the surge capacity of hospitals and other facilities.
    • The uptake of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines will be a crucial factor for limiting respiratory-related hospitalizations throughout the winter months. 
  • As of 11/19, about 40% of children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years have been vaccinated for influenza for the 2022-2023 season.
 

Advocate to Stop Pending Medicare Cuts and PTA Supervision

We are only a few weeks away from the deadline to pass critical legislation to stop Medicare cuts. Congress is putting together large legislative packages, known as an omnibus bill, and we need to ensure that legislation that will address Medicare cuts and PTA supervision are included in these packages. Please take a few minutes to ask Congress to include the Supporting Medicare Providers Act (H.R. 8800) and the SMART Act (H.R. 5536) in any year-end legislative package.

Your constituent voice is important now more than ever. The inclusion of this legislation won’t happen if you, as the constituent, don’t ask for it.

Remember, advocacy only takes a minute or two to complete. The bipartisan bill now in the Senate would replace the direct supervision requirement for private practice with general supervision for PTA's. APTA really pushing this per number of emails asking to advocate just this month.

Use APTA’s Patient Action Center to ask your legislators to include the Medicare Providers Act (H.R. 8800) and the SMART Act (H.R. 5536) in any year-end packages.
 

Your MIPS Status May Have Changed: Here's How to Find Out

APTA

CMS has updated eligibility determinations based on the most recent reporting periods. Make sure you know where you stand.

Think you know where you stand when it comes to participation in Medicare's Merit-based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS? Are you sure things haven't changed? There's a way to find out.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has updated its online tool that shows providers whether they're required to participate in MIPS in 2022, and although you think you may know the answer, it's worth checking. The reason? CMS has factored in new data, which means your status may have changed.

The specific data that may have changed your status is related to the second segment of the MIPS eligibility determination period, which ran from October 2021 through September of this year. According to CMS, the status determination now available is final unless you participate in an Advanced Alternative Payment Model, and your status is adjusted due to data related to the most recent APM snapshot for the 2022 performance year.

The online tool also helps you find out if you're excluded from MIPS based on the program's low-volume threshold, which is applied if a provider meets any of the following:

  • You billed $90,000 or less in Medicare Part B charges during either of the previous two MIPS eligibility determination periods, which ran from October 2020 through September 2021, and from October 2021 through September 2022.
  • You provided care to 200 or fewer Part B beneficiaries during either of the two determination periods.
  • You provided 200 or fewer covered professional services during either of the two determination periods.

CMS revisits the participation status tool regularly and expects to offer updates again in July, October, and December 2023. The December 2023 update will include final eligibility determinations for 2023 MIPS performance.

 

More than 90% of COVID Deaths Occurring Among Elderly Adults: CDC

ABC News / Mary Kekatos

Older people have always been known to be one of the groups at highest risk of death from COVID-19, but they now make up a larger share than ever before.

As of the week ending Nov. 19, Americans aged 65 and older make up 92% of all deaths from the virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's the first time senior citizens have made up more than nine out of 10 deaths since the pandemic began and a drastic increase from the roughly 58% of deaths they made up in summer 2021, an ABC News analysis shows.

An infectious disease expert told ABC News the data showcases the lack of boosters received by the older population and how the impact of the disease is hitting the most vulnerable as protection mounts in the population.

"The bottom line is that age is the most powerful risk factor for COVID deaths and we've known that all along," Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told ABC News. "At this point in the pandemic, it's not enough to just get a vaccine series. So, what it reflects is the failure of the older age group to get boosters."

As of Nov. 24, just one-third of people aged 65 and older have received the bivalent boosters, CDC data shows.

The updated booster specifically protects against the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, currently making up about 20% of infections in the U.S.

While this percentage is higher than most other age groups, Chin-Hong said it's still quite low for a group at high risk of severe illness and death.

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A Common Treatment for Your Knee Osteoarthritis May be Making it Worse, Studies Say

CNN / By Madeline Holcombe

A common treatment for some arthritis pain might actually be making the condition worse, according to two new studies.

“Knee osteoarthritis is one of the most chronic, degenerative and progressive conditions, with an estimated incidence of 800,000 patients each year in the US alone,” said lead author of one of the studies, Dr. Upasana Bharadwaj.

Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis where the cartilage within a joint breaks down over time and the bones around it change, getting worse over time, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 10% of the patients in the study used injections to manage the pain, added Bharadwaj, who is a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of radiology at the University of California San Francisco’s School of Medicine. Two of those pain management injectables are corticosteroids, the more common of the two, and hyaluronic acid.

The studies, which were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, used either radiograph or MRI images to track the progression of osteoarthritis in the knees of patients. Some of those patients didn’t receive any treatment and others got corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid injections, according to the studies.

Both papers showed a statistically significant increase in progression of degenerative changes in knee cartilage over two years in people that had corticosteroid injections compared with those who had hyaluronic acid or no injections, according to the study authors.

However, just because the images might look worse doesn’t always mean that the people are feeling more pain, said Azad Darbandi, lead author of the other study.

“You might see that the knee looks bad on a radiograph, but the patient might not be having worse symptoms,” added Darbandi, a researcher and medical student at the Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

The studies highlight a debate in the osteoarthritis scientific community about the role of changes in the structure of the joint. Currently, pain is the primarily recognized symptom, said Jason Kim, the Arthritis Foundation’s vice president of osteoarthritis research. Kim was not involved in either study.

The takeaway from the studies is that corticosteroids should be administered with caution for osteoarthritis pain.

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