In The News

Monkeypox a Federal Public Health Emergency

On 08/04/2022, the Biden administration declared a federal public health emergency (PHE) for monkeypox.

During a call with reporters, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said that some 6,600 cases of the virus had already been reported for the week compared to less than 5,000 the week before.

The virus has spread primarily through close contact with someone who is infected. Treatment includes isolation and pain management, often at home. It is rarely fatal.

Designating the outbreak as a PHE allows federal agencies to access emergency funding and allocate funds and other resources to help prevent the spread of the virus. Such declarations also permit the waiver of some laws and requirements to allow healthcare providers to respond to the disease.

On July 23 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency over the outbreak.

 

The Proposed 2023 Fee Schedule: 4 Things to Know

Of course, the proposed cuts are at the center — but there are some significant opportunities for change and making your voice heard.

  1. The 4.4% cut to the conversion factor would affect a wide range of providers and threatens patient access to needed services.
  2. CMS wants to hear about underutilized services in Medicare. This is a significant opportunity to make the case for physical therapy.
  3. CMS is considering making virtual direct supervision of PTAs permanent and wants input on the idea — another great opportunity that we need to seize.
  4. CMS wants to hear from individual providers, and new APTA resources make it easy to craft individualized comment letters.

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7 Conversations to Have With Your Legislators While They're Back Home in August

District offices, town halls, maybe a visit to your clinic? Here are some topics worth mentioning.

  1. The proposed fee schedule needs a short-term fix — and a long-term overhaul.
  2. Protect access to PTAs, especially in rural and underserved areas.
  3. Let's bring care to where it's needed — and help relieve student debt.
  4. We can make our health care workforce more diverse and improve outcomes for all.
  5. Postpartum care can be strengthened.
  6. Continuity in outpatient PT care is within reach.
  7. We can help the right care happen faster (while relieving administrative burden).

 

 

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CMS Seeks Public Feedback to Improve Medicare Advantage

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a Request for Information seeking public comment on the Medicare Advantage program. CMS is asking for input on ways to achieve the agency’s vision so that all parts of Medicare are working towards a future where people with Medicare receive more equitable, high quality, and person-centered care that is affordable and sustainable.

“Medicare Advantage is a critical part of CMS’ vision to advance health equity; expand access to affordable coverage and care; drive high quality, person-centered care; and promote affordability and sustainability of Medicare,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “Medicare Advantage plans are essential partners in this work.”

“We see a huge opportunity for partnership with as many stakeholders as possible to better understand how care innovations are changing outcomes and costs and how Medicare Advantage is working for enrollees,” said Dr. Meena Seshamani, CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare. “It’s important that CMS engage as many stakeholders as possible to achieve our collective vision of equity, access, quality and affordability.”

The CMS Strategic Pillars prioritize increased engagement with the agency’s partners and the communities we serve throughout the policy development and implementation process. CMS is committed to creating additional opportunities to engage the public and drive innovation in ways that best serve people with Medicare.

In the Medicare Advantage program – also known as Medicare Part C – Medicare contracts with private insurers that must offer all Traditional Medicare services to people with Medicare and may offer added supplemental benefits, such as vision or dental benefits. Most Medicare Advantage Plans also include prescription drug coverage (Part D).

CMS encourages the public to submit comments to the Request for Information. Feedback from plans, providers, beneficiary advocates, states, employers and unions, and other partners to this Request for Information will help inform the Medicare Advantage policy development and implementation process.

The Request for Information can be accessed from the Federal Register at: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2022-16463/request-for-information-medicare-program

 

Understanding How Sound Suppresses Pain

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Studies dating back decades have shown that music and other kinds of sound can help alleviate acute and chronic pain in people. This is true for pain from dental and medical surgery, labor and delivery, and cancer. However, how the brain produces this pain reduction, called analgesia, was less clear.

An international team of scientists set out to use mice to explore the neural mechanisms through which sound blunts pain. The team was led by researchers at NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR); the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei; and Anhui Medical University in Hefei, China. Their study was published in Science on July 8, 2022.

The scientists first exposed mice with inflamed paws to three types of sound: a pleasant piece of classical music, an unpleasant rearrangement of the same piece, and white noise. Surprisingly, all three reduced pain sensitivity in the mice when played just slightly louder than background noise (about the level of a whisper). The effect lasted well beyond the sound itself—for at least two days after exposure to the sound three days in a row for 20 minutes. When played louder, the sounds had no effect on the animals’ pain responses.

Pain perception can be affected by emotions and stress. However, the scientists discovered that low-intensity sound didn’t affect the mice in tests of stress and anxiety. The finding shows that this particular type of sound affected the animal’s perception of pain through another mechanism.

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