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  • Writer's pictureJulie Barnes

July 24, 2020

Maverick Health Policy Update

Only What Matters On Health Information Policy

Maverick Health Policy continues to wish for a more normal health information policy scenario to report on — but that is definitely not the case. Indeed, HHS issued its Captain Obvious notice by declaring that the public health emergency is still happening. And so, like you, we carry on with what is true instead of what we wish.

  1. HHS officially extended the Public Health Emergency to October 23, 2020, which means that anything that was waived, like HIPAA rules for telehealth platforms, continues to be waived for now.

  2. New data is available on the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health System Dashboard -- which examines trends from data on the U.S. health system’s performance in four areas: access and affordability, health and well-being, health spending, and quality of care. Looking in this mirror is not great, particularly if you were hoping we were offering higher quality care than other countries -- because the U.S. ranks the lowest.

  3. Information sharing is so important in the health care space right now, that not even the Department of Justice’s antitrust lawyers are concerned about the potential for collusion among market competitors. Collaborations among pharmaceutical companies is all good if it means trying to figure out how to develop treatments for COVID-19.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

If you are a parent of a school-aged kid, you are receiving information about the back-to-school plan. But how can you make decisions about what your school leaders decided? Where do non-scientist parents get their reliable health information so they can make the best decisions for their children? The CDC issued its “School Decision-Making Tool” on July 23, 2020, and as the title suggests, gives no definitive instructions. Instead, it provides a series of questions that parents can ask themselves to help weigh the risks and benefits of available educational options. And the National Academy of Sciences said schools should prioritize reopening because most kids will fall behind academically if they don’t, but helpfully noted that “the evidence needed to make informed decisions about reopening and safe operation is lacking” and further research is required. Right. Why won’t they just say “Don’t Send Your Kid Back To School Until Your Community’s Infection Rate is Below X%” or something. This lack of clear direction, combined with a torrent of bad COVID-19 surge statistics, makes it seem like you are endangering the life of your children and others by sending them anywhere further than your kitchen. And yet, there is a constant drumbeat about how we need to get kids back to school before their brains turn to mush and parents are unable to ever get back to work. Many of us in the health wonk community would look for relevant data to make the right decision -- going to trusted dashboards like Johns Hopkins which has a state-by-state tracker of cases. At the moment, these don’t do much more than cause fear from seeing all the lines trending upward, next to a helpful explanation of how to interpret them: “Federal guidelines advise that states wait until they experience a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period before proceeding to a phased opening. If cases are trending upward, they are highlighted in orange.” EVERYTHING IS ORANGE. Which leads to a question -- why aren’t schools part of the “don’t-open-yet” plan? And if the real truth is that we shouldn’t be sending kids back to school pre-vaccine, will Congress make sure in its next relief bill that every kid has the wifi access and technology and whatever else they need for on-line learning?

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