eNews August 12, 2020

The latest news affecting you and your customers… from the Independent Medical Specialty Dealers Association

How is COVID-19 affecting your business, your people, your customers? IMDA is a membership organization, and in times like these, we can all use some camaraderie. If you have a COVID story to share, advice to offer, or a warning to sound, send it to Mark Thill, IMDA’s communications director, at mdthill1913@gmail.com, with the subject line “IMDA COVID story.” We’ll compile them and send them back out to you.

Respiratory therapy: Shrinking workforce

Often unsung during the COVID-19 crisis, respiratory therapists focus on helping people breathe; their job duties include managing ventilation and artificial airways and assessing breathing challenges. But many respiratory therapists say people don’t understand their role, reports the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, the workforce is dwindling. According to the National Board for Respiratory Care, more than 125 million patient visits each year are for respiratory-related illnesses, with an aging population increasing the need. Respiratory therapist jobs are projected to grow, but the number of people entering the field is shrinking, said board CEO Lori Tinkler. COVID-19 has even brought people out of retirement, she said.

Buy American

An Executive Order signed Aug. 6 by President Trump aims to boost onshore manufacturing of essential medicines, medical countermeasures, and critical inputs in addition to identifying vulnerabilities within the supply chains for these products, reports the Health Industry Distributors Association. The order directs federal agencies to allow only U.S. producers to bid on related federal contracts, but includes exceptions 1) If the agency determines that this requirement would be inconsistent with the public interest, 2) if the relevant products are not produced in the U.S. in sufficient and reasonably available commercial quantities or of satisfactory quality, 3) if domestic procurement would increase price by more than 25%, and 4) if procurement of specified items are necessary to respond to any public health emergency. The feds will publish a list of products included under the Executive Order within 90 days.

Inpatient-only care? It’s fading.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed eliminating the list of services that can be done on an inpatient-only basis for Medicare patients over the next three years, beginning by removing about 300 musculoskeletal-related services, reports MedTech Dive. The agency is seeking comment on whether three years is enough time to make the transition and in what order services should be removed. The outpatient payment rule, if finalized, would continue a move of care away from the hospital setting by eliminating the requirement that hundreds of services be done only on an inpatient basis for Medicare beneficiaries.

EtO legislation introduced

Democrats in both houses of Congress have introduced legislation that would force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to better monitor emissions of ethylene oxide (EtO) from plants that manufacture the gas or use it to sterilize medical devices, reports Medical Design & Outsourcing. The Public Health Air Quality Act of 2020, sponsored by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.), would require EPA to monitor emissions at “facilities contributing to high local cancer rates and other health threats from dangerous pollutants.” The list includes eight sterilization plants included among 25 EPA-designated, EtO-using or -producing facilities, including plants operated by Edwards Lifesciences, B. Braun, BD, Sterigenics and Terumo.

Providers keep getting bigger

Consolidation of physicians and hospitals into health systems increased substantially from 2016 to 2018, according to a study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and published in Health Affairs. The study found that 51 percent of U.S. physicians were affiliated with health systems in 2018 compared with 40 percent in 2016. During the same period, the share of primary care physicians affiliated with health systems increased from 38 percent to 49 percent, and the share of hospitals affiliated with systems increased from 70 percent to 72 percent. Of 50 mergers and acquisitions that occurred, most involved relatively smaller systems, with only a few hospitals being acquired by larger systems.