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Healthcare Roundup: Healthcare Facility Visitor Access Laws, New Healthcare Workforce Initiative in ME & More

April 15, 2022

States Mandating Healthcare Facility Visitor Access

At least nine states – most recently Florida, on April 6 – have passed laws allowing visitors to healthcare facilities even during a pandemic. Some of the laws, including those passed last year in New York, Texas, and Washington, apply specifically to long-term care facilities. But “No Patient Left Alone” laws in other states, including Arkansas, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, require visitor access to hospitals. Similar measures are under consideration in several other states. (WUSF [TAMPA BAY], KAISER HEALTH NEWS)

ME Launches $21M Healthcare Workforce Initiative

Funded with $21 million from its Jobs & Recovery Plan, Maine has created a new website aimed at addressing the state’s healthcare worker shortage. The Healthcare Training for ME site will make it easier to find healthcare training and education programs in the state, helping individuals “to pursue careers in health care and to move up the career ladder into higher-paying jobs,” said Gov. Janet Mills (D). (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Hackers Targeting Small, Rural Healthcare Providers Too

It’s no longer just major health systems that are being targeted by cyberattackers. Federal databases show regional hospitals and healthcare providers have also been caught up in the recent wave of ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry. And experts say those providers are less likely to be prepared for such attacks or recover from them than larger providers. For example, a 2019 ransomware attack on Campbell County Health in rural Wyoming shut down over 1,500 computers and servers, forcing it to stop accepting patients. It took the facility months and an estimated $1.5 million to recover from the attack. (STAT)

Rural Hospital Opposition Upends Safe Staffing Bill in WA

A proposal this year in the Washington Legislature that would have imposed nurse-to-patient staffing ratios at hospitals in the state was derailed at least in part by opposition from rural facilities that feared the legislation would only make their staffing challenges worse. The Legislature did approve some funding and other proposals to address the state’s nursing shortage, including pay increases for nursing instructors at community and technical colleges, but Bevan Briggs, assistant professor and academic director at the Washington State University College of Nursing, is hopeful lawmakers will do more next year. (SPOKESMAN-REVIEW [SPOKANE])

CMS Proposes $320M Cut for Nursing Homes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a proposed rule last week that would cut payments for skilled nursing facilities by $320 million in fiscal 2023. CMS Officials said the move was intended to offset overpayments to such facilities that began with the Patient-Driven Payment Model in late 2019 and continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic. (MCNIGHTS LONG-TERM CARE NEWS, AMERICAN HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION)

Federal COVID Emergency Extended Again

The Department of Health and Human Services has again extended the COVID-19 public health emergency, allowing federal policies including free testing, free vaccinations, and expanded Medicaid coverage to remain in place at least until the summer. The federal declaration, which initially came in January 2020, has been extended every quarter since then. HHS said it would give states 60 days’ notice before ending the federal emergency declaration. (REUTERS, KAISER HEALTH NEWS)

MI Cracks Down on Pill Presses

Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed HB 679, criminalizing the unauthorized possession or transfer of pill presses and other pharmaceutical producing equipment that can be used to lace pills with fentanyl. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety will promulgate rules governing the registration, transfer, and disposal of such equipment. (WJTV [JACKSON], STATE NET)

-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK

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