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Healthcare Roundup: Hospitals Seek to Reduce Dependence on Nurse Staffing Agencies, Legal Blow for MT Anti-Vax Law & More

December 16, 2022

Hospitals Getting Creative to Mitigate Staffing Shortages

With contract labor expenses up almost 500 percent from where they were before the pandemic, a growing number of hospital systems are creating in-house staffing systems to help them deal with the nationwide nursing shortage and reduce their dependence on private staffing agencies. The in-house systems allow nurses to earn more pay and have greater flexibility by working weeklong or multi-week stints at different hospitals or even self-scheduling shifts at various facilities, unlike staff nurses, who usually work in one medical unit at one hospital, or “float” nurses, who move from unit to unit at a single hospital as needed. (FORTUNE)

Judge Strikes Down Part of MT Anti-Vax Law

A federal judge ruled that a significant part of Montana’s new vaccine discrimination law is both unconstitutional and in conflict with federal law. The law enacted last year (HB 702) prohibited employers from imposing vaccine mandates or requiring their workers to share their vaccination status. U.S. District Court Judge Donald W. Molloy said provisions of the law dealing with healthcare settings, such as doctors’ offices, nursing homes and hospitals, treated those settings differently, making healthcare workers in the same category subject to different requirements. Molloy also said the law also placed healthcare workers in the situation of having to choose between obeying state or federal law. (DAILY MONTANAN)

Financial Decisions Lead to Shortage of Pediatric Hospital Beds

A shortage of pediatric beds at hospitals flooded with young patients sickened by respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and the coronavirus has forced medical centers across the nation to deploy triage tents, delay elective procedures and transfer critically ill patients to other states. But the shortage is largely due to hospitals’ decisions over the past decade to close money-losing pediatric wards and increase the number of beds available for profitable operations like cancer treatment. Between 2008 and 2018 the number of pediatric hospital beds dropped 19 percent, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2021. (CBS NEWS)

NY Revises COVID-19 Return-To-Work Protocols for Health Workers

New York’s Department of Health updated its advisory on return-to-work protocols for healthcare workers infected or exposed to COVID-19, aligning them with the current recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Under the revised protocols work restrictions based on vaccination status are no longer necessary for healthcare workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 but are asymptomatic, although evaluation for potential restrictions are recommended for workers who have had a “higher-risk exposure” to COVID-19. (SHRM)

CO Latest State to Seek Approval to Import Drugs from Canada

This month Colorado became the fourth state -- after Florida, New Hampshire and New Mexico -- to seek federal authorization to import drugs from Canada to help them lower prescription drug costs. President Biden supports the idea, but his administration hasn’t approved any of the states’ applications yet. (USA TODAY)

Audits Show Medicare Advantage Plans Racked Up Millions in Overcharges

Kaiser Health News reported last month that government auditors had uncovered millions of dollars in improper payments by health insurers that issue Medicare Advantage plans. A review of 90 government audits by KHN found there was often scant documentation for diagnoses submitted by the Advantage plans, and diagnostic billing codes used by the plans between 2011 and 2013 were flagged as invalid 8,600 times. While there was considerable variation in the rate of invalid codes, the rate exceeded 80 percent at Touchstone Health HMO, a New York-based health plan that went into liquidation in 2018. (KAISER HEALTH NEWS)

CMS Aims to Limit Non-Standard Polices on Insurance Exchanges

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act’s network adequacy and standardized plan rules in an effort to reduce the number of non-standard policies offered on health insurance exchanges. The draft regulation released by the agency last week also aims to boost the availability of providers in insurers’ networks. (MODERN HEALTHCARE)

-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK

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