MSSNY eNews: January 29, 2021 – Health Insurance Payment Delays

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Over the past year, MSSNY has been made aware of an alarming trend with regard to some health insurers in our area. Physician practices provide necessary care to patients and file claims with the appropriate insurer.  The claims are then routed to the Health Insurer’s utilization review entity who requests that the physician’s office submit medical records.  The physician office submits the requested records and the utilization review company then denies the claim(s) as missing patient medical records.  The medical practice subsequently sends additional records to the location indicated in the request, often to be told when calling for a status update that the address used is incorrect.

MSSNY has taken a number of steps to resolve this issue. MSSNY has reached out directly to the Health Insurance companies involved and has spoken with Medical Directors and other health Insurance company staff. However, our MSSNY members continue to experience the same issues and recently the number of parent companies employing these unfair tactics has expanded.  Therefore, MSSNY conducted a recent statewide survey (take the survey here) to ascertain the scope of the problem. Our survey results show that the problem is ongoing and not isolated.

As direct discussions with the Health Insurance companies have not yielded the desired discontinuation of these unfair and in many cases illegal payment delays, MSSNY has escalated our advocacy and has sought assistance from the NYS Department of Financial Services (DFS).  DFS has regulatory authority over NYS regulated health plans/insurers and DFS has assigned an investigator to review these claims.

If you are experiencing these issues in your practice, please file a complaint/inquiry with DFS File a Complaint | Department of Financial Services ( It is very important to include copies of all supporting documentation and all correspondence with the insurance entity.  DFS will work with individual providers to accept global complaint submissions as needed.  Also, please remember to send a copy of the DFS file number to, along with your practice name so that MSSNY can ensure that the DFS investigator has access to the aggregate of physician grievances.

We have heard that some physicians are concerned about filing a complaint with DFS due to concerns of retaliation by Health Insurance Companies.  Please note, NYS Law prohibits any retaliatory action against a physician for advocating in good faith on behalf of patients.

While physician offices have struggled to keep their doors open during the pandemic due to rising practice costs including PPE and decreased revenue due to seeing less patients, health insurers have seen record profits as less patients access care, making the current health insurance delay tactics unconscionable and intolerable. New York State has a strict Prompt Payment law.

Claims submitted electronically must be paid, denied or additional information requested within 30 days of submission (45 days for claims submitted by paper).  The law also provides that, if additional information has been requested, the claims should be either paid in part or denied in 30 days from the date the records were received. If managed care companies are violating the State’s Prompt Payment Law, there are financial consequences, and they should and will be held accountable.

Brief Update on Vaccines

Good news:

  • 96% of the 1st vaccine dosages received by NYS have been administered.
  • The Biden Administration will be increasing weekly allocations to NYS by 16% for the next three weeks.
  • All nursing home residents have been offered the vaccine with 72% vaccinated to date.
  • Healthcare Worker vaccination rates range from 62% in Western New York to 82% in Central New York.

Continued concerns:

  • Vaccine demand continues to far outstrip supply. At the current rate of vaccine availability, it will take 21 weeks to vaccinate the 7 million currently eligible 1b group.
  • Only 44% of nursing home staff has been vaccinated to date with all expected to be offered the vaccine by February 7. MSSNY has expressed concern and offered help to increase the number of nursing home staff vaccinations to > 70%.
  • Many physician offices have still not received any supply of vaccine and many patients are saying they are only willing to receive the vaccine from their physician. MSSNY has communicated this to DOH and the Governor’s office.

MSSNY has been in constant communication with the NYS Department of Health and the Governor’s office about vaccination administration and distribution.  We have been transmitting all your comments, concerns and frustrations and have been working with DOH and the Governor to continually improve the process and clear the bottlenecks.  The latest department updates can be found here.

Bonnie Litvack, MD
MSSNY President

Capital Update

MSSNY Weekly Podcast

Join Us for MSSNY’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 2
Please plan to put aside Tuesday, March 2 for MSSNY’s Annual Physician Advocacy Day – this time Virtual!  To register, click here: Webinar Registration – Zoom

The format will follow previous years formats, where assembled physicians and allies will hear from legislative leaders and MSSNY physician leaders in the morning (this year via Zoom) from 8 AM-11 AM, and then have virtual visits with their respective legislators in the afternoon (organized by their county medical societies).

With the Governor and the State Legislature needing to create tens of billions of savings to the state budget, any number of healthcare programs of interest to physicians could be on the table, not to mention concerns with the numerous problematic proposals that have already been advanced in the proposed Executive Budget, such as:

  • Significantly reducing physician due process when a complaint has been filed against them to the OPMC;
  • Forcing the 17,000 physicians insured through the Excess Medical Malpractice Insurance Program to bear 50% of the cost of these policies;
  • Inappropriately expanding scope of practice for various non-physicians including pharmacists and nurse practitioners;
  • Handing insurance companies enormous new powers to limit physicians providing telehealth services to their patients

As well as voicing your support for a number of proposals including:

  • Expanding the supply of PPE;
  • Regulation of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs);
  • Reducing the interest on court judgments to bring down exorbitant liability costs

Please plan to join hundreds of colleagues from around the State on March 2!       (ALI)

Please Urge Your Legislators to Oppose Balancing State Budget on Backs of Community Physicians
MSSNY has joined with 16 other specialty medical societies in a letter to the entire State Legislature that expresses our strong objection to a proposal contained in the Governor’s proposed State Budget (Part K of the Health/Mental Hygiene Article 7 bill) that would require the over 16,000 physicians enrolled in the Excess Medical Malpractice Insurance program to bear 50% of the cost of these policies.   Please urge your legislators to reject this proposal by sending a letter to them and/or a tweet from here.

This incredibly short-sighted proposal would thrust over $50 million of new costs on the backs of our community-based physicians who served on the front lines of responding to the pandemic.  For some physicians, particularly in Long Island and New York City, this could add up to tens of thousands of dollars per physician.  This new cost imposition would hit these practices at a time when many of these practices are already facing huge losses as a result of a substantial reduction in the number of patients receiving care during the pandemic.

A recent AMA survey reported that during the pandemic the average number of in-person visits to physician offices dropped nearly in half.  As a result, physicians averaged a 32% drop in revenue since February, with about one in five doctors seeing revenue drop by 50% or more, while nearly 1/3 saw a 25%-49% decrease.

It is important to remember that the Excess Insurance program exists because of New York’s disproportionately high medical liability insurance costs as compared to all other states.  The real solution to this problem is comprehensive medical liability reform, but in its absence, this program is absolutely essential to provide needed assurance to physicians that they will not risk losing everything they have worked for every time they treat a patient.  Please contact your legislators today to oppose this new cost imposition: contact here. (AUSTER)

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Urge Your NYS Legislators to Reject Proposal to Disregard Important Physician Due Process Protections
MSSNY has joined with 15 other specialty medical societies in a letter to the State Legislature expressing its strong opposition to an Executive Budget proposal (Part Q of the Health/Mental Hygiene Art. 7 bill) that would significantly reduce due process protections for physicians against whom a complaint has been filed with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), including making information public about a complaint even if no professional misconduct is found and greatly lessening the burden for imposing an interim suspension prior to the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings.

While New York’s physicians share the goal of assuring the State has ample power to protect the public when the conduct of a particular health care provider places patients at risk, the Commissioner already has authority to take summary action prior to the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing in the absence of a finding of misconduct.

You can assist us in these efforts by sending a letter and tweet in opposition to your local legislators click here.

The letter reminds the Legislature that, while the medical community is always ready to work to address gaps in our disciplinary system to protect patient safety, this proposal is far too broad.  Most complaints to OPMC of alleged misconduct do not become actual findings of misconduct. Indeed, most complaints to OPMC do not even get so far as advancing to a formal Investigation Committee review.  According to the 2018 OPMC Annual report, while over 9,000 complaints were received by OPMC, and 8,782 complaints closed, only 210 cases resulted in the filing of actual charges. This is 2% of filed complaints that ended in actual charges.  Of greatest concern is that information released to the public, even if there is no action ultimately taken, can remain available through Google searches forever, potentially unfairly destroying a physician’s professional reputation.

Please contact your legislators to urge that this measure be rejected as to the Legislature works to finalize a State Budget for the 2021-22 Fiscal Year.              (AUSTER)

Town Hall with Senator Rivera on COVID-19 Vaccine on Feb. 4, 2021
The Medical Society of the State of New York and the “Let’s Get Immunized New York” campaign is participating in a Town Hall with Senator Gustavo Rivera on Thursday, February 4 at 6:30 PM.

Panelists are:

Senator Gustavo Rivera
Lorraine Braithwaite-Harte, NYS NAACP
Bethsy Morales-Reid, Hispanic Federation
Dr. Sumir Sahgal, Essen Health Care and member of the Bronx County Medical Society
Dr. Barry S. Zingman, Clinical Director, Infectious Diseases, Moses Division, Montefiore Medical Center
Dr. Jane Ahn, Chief Medical Officer at Union Community Health Center.

Senator Rivera’s office has provided the following sign-up link which provides the event details, and directs participants to the Facebook Livestream or to register via Zoom.

To register for the event directly via Zoom, please click here: Participants can also follow along at “Let’s Get Immunized NY” on Facebook and Twitter which is promoting the Town Hall and which is regularly sharing vaccine-related information and FAQs. Beyond social media promotion, questions can be submitted in advance at this sign-up link: The Town Hall will also be live-streamed on Senator Rivera’s Facebook and Spanish closed captioning will be available for those joining via zoom.   (CLANCY)

Please Oppose Proposals That Facilitate Uncoordinated Siloed Care to be Provided by Pharmacists
Please contact your legislators to urge that they oppose several components of the Executive Budget that could upend the patient-centered medical home model and threaten patient safety by greatly expanding the scope of services provided to patients by pharmacists without coordination with patient care physicians.  You can send a letter from here: Send letter.  Please let them know these proposals would greatly enhance the power of corporate giants such as CVS and Walmart to control various aspects of patient care delivery not in coordination with community-based primary care and specialty care physicians that typically manage the care of their patients, but instead marginalizing their involvement.

Specifically, these Budget proposals would 1) permit pharmacists to order various lab tests without any physician oversight and without any requirement to coordinate with the patient’s physician for follow-up care; 2) greatly expand the physician-pharmacist Collaborative Drug Therapy Program to enable pharmacists to adjust the medications provided to entire classes of patients rather than individual patients and 3) permit pharmacists the power to administer any vaccination approved by the federal Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices (ACIP), including those which may be added in the future.  Some of these proposals have been rejected by the Legislature in previous Budget cycles.

All of these programs together could incentivize the development of health care silos at the expense of the patient centered medical home model we have worked so hard to develop in New York.   It would also marginalize community based primary care and specialty care physicians’ ability to continue to be able to manage their patients’ ongoing care needs.

Please urge your legislators to reject these measures as they finalize the State Budget for 2021-22.       (AUSTER)


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Physicians Raise Concerns that Executive Budget Proposal to Expand Telehealth Coverage May Actually Lessen Coverage
MSSNY is advocating together with several specialty societies to ensure patients can continue to have coverage for receiving needed health care services via telehealth, including providing payment parity between in-person and telehealth visits.  At the same time, we have raised concerns with a number of aspects of the Executive Budget proposal to expand Telehealth coverage and are seeking further clarification of these provisions.

We are particularly concerned that the Executive Budget proposal did not include a measure to ensure payment parity, which is a significant issue for community physicians and the patients that they serve. A recent survey of its members by MSSNY showed that 83% had incorporated telemedicine into their practice, with nearly half saying they were treating at least 25% of their patients remotely. However, insurers’ reimbursement for audio and video Telehealth services has not kept pace with those paid for in-office visits and the gap is wide. According to the survey, less than 1/4 of health plans had set their reimbursement levels for telehealth equal to what they pay for in-office visits, with audio-only visits the least compensated.

We are further concerned that the Budget proposal could be used by the insurance industry to actually reverse the telehealth gains we have made over the past year.  By linking coverage of telehealth services to insurers having a “so-called” adequate network together with the proposal to permit telehealth delivery services by out of state physicians, this could essentially empower insurers to limit who it will pay for telehealth services once it asserts it has an “adequate” network.

It is not hard to imagine a scenario where a health plan asserts it has an adequate network through a national telehealth service provider, and then excludes coverage of telehealth service by all or some of its in-network community-based physicians.  That is completely at odds with the expansive approach to telehealth coverage taken over the past year as a result of actions taken by the DFS and DOH.

MSSNY is also concerned that the Executive Budget proposal doesn’t expressly address payment parity in the state’s Medicaid program, which if not addressed, could create an inequity in the care that beneficiaries of Medicaid receive.

 MSSNY is continuing to work with a range of other patient and provider partner organizations to address our concerns and will update members as the issue unfolds.    (CARY)

MSSNY Opposes Measure To Legalize Adult Use Recreational Marijuana
MSSNY continues to oppose the Executive Budget proposal to authorize the sale of adult use or recreational use marijuana and to create an Office of Cannabis Management to regulate both the medical and adult-use of marijuana.  The governor has estimated that this proposal would generate more than $350 million in tax revenue—however, that revenue is not anticipated to be generated for several years.   The Medical Society of the State of New York has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana because of the public harms that have occurred in other states that have legalized the sale of recreational use marijuana.

MSSNY continues to work with numerous public health advocacy organizations in opposing this measure such as the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO), the New York State Sheriffs Association, the Mental Health Association of New York State, the NYS PTA, and Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).  MSSNY believes that with the COVID-19 pandemic, this measure, if enacted would create an even greater stress on New York State’s public health system.  Physicians are encouraged to send a letter to their legislator and may do so by using the letter located at the MSSNY Grassroots Action Center here.            (CLANCY)   

MSSNY Opposes Repeal of Prescriber Prevails In Medicaid Fee for Service and Managed Care
MSSNY has joined with several specialty societies in a letter to the Legislature to express its opposition to an Executive Budget proposal to repeal the authority of physicians, and other qualified prescribers, to make the final determination about the medication prescribed to beneficiaries of New York’s Medicaid Fee-for-Service and Medicaid Managed Care programs, commonly referred to as “prescriber prevails.” The proposal is also ill-timed given the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition of the Medicaid pharmacy benefit from managed care back to fee-for-service as a result of a provision included in the final 2020-21 NYS budget.

Repealing this important patient protection not only jeopardizes patient care, but also undercuts the steps that New York has already taken to reduce unnecessary and avoidable hospitalizations, which have been trending downwards in the last several years. A key component in sustaining and accelerating such a trend is guaranteeing that individuals are able to obtain the medications prescribed by their physician to treat their disease.

The joint letter raises concerns that any projected savings based on the repeal of “prescriber prevails” in Medicaid Fee-For-Service and Managed Care would be dwarfed by the health care complications likely to arise as a result of individuals not having access to the most effective medications needed to remain healthy. For many conditions, finding the most effective treatment is not easy, making it even more important that once a treatment has been proven effective, patients continue to have unfettered access to that drug.

MSSNY is continuing to work in collaboration with a host of other provider and patient groups on this issue and will update its members as discussions with the Governor and legislature move forward.                                           (CARY)

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Registration Now Open
February 5, 2021 @ 7:30am Physician Wellness/Medical Matters COVID-19 & Mental Health of Physicians and Other Healthcare Providers

Click here to register

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the Mental health of physicians and other healthcare providers.  Learn more on February 5th at 7:30 am.  Dr. Craig Katz will serve as faculty.

Educational Objectives are:

  • Examine the mental health risks posed by COVID-19 for physicians;
  • Review the possible range of psychological and psychiatric responses to the pandemic; and
  • Discuss principles and interventions for helping ourselves, our families, and our colleagues

Additional information or assistance with registration may be obtained by contacting Melissa Hoffman at

The Medical Society of the State of New York is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Medical Society of the State of New York designates each live activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA/PRA Category 1 credits™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. 

Registration Now Open
Medical Matters: COVID Vaccine Update February 17, 2021 @ 7:30am

Registration is now open for the next Medical Matters webinar: COVID Vaccine Update.  Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine on February 17th @ 7:30am.  The discussion will include the types of vaccine in development, distribution priorities and barriers surrounding vaccine administration.  Dr. William Valenti will serve as faculty.

Click here to register

Educational Objectives:

  • Recognize the types of COVID-19 vaccine in development;
  • Discuss priorities for vaccine distribution; and
  • Identify barriers to COVID-19 immunization

Additional information or assistance with registration may be obtained by contacting Melissa Hoffman at

The Medical Society of the State of New York is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Medical Society of the State of New York designates each live activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA/PRA Category 1 credits™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.      


Gov. Cuomo’s Jan. 28 Briefing

  • Total COVID hospitalizations fell to 8,520. 
  • Of the 250,668 tests reported yesterday, 13,398, or 5.34 percent were positive.
  • There were 1,584 patients in ICU yesterday, up 26 from the previous day. Of them, 1,024 are intubated.
  • Sadly, we lost 162 New Yorkers to the virus.

Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19
When a worker contracts COVID-19, it may be unclear to a medical provider (even one authorized to treat workers’ compensation claimants) whether it is work related. As discussed in greater detail below, it is possible for cases to be ‘established’ as compensable without having a medical report from an authorized provider indicating that the COVID-19 was work related.

The Workers’ Compensation Board published materials to provide basic information about COVID claims. The information is aggregated at:

WCB Information Related To Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) COVID-19 & Workers’ Compensation Video (October 2020) Letter From Chair Rodriguez to Carriers and Payers of Workers’ Comp: Speeding up the resolution process for COVID-19 claims (September 2020)

Among the documents are: a Q&A document, explaining how the Board evaluates claims; a bulletin by the Board’s Medical Director; letters from the Chair; and a video about COVID claims. We strongly encourage you to review the information as needed.

Regarding the role of the medical provider, let’s discuss the need for a medical report in the course of a COVID-19 claim in three phases: compensability, ongoing medical treatment, and ongoing lost time awards. Please see this letter from the Board to MSSNY which will provide additional insight.

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Response to NYT Jan. 22 Article “Filing Suit for Wrongful Life
I am compelled to react to Paula Span’s article Filing Suit for ‘Wrongful Life’ published in the new Old Age section of the New York Times on 1/22/2021 from several lens. Without conducting a thorough review of the medical records, I cannot comment on the specific merits of the case. However, I can clarify the differences between advance directives and MOLST and offer as a risk management tool to prevent similar future litigation in NY.

As a board-certified geriatrician, trained, licensed and practicing in New York for more than forty years, the emergence of litigation for providing unwanted life-sustaining treatment is no surprise. For decades, all life-sustaining treatment was provided, as death viewed as failure could potentially result in a lawsuit. I anticipate more litigation as baby boomers are avid consumers of health information, recognize faults in our health care delivery system, are proactive setting expectations with their physician, NP, or PA, and serve as their own self advocates.

Every American has a right to accept and/or refuse treatment, including life-sustaining treatment. The right does not end when a patient loses the capacity to make medical decisions. These rights are a result of the Patient Self Determination Act (PSDA), a federal law, passed in 1990 and instituted on December 1, 1991. Compliance with PSDA is mandatory.

Advance directives are legal documents that identify future care preferences. Each state has different laws, regulations, and state-specific advance directive documents to ensure this right. The New York Health Care Proxy (HCP) ensures a health care agent (HCA) may make decisions for the patient determined to lack capacity. In the absence of a HCP, the decision falls to a surrogate identified in Family Health Care Decisions Act (FHCDA). Both HCAs and surrogates are required to make decisions according to the patient’s known wishes or best interests. While living wills provide “clear and convincing evidence” and are recognized under case law, they cannot be followed in an emergency and are difficult to interpret in the acute care setting due to the coexistence of a terminal illness and potentially reversible acute illness.

MOLST is a set of medical orders that defines life-sustaining treatment the patient wants to receive or avoid now. It is created after a thoughtful discussion between the patient (or HCA or surrogate) with a physician, NP or PA. Medical orders must be followed by all health care professionals in all settings. NY created the MOLST program twenty years ago and is a founding member of National POLST.

Each state has different laws that govern the legal requirements for making end-of-life decisions, different portable forms, and years of experience. NY’s public health laws (PHL) integrate the ethical framework for making such decisions and provide broad patient and provider protections under HCP law and FHCDA, as well as the process outlined §SCPA 1750-b for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who lack capacity. The NY DOH MOLST Checklists and OPWDD Checklist outline the law. Physicians, NPs, PAs, and health systems must be compliant.

As a knowledgeable baby boomer physician, I know my rights. I will speak with my physician when I am appropriate for a thoughtful MOLST discussion and include my health care agent and family virtually. I will insist my physician 1) complete my MOLST in explaining eMOLST is a risk management tool, and 2) include my personal statement in the ‘Other Instructions’ section of the MOLST form, “If my MOLST orders are not followed, my attorney will sue for battery, pain and suffering, and make sure the insurance company does not pay for unwanted treatment.”

Patricia A. Bomba, MD, MACP, FRCP
NY MOLST and eMOLST Program Director, 2001-present
(Note: Dr. Bomba is a longtime MSSNY member)

Social Distancing Rates in the U.S. Fell Drastically as the Pandemic Continued
Social distancing rates in the U.S. fell drastically as the pandemic continued according to a study published Jan. 22 in JAMANetwork. Researchers analyzed survey responses from 7,705 participants completed between April 1 and Nov. 24, 2020. All U.S. regions experienced decreases in COVID-19 mitigation efforts from early April to late November, with adherence in the final survey week significantly lower in the Midwest than all other regions. Protective behaviors that had the largest reported decreases included having no close contact with non-household members and avoiding eating at restaurants. Read more here.

Five Stats on Physician Burnout In 2021: 42% Feeling Burned Out
For the report, Medscape surveyed 12,339 physicians in more than 29 specialties from Aug. 30 to Nov. 5, 2020.

Five report findings:

  1. Sixty-nine percent of physicians said they were somewhat or very happy in 2020 before the pandemic started. This figure fell to 49 percent during the pandemic.
  2. While female physicians have historically reported higher rates of burnout than their male peers, this gap grew in 2020. Fifty-one percent of women said they were burnt out, compared to 36 percent of men.
  3. Critical care physicians had the highest rates of burnout among all specialties, at 51 percent. In 2019, urologists reported the highest burnout rates.
  4. Seventy-nine percent of physicians said their burnout began before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  5. The three most common contributing factors to burnout that physicians cited were too many bureaucratic tasks (58 percent); spending too many hours at work (37 percent); and lack of response from leaders or colleagues (37 percent).

To view the full report, click here.

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Center for Healthcare Workforce: Racial Composition of New York NPS
A recent study conducted by CHWS examined the racial/ethnic composition of New York’s nurse practitioner (NP) workforce. Researchers examined key demographic, educational, and practice characteristics of the state’s active NPs.

Statewide, Hispanic NPs are underrepresented in the state’s NP workforce, while the percentage of Black NPs is close to the percentage of Blacks in the state’s population.

On the regional level, CHWS staff found that Hispanic NPs were underrepresented in most regions of the state when compared to the Hispanic population in those regions. New York City saw the largest disparity between Hispanic NPs (8%) and the local Hispanic population (29%). On the other hand, in the North Country region, Hispanic NPs nearly mirrored their presence in the regional population.

Black NPs were also underrepresented in many regions of the state, with the greatest disparities between Black NPs and the regional Black population observed in the Western New York, Finger Lakes, and Central New York regions.

Other key findings include:

NPs younger than 50 tended to be more racially and ethnically diverse.

Black and Hispanic NPs complete their NP training at older ages compared to all other NPs.

Nearly half of Black NPs work in primary care health professional shortage areas (HPSAs).

Read our latest research brief to learn more about the key findings!

US Reports 1st Cases of South Africa Variant: 7 things to Know
South Carolina officials have confirmed two cases of the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, the first known cases in the U.S.

Seven things to know:

  1. The infected individuals live in different counties, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said Jan. 28. Neither individual had a recent history of travel, suggesting community spread of the variant, known as B.1.351.
  2. The variant is believed to be highly transmissible and shares some mutations with the U.K. variant, B.1.1.7.
  3. “At this time, we have no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease. Like the U.K. and Brazilian variants, preliminary data suggests this variant may spread more easily and quickly than other variants,” the CDC said Jan. 28.
  4. COVID-19 vaccines appear to be less effective against the variant, according to three new studies cited by The Wall Street Journal.
  5. Moderna is developing a new form of its COVID-19 vaccine that could be used as a booster shot to specifically target the South Africa variant.
  6. new study indicates that the South Africa variant evades antibody treatment. The study, published Jan. 26 on the pre-print server bioRxiv, has yet to be peer-reviewed.
  7. President Joe Biden implemented a new travel ban for South Africa Jan. 25.

HHS to Allow Retired Nurses, Physicians to Give COVID-19 Shots
Jeff Zients, the new White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a news briefing that HHS will amend the Public Readiness and Preparedness Act to allow retired physicians and nurses to administer shots, according to the Journal. The rules will also be amended to allow licensed physicians and nurses to administer shots across state lines.

The decision to allow retired physicians and nurses to administer COVID-19 shots is in addition to other efforts related to vaccine distribution. Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt said Jan. 27 that the White House is considering ways to produce shots by use of the Defense Production Act. Mr. Slavitt has also said the federal government would increase vaccine supply to states by 16 percent each week for the next three weeks. (Becker’s Hospital Review, Jan 28)


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