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Department of Health & Human Services OIG

States’ Backlogs of Standard Surveys of Nursing Homes Grew Substantially During the COVID-19 Pandemic

States’ backlogs of standard nursing home surveys have grown substantially, even after August 2020 when CMS lifted its suspension of those surveys (which it had suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Nationally, 71 percent of nursing homes had gone at least 16 months without a standard survey as of May 31, 2021. The rising backlogs add urgency to our existing recommendation that CMS clarify expectations and provide guidance to States on completing these important surveys.

Department of Health & Human Services OIG

Use of States' Immunization Information Systems To Monitor COVID-19 Vaccinations

Immunization Information Systems (IISs) play an integral role in monitoring vaccine uptake in the population and meeting vaccination goals. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other stakeholders have long invested significant efforts to establish plans and standards to guide improvements in IISs, State, and local jurisdictions have often struggled to make these improvements. CDC's work to collect and share data on COVID-19 vaccinations relies heavily on State and local IISs working with Federal systems, but the preexisting limitations of these systems pose challenges for CDC's goal of comprehensive immunization data being made available for clinical and public health uses. This study will examine State and Federal experiences using these systems to collect, share, and monitor data on COVID-19 vaccinations, and identify lessons learned that can improve vaccination data and monitoring for future mass vaccination campaigns as well as routine vaccination programs.

Department of Health & Human Services OIG

Audit of Indian Health Service's COVID-19 Vaccine Policies and Procedures for COVID-19 Vaccines Distributed to Tribal Health Programs

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations nationwide.  We will focus on IHS's coordination of the distribution, allocation, and administration of the vaccine to Tribal Health Programs. The objective of this audit is to determine whether IHS followed the Memorandum of Agreement for the CDC COVID-19 Federal Agency Vaccination Program and the IHS COVID-19 Pandemic Vaccine Plan to coordinate the distribution, allocation, and administration of the vaccines to Tribal Health Programs to protect AI/AN beneficiaries. 

Department of Health & Human Services OIG

Yearend Review of Opioid Use in Medicare Part D in 2020

Identifying patients who are at-risk of overdose or abuse is key to addressing this crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this need even more pressing. The National Institutes of Health recently warned that individuals with opioiduse disorder could be particularly hard hit by COVID-19, which is a respiratory virus that attacks the lungs. Respiratory disease is known to increase mortality risks among people taking opioids. This data brief would provide information on opioid utilization among beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D in 2020. 

Department of Health & Human Services OIG

Awardee Challenges in Implementing COVID_19 Vaccination Program

CDC Immunization and Vaccines for Children Cooperative Agreement awardees, which are typically State and large metropolitan area public health departments, plan for and oversee the vaccine distribution and administration process. Stakeholders have acknowledged challenges early in Phase 1 distribution and dispensing, and note that these challenges will likely span all three phases identified in the CDC's COVID-19 Vaccine Playbook. We will interview all awardees to identify the reported challenges they are facing while distributing and dispensing vaccines. We will also ask awardees about effective strategies to mitigate those challenges, new challenges they anticipate, and how HHS can best support them in distributing and dispensing COVID-19 vaccines. In doing so, this review will provide HHS with timely and actionable information to address challenges associated with the COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Department of Health & Human Services OIG

Audits of Medicare Part B Laboratory Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our preliminary analysis has shown that the number of non-COVID-19 tests billed for Medicare Part B beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased compared with the 6-month period before the pandemic, and many independent laboratories have encountered challenges in providing COVID-19 testing. We will conduct a series of audits on Medicare Part B laboratory services during the pandemic that will initially focus on the effect of the pandemic on non-COVID-19 testing. The series of audits will also focus on aberrant billing of COVID-19 testing during the pandemic.

Department of Health & Human Services OIG

Home Health Agencies' Challenges and Strategies in Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Home health agencies (HHAs) have faced unprecedented challenges to providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reported challenges include, but are not limited to, procuring necessary equipment and supplies, implementing telehealth to treat patients remotely, and addressing staffing shortages. However, the full spectrum of these challenges, including how challenges have evolved over time, is unknown. HHAs have used strategies to address these challenges, but the array of strategies and the extent to which HHAs found them helpful are also unknown. This nationwide study will provide insights into the strategies HHAs have used to address the challenges presented by COVID-19, including how well their emergency preparedness plans served them during the COVID-19 pandemic.