According to CMS, the average premium for Medicare Part D plans will be $30.50 in 2021, up from $30 in 2020, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania,
- District of Columbia: HHS's Office of Inspector General ruled that providers can transfer patient debts directly to RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that pays for individuals' medical debt, without penalty. The agency said large physician groups and health systems can donate or sell unpaid medical bills to the nonprofit instead of following the traditional debt-collection process without violating federal anti-kickback laws. Allison Sesso, executive director of RIP Medical Debt, said the move will help relieve pressure on providers as millions of Americans have lost employer-sponsored health coverage as a result of the economic downturn tied to the country's coronavirus epidemic (Kacik, Modern Healthcare, 7/28).
- Maryland: CMS on Wednesday announced that premiums for Medicare Part D plans will increase slightly in 2021. According to the agency, the average premium for Part D plans will be $30.50 in 2021, up from $30 in 2020. CMS said the increase comes after Part D premiums had decreased by about 12% since 2017, and added that the average premium in 2021 will be the second-lowest that the program has seen since 2013 (Livingston, Modern Healthcare, 7/29).
- Pennsylvania: Rite Aid rolled out facial recognition systems in 200 stores over the last eight years, according to a Reuters investigation. Reuters reports that Rite Aid used the cameras to match images of customers to people who were seen engaging in "potential criminal activity." Reuters discovered many of the cameras were implemented in stores in Los Angeles and Manhattan, and often in low-income, non-white neighborhoods. Reuters reports that Rite Aid in emails confirmed its facial recognition program and said the program was intended to address theft and protect customers and staff from violence. However, Rite Aid last week said told Reuters that it stopped using facial recognition technology and has shut down all of those cameras. Rite Aid told Reuters that it disbanded the program "in part based on a larger industry conversation," and noted that "other large technology companies seem to be scaling back or rethinking their efforts around facial recognition given increasing uncertainty around the technology's utility," Reuters reports (Dastin, Reuters, 7/28).