August 25, 2020

Around the nation: HHS to temporarily permit pharmacists to vaccinate children

Daily Briefing

    An HHS directive scheduled to take effect this fall will temporarily block restrictions that currently prohibit pharmacists from administering childhood vaccinations in 22 states, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia and Oklahoma.

    • District of Columbia: Using his authority under the federal public health emergency declared for America's coronavirus epidemic, HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday issued a new directive that will temporarily permit state-licensed pharmacists, beginning this fall, to administer childhood vaccinations. The new directive will temporarily block restrictions in the 22 states that currently prohibit pharmacists from administering the vaccinations, enabling state-licensed pharmacists to administer the vaccinations without a prescription from a doctor as long as the pharmacists undergo a training program. The directive does not permit pharmacists to vaccinate children under 3 years old. Azar said he took the step to prevent outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases during the coronavirus epidemic (Stobbe, Associated Press, 8/19).

    • District of Columbia: The Supreme Court on Wednesday announced it will hear arguments in a lawsuit seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Nov. 10, which is one week after Election Day—a move that, according to CNBC, could "ensur[e]" the arguments will not affect the outcome of the presidential election. The lawsuit was filed by a group of Republican attorneys general who claimed the ACA's individual mandate became unconstitutional once its related tax penalty was reduced to $0 via President Trump's 2017 tax overhaul—and, since the law doesn't contain a severability clause, the entire law therefore is now unconstitutional, as well. The Supreme Court likely will issue a decision on the case in June 2021 (Higgins, CNBC, 8/19; Sherman, Associated Press, 3/2).

    • Oklahoma: Oklahoma Medicaid Director Melody Anthony in an Aug. 11 letter informed CMS that the state is withdrawing its proposal to expand the state's Medicaid program and transition the federal portion of the state's Medicaid funding to a type of block grant. Under the proposal, the state intended to implement a program called SoonerCare 2.0 that would have allowed the state to impose work and premium requirements on Medicaid expansion enrollees. However, the state is withdrawing that proposal because Oklahoma voters in June approved a ballot measure to implement a "straight" Medicaid expansion under the ACA, instead, Modern Healthcare reports (Modern Healthcare, 8/13).

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