✦ The fate of expanded Medicare benefits, drug pricing provisions and other health care measures included in Senate Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package hung in the balance this week, as President Joe Biden met with progressive members of the House Democratic Committee to discuss ways to whittle down the spending bill to reach a dollar figure acceptable to moderates in the Senate. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reportedly said he won’t back anything that amounted to more than $1.5 trillion in spending, and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is reportedly opposed to the prescription drug pricing proposals in both the House and Senate bills. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Oct. 4 told members of the press that the president would continue to “work with a range of members from across the Democratic caucus.”
✦ Just 1.3% of Medicare beneficiaries in 2018 had their social needs tracked by Z codes in health care claims, according to a new study from NORC at the University of Chicago. Z codes are a type of ICD-10-CM code used to document social determinants of health (SDOH), but providers are not reimbursed for such claims, which may limit uptake, suggested researchers. NORC found that 1.5% of MA beneficiaries had their social needs tracked through Z codes, compared with 1.2% of beneficiaries in Original Medicare; dual eligibles were three times as likely to have an SDOH Z code.