Disaster response, practice operations, transplant, women's health


Disaster Response and Global Health
Epigenetics and Disasters

The configuration of the DNA bordering a gene dictates under what conditions a gene is expressed. Random errors or mutations affecting the neighboring DNA or the gene itself can affect how the gene functions. Epigenetics is an emerging field of science looking at environmental and psychosocial factors that do not directly cause mutations but still affect how genes are expressed with implications for the development and inheritance of disease. These external influences are thought to affect why some segments of DNA become accessible for protein production while other segments may not.

Disasters represent stressors with potential for epigenetic impact. Women who were pregnant during the 1998 Quebec ice storm were found to have a correlation between maternal objective stress and a distinctive pattern of DNA methylation in their children 13 years later (Cao-Lei L, et al. PLoS ONE. 2014;9[9] e10765). Methylation is known to affect the activity of a DNA segment and how genes are expressed. Associations have also been found between the severity of hurricanes and the prevalence of autism in the offspring of pregnant women experiencing these disasters (Kinney DK, et al. J Autism Dev Disord. 2008;38:481).

Anthropogenic hazards may also affect the offspring of survivors as suggested by studies of civil war POWs and Dutch Hunger Winter during WW II (Costa, DL, et al. Proc Nat Acad Sci 2018;. 115:44; Heijmans BT et al. Proc Nat Acad Sci. 2008;105[44]: 17046-9).

Epigenetics represents an area for additional research as natural and man-made disasters increase.

Omesh Toolsie, MBBS
Steering Committee Fellow-in-Training

Practice Operations
Medicare Competitive Bidding Process Update

Medicare’s Competitive Bidding Program (CBP), mandated since 2003, asks providers of specific durable medical equipment (including oxygen) to submit competing proposals for services. The best offer is then awarded a 3-year contract. Recently, several reforms to CBP have been proposed. The payment structure has changed to “lead-item pricing,” where a single bid in each category is selected and payment amounts for each product are then calculated based on pricing ratios and fee schedules (CMS DMEPOS Competitive Bidding).

Dr. Timothy Dempsey

This is in contrast to the prior method of median pricing, which caused financial difficulty and access concerns (Council for Quality Respiratory Care. The Rationale for Reforming Medicare Home Respiratory Therapy Payment Methodology. 2018). Budget neutrality requirements should relax, and oxygen payment structures improve. These proposed changes also include improved coverage of liquid oxygen and addition of home ventilator supplies.

Dr. Megan Sisk

However, effective January 1, 2019, all CBP is suspended through CMS. During the anticipated 2-year gap, any Medicare-enrolled supplier will be able to provide items until new contracts are awarded. Pricing during the gap period is based on a current single price plus consumer price index. These changes will impact CHEST members and their patients moving forward. During the temporary gap period, some areas are seeing decreased accessibility of some DME due to demand. Once reinstated, the changes to the oxygen payment structure should improve access and reduce out-of-pocket costs. The Practice Operations NetWork will continue to provide updates on this topic as they become available.

Timothy Dempsey, MD, MPH
Steering Committee Fellow-in-Training

Megan Sisk, DO
Steering Committee Member

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