The Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in a May 29 update that the utility of digital contact tracing for the COVID-19 pandemic is limited by the variability in Bluetooth signal attenuation, and that privacy advocates have raised issues with proposals to make installation of digital contact tracing apps mandatory. These concerns revolve in part around the use of such tracing to impose quarantine, but also regarding possible use in non-pandemic law enforcement activities. Two tech companies, Google and Apple, have developed tracing apps, although some U.S. states and other nations developed their own applications prior to the Apple and Google products. Since the two tech companies’ products do not allow collection of location data, state apps already in use and other apps that do use collection data will not be compatible with the Google and Apple products. CRS also noted that recent public opinion surveys in the U.S. suggest that an insufficient number of Americans would be willing to install these apps on their smartphone to achieve the 60% to 80% threshold needed for blunting the pandemic.

In another May 29 update, CRS said previous predictions of insolvency for the hospital trust fund have never come true despite repeated assertions of such an outcome by the Medicare Board of Trustees. According to the CRS report, the 1970 report by the Trustees had anticipated insolvency for the hospital trust fund within two years, although the continued solvency of the trust fund has been abetted by congressional intervention. For the past three cycles, the trustees report has projected that the hospital trust fund would be depleted by 2026, although in 2017, the anticipated depletion date was 2029. The CRS report noted, however, that there is no statutory enablement of the use of general treasury funds to finance Medicare Part A services should the hospital trust fund become insolvent. Another source of uncertainty is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the trust fund, which in turn will hinge on incomes and their effect on tax collections along with changes in Part A expenditures as affected by the pandemic.

The FDA said the recall of the autoregistration feature of the Medtronic plc Stealthstation is due to inaccuracies incurred when patients move during the autoregistration process. This occurs when the process is used with the Nextframe stereotactic system during deep brain stimulation procedures, and may not always be detected by either the clinician or the device system. The class I recall affects 54 units distributed in the U.S. between Feb. 1, 2016, and May 1, 2019.

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