Health Update (May 4)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the House will not reconvene until May 11 following consultation with the Capitol physician. The Senate will return on Monday (May 4) as planned.
The Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on COVID-19 testing on Thursday, May 7 at 10:00am. The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing Wednesday, May 6, on the coronavirus response.
Provider Relief Fund Portals Go Live
Over the weekend, HHS updated the provider portals and FAQs for tranche two of the Provider Relief Fund.
To view the General Distribution Portal, click here.
To view General Distribution Portal FAQs, click here.
To view the COVID-19 Uninsured Reimbursement Program Portal, click here.
To view COVID-19 Uninsured Reimbursement Program Portal FAQs, click here.
CMS Issues New Waivers and Rule Changes
On Thursday (Apr. 30), CMS announced a second round of regulatory waivers and rule changes to expand care and ensure flexibility for healthcare providers as the nation moves towards reopening. The changes aim to expand COVID-19 testing and improve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to telehealth services.
Expanding Testing Capacity: Under the new rules, Medicare will no longer require a physician’s referral for beneficiaries to get COVID-19 tests and lab work. Pharmacists who are enrolled in Medicare as laboratories will be able to perform COVID-19 testing, enabling Medicare beneficiaries to receive testing at sites operated by pharmacies and other entities. Additionally, Medicare and Medicaid are now covering serology (antibody) tests.
Hospitals Without Walls: In order to increase hospital capacity, CMS is giving providers the flexibility to set up temporary expansion sites to address patient needs. During the pandemic, providers will be allowed to increase the number of hospitals for COVID-19 patients without reducing or changing their payments. Additionally, CMS is excepting certain requirements to enable freestanding inpatient rehabilitation facilities to accept patients that do not require rehabilitative care from acute-care facilities experiencing a surge, and allowing payment for certain outpatient hospital services delivered in temporary locations.
Healthcare Workforce: CMS removed barriers to hiring and retaining physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals at hospitals, health clinics, and other facilities. Nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and physicians assistants will now be able to provide home health services, and physical and occupational therapists will be allowed to delegate maintenance therapy services to therapy assistants. Additionally, CMS will no longer reduce Medicare payments for teaching hospitals that shift their residents to other facilities to meet COVID-related needs. CMS is also waiving the requirement for ambulatory surgery centers to periodically reappraise medical staff privileges.
Telehealth Services: To expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to telehealth services, CMS is expanding the types of practitioners authorized to provide telehealth. CMS is permitting hospitals to bill for remote services performed by hospital-based practitioners. Hospitals will also be allowed to bill as the originating site for telehealth services. Additionally, CMS is expanding the list of services allowed to be conducted with audio-only telephone to include behavioral health and patient education, and is increasing payments for these telephone visits. CMS also modified its rulemaking process to speed up the process of adding telehealth services.
To view the full CMS announcement, click here.
On Wednesday (Apr. 29), CHCG covered a webinar, hosted by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), entitled “Will Telehealth Still be Available After the Pandemic is Over?”. Throughout the webinar, representatives from Physician 360, the American Telemedicine Association, and the Center for Connected Health Policy discussed the expansion of telehealth services during the pandemic and telehealth policy moving forward.
To view an executive summary of the webinar, click here.
DeGette, Upton Unveil ‘Cures 2.0’
On Monday (Apr. 27), Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) released the concept paper for “Cures 2.0”, providing an overview on modernizing health care delivery after the coronavirus pandemic. They envision Cures 2.0 covering six key areas: public health and pandemic preparedness; caregiver integration; patient engagement in health care decision-making, diversity in clinical trials, Food and Drug Administration modernization, and CMS modernization.
To view DeGette’s press release, click here.
To view the complete Cures 2.0 concept paper, click here.
Federal Reserve Expands Main Street Lending Program
On Thursday (Apr. 30), the Federal Reserve made changes to the Main Street Lending Program to expand its scope and eligibility. Changes include: creating a third loan option, lowering the minimum loan size, and expanding the pool of eligible borrowers.
To view the full Federal Reserve announcement, click here.