Coronavirus Update for Thursday, July 23

The following is the latest information from the federal government as of 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 23.

Department of Health and Human Services/CARES Act Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS has posted information about the financial reporting that will be required of providers that received funding through the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. Those terms and conditions require providers to submit data documenting their use of the funds and compliance with the terms and conditions.  The HHS post lays out some of the parameters of the reporting and notes HHS will release instructions for Provider Relief Fund reporting by August 17.
  • HHS has updated its CARES Act Provider Relief Fund FAQ with 23 additions and modifications.  Among other matters, they:
    • clarify that parent organizations of Provider Relief Fund recipients of targeted distribution payments cannot share those payments among their subsidiary entities;
    • clarify that these payments count toward the $750,000 threshold for determining whether an entity received sufficient federal assistance to be subject to a “Single Audit” (Medicare and Medicaid payments for patient care services do not generally contribute to this threshold), and provide information about a six-month delay in the deadline for submitting the related audit report; and
    • incorporate additional information on the distribution of grants to Medicaid providers, dentists, and providers in high-impact areas, and more.

These and the other changes are all marked “Added 7/22/2020” or “Modified 7/22/2020.”  Providers should review them carefully.

  • HHS will hold a webinar to describe the application process for the $15 billion in CARES Act Provider Relief Fund grants it intends to distribute to eligible Medicaid, CHIP, and dental providers on Monday, July 27 at 3:00 (eastern). Interested parties can register and join the webinar here.
  • HHS announced that it will distribute $5 billion of CARES Act Provider Relief Fund money to Medicare-certified long-term-care facilities to build nursing home skills and enhance nursing homes’ response to COVID-19, including enhanced infection control. Go here for CMS’s news release announcing the funding.
  • As part of the same announcement, HHS said it will require all nursing homes in states with a five percent positivity rate or greater to test all nursing home staff for COVID-19 every week.

Congress

  • Congress hopes to pass COVID-19/economic stimulus legislation before it adjourns for the summer after the first week of August. The White House and Senate Republicans are working on an opening proposal that they would then negotiate with Senate Democrats.  While they are still working on that proposal, the major health care components on which they reportedly are focusing (as of Thursday afternoon) are:
  • $25 billion for the Provider Relief Fund (in addition to the money allocated to that fund by the CARES Act).
  • An extension until January 1, 2021 for hospitals to begin repaying the Medicare revenue they were advanced through the CARES Act’s Accelerated and Advance Payments Program and an extension of four months of the period during which those advance payments can be repaid without interest.
  • The extension of Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine services through 2021.
  • $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.
  • Increased flexibility for how states can use money directed to them by the CARES Act.

This proposal is still incomplete and, if and when it is finalized by the White House and Senate Republicans, will then become the subject of negotiations with Senate Democrats.  The legislation also will have to be negotiated with the House, which last month passed its own HEROES Act addressing many of the policy areas the Senate legislation is expected to pursue.

Public Health Emergency Declaration

  • The federal government’s declaration of a COVID-19 public health emergency expires this Friday, July 24. Like many other provider groups across the country, NASH has urged the administration to renew this declaration.  The declaration is so important because it led directly to the many regulatory flexibilities, especially through Medicare, that have enabled hospitals and health care providers to respond so effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic.  If the declaration expires, so do those flexibilities.  Providers everywhere now await a decision from the White House.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • The CDC has posted updated guidance on the isolation of COVID-19 patients to incorporate recent evidence to inform the duration of isolation and precautions recommended to prevent transmission of COVID-19 while limiting unnecessarily prolonged isolation and what it calls “unnecessary use of laboratory testing resources.”

Federal Funding Opportunities for Hospitals

  • NASH has prepared a document that collects and presents in one place the various new federal funding opportunities for hospitals resulting from legislation addressing the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Find that document here.

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