Coronavirus Update for Tuesday, December 9

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 8.

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS announced that the Provider Relief Fund will distribute $523 million in second-round performance payments to 9248 nursing homes as rewards for successfully reducing COVID-19-related infections and deaths between September and October.  HHS concluded that between September and October, 69 percent of 13,251 eligible nursing homes met the incentive program’s infection control criteria.  See HHS’s announcement of the nursing home distribution and a list of how much of this money HHS distributed to nursing homes in individual states.
  • HHS has updated its CARES Act Provider Relief Fund FAQ with nine new or modified questions and answers.  Find the new items, all labeled “12/4/2020,” on pages 2, 6, 14, 15, 16-17, 25, 34, 47, and 55.  Fund recipients should review this new information carefully, and in particular, the question on page 6 about erroneous payments, which reverses previous policy, and questions on audit terms and extensions on pages 14 and 15.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

CMS COVID-19 Stakeholder Calls 

CMS hosts recurring stakeholder engagement sessions to share information about the agency’s response to COVID-19.  These sessions are open to members of the health care community and are intended to provide updates, share best practices among peers, and offer participants an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.

COVID-19 Office Hours Call

Tuesday, December 22 at 5:00 (eastern)

Toll Free Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  3968359

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Hospitals Without Walls Call

On November 25, CMS announced the expansion of its Hospitals Without Walls program by introducing its Acute Hospital Care At Home program, giving eligible hospitals unprecedented regulatory flexibilities to treat eligible patients in their homes.  This program was developed to support models of at-home hospital care that have succeeded in several hospitals and networks.  A CMS Hospitals Without Walls stakeholder call will feature two organizations walking through their programs and a question and answer session.  Slides/resources will be posted on prior to the call.

Wednesday, December 9 at 4:00-5:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  1235939

Audio Webcast Link:  go here.

Conference lines are limited so CMS encourages interested parties to join via audio webcast.

To listen to the audio files and read the transcripts for past stakeholder calls, go here.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS has released new hospital COVID-19 capacity data at the facility level.  Previously released data about hospital capacity that had been released was aggregated at the state level but this new, more granular data release aggregates daily hospital reports into a “week at a time” picture while providing a view of how COVID-19 is affecting hospitals and communities.  See HHS’s announcement about the new data and an FAQ about the data and go here for access to the data itself.

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

NASH Seeks Delay in Provider Relief Fund Attestation

NASH has asked federal regulators to extend the June 3 deadline for attesting to the terms and conditions for receiving general distribution grants from the CARES Act’s Provider Relief Fund.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, NASH urges their agencies to

…spend the next month developing definitive, consistent answers to questions that may arise as hospitals prepare to attest to the terms and conditions for receiving Provider Relief Fund grants and to submit supporting data to document their need for the grants they have already received.

See NASH’s letter here.

CBO Targets Health Care in Options for Reducing Deficit

Every year the Congressional Budget Office publishes a menu of options for reducing federal spending and the federal budget deficit.  As in the past, this year’s compendium includes a number of options to reduce federal health care spending and raises federal revenue through health care initiatives.

The cost-cutting options include:

  • establish caps on federal spending for Medicaid
  • limit states’ taxes on health care providers
  • reduce federal Medicaid matching rates
  • change the cost-sharing rules for Medicare and restrict Medigap insurance
  • raise the age of eligibility for Medicare to 67
  • reduce Medicare’s coverage of bad debt
  • consolidate and reduce federal payments for graduate medical education at teaching hospitals
  • use an alternative measure of inflation to index social security and other mandatory programs

Options to raise additional revenue include:

  • increase premiums for Parts B and D of Medicare
  • reduce tax subsidies for employment-based health insurance
  • increase the payroll tax rate for Medicare hospital insurance

Many of these proposals, if implemented, would be damaging for private safety-net hospitals.

Learn more about the CBO’s recommendations, how they might be implemented, and their potential implications in the CBO report Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028.