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Coronavirus Update for Friday, January 15

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Friday, January 15.  We also present a summary of selected aspects of the “American Rescue Plan” that President-elect Biden presented on Thursday night and an introduction to the newest members of his COVID-19 response team.

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS has amended the reporting timeline for the Provider Relief Fund in response to passage of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.  Starting today, recipients may begin registering for gateway access to the reporting portal where they ultimately will submit their information in compliance with new reporting requirements HHS is issuing.  There is no deadline for registering.  While reporting was supposed to begin today, it has been delayed and will begin at a later date to be announced.  See HHS’s news release explaining its revisions.
  • HHS has updated its Provider Relief Fund web page to reflect these changes.
  • The reporting requirements and auditing page has been updated to list the types of providers to which the new reporting requirements do not apply.  Find that information here.
  • That page also announces the opening of the new reporting portal and directs readers to that new Provider Relief Fund Reporting Portal.
  • HHS also has updated its Provider Relief Fund FAQ with two modified questions:  one, on pages 26-27, shares new timelines for providers to report on their use of their Provider Relief Fund grants; and the other, on page 36, addresses what providers should do if they expected Phase 2 payments but did not receive them.  Provider Relief Fund recipients should review these notices carefully.

Department of Health and Human 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.

CMS COVID-19 Office Hours Calls

Tuesday, February 2  at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  4956655

Audio Webcast link:  go here

Tuesday, February 23 at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  2528725

Audio Webcast link:  go here

Tuesday, March 16 at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  4177586

Audio Webcast link:  go here

Tuesday, April 6 at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  2769397

Audio Webcast link:  go here

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Food and Drug Administration

Pandemic Response Accountability Committee

  • The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), which consists of the inspectors general of federal departments and agencies, was established by the CARES Act to promote transparency and support independent oversight of the funds provided by the CARES Act and other related emergency spending bills.  Its PRAC Health Care Subgroup, which consists of the inspectors general that oversee federal agencies providing or reimbursing for health care services, has released the report “Federal COVID-19 Testing Report: Data Insights from Six Federal Health Care Programs,” examines COVID-19 testing efforts for six federal health care programs during the first seven months following the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Read the news release about the report and go here to see the report itself.

The President-Elect’s “American Rescue Plan”

On Thursday night President-elect Biden unveiled part of his COVID-19/economic stimulus proposal, his “American Rescue Plan” (economic recovery components will be released in the coming weeks).  The key components released last night are:

  • $160 billion to mount a national vaccination program, including expanding FMAP to 100 percent for the administration of vaccines
  • $400 billion to safely reopen schools and provide paid leave for workers to contain COVID-19
  • add 100,000 public health workers
  • expand funding to Community Health Centers (FQHCs) and tribal health services
  • deploy strike teams to long-term-care facilities
  • $30 billion to procure supplies and protective gear and provide 100 percent federal reimbursement to states and local governments for critical emergency response resources
  • $10 billion for expanding domestic manufacturing for pandemic supplies
  • expand health coverage:  extend COBRA and reduce health insurance premiums
  • funding for OSHA protections for vulnerable workers
  • support the international health and humanitarian response to COVID-19
  • require employers to provide emergency paid sick leave and family medical leave and extend the refundable tax credit for employers with fewer than 500 employees for 100 percent of the cost of this leave
  • send $1,400 per-person checks to households across America
  • extend unemployment insurance benefits
  • extend the eviction and foreclosure moratorium until September 30, 2021
  • expand housing and nutrition assistance
  • increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, enhance unemployment insurance, and expand support for child care
  • $50 billion for small businesses relief programs
  • protect jobs of essential workers
  • modernize federal information technology to protect against cyberattacks

There is no legislative language for this proposal at this time.

Go here for a more detailed summary of the proposal.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s COVID Response Team

The following is a list of individuals recently named to President-elect Biden’s health care team:

  • David Kessler, chief science officer of COVID Response.  Dr. Kessler, who serves as a co-chair of the COVID-19 Task Force for President-elect Joe Biden, was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 1990 to 1997 under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
  • Rosa Po, COVID response team deputy chief of staff.  Ms. Po serves as an advisor for domestic/ economic agency review on the Biden-Harris transition and served on the platform team on the Biden-Harris campaign.  Previously she served as deputy chief of staff and senior counsel to Senator Amy Klobuchar and as Senator Klobuchar’s policy director and senior advisor during her presidential campaign.
  • Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to the COVID response coordinator.  Mr. Slavitt served as the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President Obama.  Prior to that he helped lead the successful turnaround of the healthcare.gov web site.
  • Vidur Sharma, policy advisor for testingMr.Sharma served in the Obama-Biden administration as a health policy advisor on the Domestic Policy Council.  In this role he supported the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aligned federal departments and agencies, and collaborated with community stakeholders to further the administration’s health policy agenda.
  • Ben Wakana, deputy director of strategic communications and engagement.Mr. Wakana serves as the COVID-19 and health care outreach lead on the Biden-Harris transition.  Prior to joining the transition he was executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs, a nationwide non-profit focused on lowering prescription drug prices.
  • Dr. B. Cameron Webb, senior policy advisor for COVID-19 equity.Dr.Cameron Webb currently serves as assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences and as director of health policy and equity at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.  A general internist, Dr. Webb has worked clinically in the university’s COVID-19 unit since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Amy Chang, policy advisor.  Amy Chang is a member of the Biden-Harris transition’s COVID-19 team.  She previously worked in the Obama-Biden administration as a special assistant in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

 

Coronavirus Update for Wednesday, January 13

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 13.

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS has updated its Provider Relief Fund FAQ with nine new or modified questions on pages 12-13, 13, 15 (three questions), 40-41, 41, and 56.  The new and modified questions address
    • how changes of ownership affect providers’ ability to receive Provider Relief Fund grants and nursing home quality incentive payments;
    • answer questions about audit deadlines and extensions;
    • and describe the methodology for calculating Phase 3 distributions and the timing and size of those distributions.

Providers that have received past distributions and that believe they are eligible for Phase 3 distributions should review the updated FAQ carefully.

Department of Defense

  • The Department of Defense, which is playing a leading role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, has posted a brief document titled “Officials Discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Deliveries and Prioritization Criteria.”  The document outlines the status of vaccine distribution efforts to date, offers data on the number of vaccines that have been distributed and administered, and notes the expansion of vaccine administration to individuals beyond those considered to be the highest priority for receiving vaccines.

Department of Health and Human Services

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.

CMS COVID-19 Office Hours Calls

Tuesday, February 2  at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  4956655

Audio Webcast link:  go here

Tuesday, February 23 at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  2528725

Audio Webcast link:  go here

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Coronavirus Update for Monday, January 11

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as of 2:45 p.m. on Monday, January 11.

Department of Health and Human Services

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.

CMS COVID-19 Office Hours Calls

Tuesday, January 12 at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  4688247

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety:  A Fireside Chat with CMS, CDC, and front line staff and providers

Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 4:00 pm (eastern)

To submit questions, write to COVID-19@cms.hhs.gov.  There will not be a Q&A session during the call.

Resource:  Long term Care toolkit:  go here.

Register in advance here.

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Department of Labor

  • The Department of Labor has issued guidance on federal pandemic unemployment compensation and mixed earner unemployment compensation.  Go here to see the Labor Department’s announcement and here to see the guidance itself.

Coronavirus Update for Wednesday, January 6

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6.

Provider Relief Fund

  • The Office of Management and Budget has issued guidance on how funds received through the Provider Relief Fund should be audited.  Entities that receive government grants of more than $750,000 are subject to a single audit requirement.  Because of the Provider Relief Fund, many hospitals that have never been subject to this audit requirement now must comply with it.  The deadline originally was October 1 but was postponed and it has now been delayed again until June 30.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS announced that the CDC will provide more than $22 billion in funding to states, localities, and territories to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as directed by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.  The money will be used for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment, vaccine distribution, and mitigation and will be allocated through a population-based formula.  Go here to see HHS’s announcement and for links to tables that show how much money individual jurisdictions will receive for testing and vaccine distribution.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Coronavirus Update for Monday, January 4, 2021

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Monday, January 4.

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS has updated its CARES Act Provider Relief Fund FAQ with six changes, all dated 12/28/2020.  They can be found on pages 6 (accounting for Provider Relief Fund distributions), 16 (use of Provider Relief Fund grant money), 40 (HHS’s methodology for calculating Phase 3 distributions), 41 (two changes:  one about how much providers should expect to receive from the Phase 3 distribution and the other about when providers can expect to receive their Phase 3 distributions), and 56 (addressing nursing home infection control incentive payments).

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Vaccines

Clinical Matters

Other CDC Activities

Department of Labor

  • The Department of Labor has issued new guidance to states on unemployment insurance programs based on the unemployment insurance provisions contained in the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020, which is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.  Go here to see the department’s announcement about this guidance and go here to see the guidance itself and related documents.
  • The Department of Labor has issued guidance on the expiration of paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave for COVID-19.  Go here to see the department’s announcement about the new guidance and go here for an FAQ on family and medical leave related to COVID-19.

Coronavirus Update for Wednesday, December 23

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 23.

Provider Relief Fund

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health

American Medical Association

Coronavirus Update for Friday, December 18

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 3:30 p.m. on Friday, December 18.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • CMS has issued an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that establishes a New COVID-19 Treatments Add-on Payment (NCTAP) under the Medicare inpatient prospective payment system effective from November 2, 2020 until the end of the public health emergency for COVID-19.  To mitigate potential financial disincentives for hospitals to provide new COVID-19 treatments during the COVID-19 emergency, Medicare will provide an enhanced payment for eligible inpatient cases that involve use of certain new products with current FDA approval or emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19.  See the NCTAP web page for more information.
  • CMS has announced that in response to the COVID-19 emergency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics is introducing six new diagnosis codes into the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM), effective January 1, 2021.  Learn more about the new codes here.
  • CMS has updated its FAQs and guidance for CLIA labs during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • CMS has extended its third quarter 2020 submission deadlines for selected Medicare quality reporting and value-based purchasing programs so providers can “…focus on patient care during the COVID-19 public health emergency.”  Learn more here.
  • In its online publication MLN Connects CMS has outlined how it intends to implement and enforce its new hospital price transparency requirements that take effect on January 1, 2021.  Among other measures, CMS notes that if it concludes that a hospital is non-compliant with one or more of the requirements to make public its standard charges, it may take any of the following actions, which generally, but not necessarily, will occur in the following order:
    • provide a written warning notice to the hospital of the specific violation(s);
    • request a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) if noncompliance constitutes a material violation of one or more requirements; and
    • impose a civil monetary penalty not in excess of $300 per day and publicize the penalty on a CMS website if the hospital fails to respond to our request to submit a CAP or comply with the requirements of a CAP.

Go here for further information and links to additional resources.

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.

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.

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Academy of Medicine

The National Academy of Medicine has joined with eight other national organizations to call on …all governors, health departments, hospitals and other health care sector partners to act immediately to be prepared to implement crisis standards of care” during the current COVID-19 surge.

 

Coronavirus Update for Thursday, December 17

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 17.

CDC Webinar on Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines

  • The CDC will hold a clinical outreach and communication activity webinar on Friday, December 18 at 2:00 (eastern) to give clinicians an overview of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.  Clinicians will learn about vaccine characteristics and administration, vaccinating special populations, and contraindications.  They will also get answers to a number of clinical questions CDC has received about these new vaccines.  Go here for further information about the webinar and to register to participate.

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.

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

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Coronavirus Update for Wednesday, December 16

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16.

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS announced that it has completed its review of Phase 3 applications from the Provider Relief Fund program and will distribute $24.5 billion to more than 70,000 providers.  HHS said this distribution will satisfy up to 88 percent of each applicant’s reported net lost revenues and net change in expenses caused by COVID-19 in the first half of 2020.  See HHS’s announcement here.
  • Phase 3 was originally announced as a $20 billion distribution.  According to HHS, “As HHS began analyzing applications, it realized the submissions for lost revenues and net changes in expenses would exceed the $20 billion budgeted for the Phase 3 allocation.  In an effort to meet the demand, HHS worked to add another $4 billion to the allocation bringing the new total to over $24 billion.”
  • More than 35,000 applicants for Phase 3 grants will not receive additional payments either because they experienced no change in revenues or net expenses attributable to COVID-19 or because they have already received funds that equal or exceed reimbursement for 88 percent of reported losses.
  • Payments to Phase 3 applicants begin today and will continue as application quality reviews and recipient payment set up are completed before payment can be made.  A state-by-state breakdown of the first batch of Phase 3 payments can be found here.

COVID-19 Relief Legislation

Work continues at this hour on what is being called the Bipartisan Emergency COVID Relief Act of 2020.  As of this writing the bill is expected to include the following health care provisions:

  • $35 billion for the Provider Relief Fund, including $7 billion for rural providers.
  • more than $16 billion for testing, contact tracing, and vaccine development and distribution
  • $5 billion in emergency funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment and mental health services.

The bill does not include liability protections for health care providers and businesses or the $152 billion in aid to states and local governments that had been proposed by a bipartisan working group.  Instead, negotiators are looking for ways to include around $90 billion for other emergency fund programs that could help direct financial support to states.

Funding for the federal government expires at midnight this Friday, December 18.  Lawmakers are hoping to wrap up details of this bill and possible legislation to address surprise billing before that deadline.

NASH will keep its members abreast of the progress of this bill and any changes from the key points noted above.

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.

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

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Coronavirus Update for Monday, December 14

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 2:30 p.m. on Monday, December 14.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Provider Relief Fund

  • The “Reporting Requirements and Auditing” section of the Provider Relief Fund web page has been updated with a link to a new overview of Provider Relief Fund allowable expenses.  The purpose of this document is to clarify the intent and provide examples of allowable expenses for the use of Provider Relief Fund general and targeted distribution payments.
  • HHS’s Provider Relief Fund FAQ has 13 updates marked “12/11/2020.”  They can be found on pages 2 (two changes), 3, 11, 15, 16 (four changes), 17 (two changes), and 27 (two changes).  Of particular interest to providers, the update on page 11 addresses sharing of Provider Relief Fund grants among related entities; the changes on pages 16 and 17 address allowable expenses and offsets of other revenue; and the change on page 27 addresses allowable costs for vaccine purchase and distribution.

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.

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

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health