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October 30, 2020

Health Law Weekly

COVID-19 Updates and Developments (Week of October 26)

  • October 30, 2020

More than 10,000 nursing homes will divvy up roughly $333 million in the first round of provider relief funding tied to performance as measured by COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among residents, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced October 28.

The performance payments are being made to nursing homes that demonstrated significant reductions in COVID-19-related infections and deaths between August and September, the agency said in a press release.

HHS previously distributed Provider Relief Funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to nursing homes through the General and Targeted Distributions early this year.

In July, the agency said it would distribute an additional $5 billion in to aid nursing homes—$2.5 billion of which already has been delivered for immediate COVID-19-related expenses like testing, staffing, and personal protective equipment. The agency also set aside up to $2 billion for distributions specifically tied to performance to reward nursing homes that keep new COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among residents lower than the communities they serve.

HHS reported that more than 10,631 (77%) of the 13,795 eligible nursing homes met the infection control criteria, while 10,501 (76%) met both the infection control and mortality criteria.

In addition to September, four more rounds of performance payments are planned for October, November, and December.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

October 28—HHS and the Department of Defense announced a $375 million deal with Eli Lilly and Company to purchase 300,000 doses of its COIVD-19 investigational antibody therapeutic, bamlanivimab, also known as LY-CoV555. Under the agreement, which is part of the administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, the government has the option to purchase up to 650,000 additional doses through the end of June 2021 for up to an additional $812.5 million, the agency said. The doses will be available free of charge for patient care if authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Health care providers could charge for administering the drug. The FDA is reviewing the drug, which uses a monoclonal antibody, as a possible treatment for COVID-19 in the outpatient setting.

October 25—States are deploying Abbott’s rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 to local health departments, K-12 schools and colleges, nursing homes, hospitals, and correctional facilities, HHS reported. The agency announced in August a $760 million deal with Abbot for 150 million units of its BinaxNOW COVID-19 AG Card, an antigen test for COVID-19 where results can be read in minutes right from the testing card, similar to some pregnancy tests, without the use of an analyzer. The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization to Abbott Diagnostics Scarborough, Inc. for the test in August. HHS began sending about 100 million point-of-care tests to states a month ago. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have started to share details about how they plan to use the tests. HHS is distributing the other 50 million tests to congregate care settings such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health, hospice, the Indian Health Service, and historically black colleges and universities, the agency said.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

October 28—CMS released an interim final rule with comment period to ensure Medicare beneficiaries can receive COVID-19 vaccines at no cost once they are available. The interim final rule allows Medicare to cover all vaccines that receive FDA approval or Emergency Use Authorization. Medicare payment for administering a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be $28.39. For a COVID-19 vaccine requiring more than one dose, Medicare will pay an initial administration rate of $16.94, and $28.39 for the administration of the final dose in the series, CMS said. The rule also establishes enhanced Medicare payments for new COVID-19 treatments provided to hospital inpatients and outpatients, a fact sheet said. State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program agencies also must provide vaccine administration with no cost sharing for most beneficiaries during the public health emergency, CMS noted. Providers that administer the COVID-19 vaccine to uninsured individuals will be reimbursed through the Provider Relief Fund.