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COVID-19: Updates and Developments (Week of May 25)

  • May 28, 2020

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is giving health care providers more time to attest to receipt of Provider Relief Fund payments and to accept the terms and conditions.

Providers now have 90 days, instead of the previous 45 days, from the date they receive relief payments to attest and accept the terms and conditions, the agency said May 26. After 90 days, providers will be deemed to have accepted the terms and conditions if they have not affirmatively done so.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provided $175 billion in aid to hospitals and health care providers to support expenses or lost revenue attributed to COVID-19 and to cover virus testing and treatment for uninsured Americans.

HHS previously announced general distributions totaling $50 billion for providers that bill Medicare and were impacted by COVID-19 and also has started $12 billion in targeted distributions to hospitals with high COVID-19 admissions, $10 billion for rural providers, $500 million for tribal health care providers, and $4.9 billion for skilled nursing facilities.

“Some providers may receive further, separate funding, including dentists, and providers that solely take Medicaid,” HHS said. The Provider Relief Fund also is being used to reimburse health care providers who treat uninsured patients for COVID-19.

Agency Action

May 26--The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a fact sheet for state and local governments seeking payments from Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program for acute inpatient and outpatient care furnished at alternate care sites temporarily converted or newly erected for health care use during the pandemic. State and local governments seeking payment from CMS have three options: hand over operation and billing for care delivered in the alternative care sites to a hospital or health system already enrolled in the federal programs; enroll the alternative care site as a new hospital in the programs; or if neither of those options is feasible, qualified and enrolled physicians or non-physician practitioners may bill for covered professional services furnished at the alternative care site, though CMS would not make a facility payment in that scenario, according to the fact sheet.

May 22--The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for certain types of personal protective equipment that may be in short supply because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EUA permits health care professionals to use otherwise unapproved gowns and other apparel if "[t]here is no adequate, approved, and available alternative." The EUA applies to: conductive shoe and shoe covers; operating-room shoes; surgical apparel accessories; non-surgical isolation gowns; operating-room shoe covers; surgical helmets; and surgical caps. 

Other Developments

May 28--The House passed by a 417-1 vote the Paycheck Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010), which modifies the Paycheck Protection Program to provide more flexibility to small businesses. The measure would, among other things, extend the loan forgiveness period from eight to 24 weeks and eliminate restrictions limiting non-payroll expenses to 25% of loan proceeds. The measure also would extend the two-year limit on loan repayment, ensure full access to payroll tax deferment, and expand the rehiring deadline, according to Representative Fred Upton (D-MI) who co-sponsored the bill. 

May 21--In a recent letter, a bipartisan group of more than 30 lawmakers urged House and Senate leaders to extend flexibilities for behavioral telehealth services in any additional COVID-19-related relief package for a “reasonable transition period” beyond the public health emergency. The letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said more time is needed to collect data and determine which flexibilities should be continued permanently. “Telehealth is proving to be an extremely successful approach in ensuring that patients are receiving mental health and addiction care during this trying and unprecedented time,” the letter said.