Washington News – Special Update: COVID-19 1st Edition
Each day, we are learning new information about the spread and impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19). As this global health situation evolves, AdvantEdge will be closely monitoring federal regulatory updates and legislation to ensure you have the most relevant and up-to-date COVID-19 news and resources.
The articles below from are provided by Capitol Associates, Inc. (CAI), a nonpartisan government relations firm specializing in health policy, provide a comprehensive update on the federal response regarding COVID-19 in the United States.
COVID-19 Federal Response Update
Capitol Associates, Inc. (CAI) – Wednesday, March 18, 2020
White House and Federal Agencies
- President Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force held a press conference that announced more sweeping federal actions.
- Perhaps most notably, President Trump announced he will invoke his powers under the Defense Production Act which will encourage medical product suppliers to increase their production of emergency supplies.
- Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will issue a regulation that will allow medical professionals to practice in states where they are not licensed.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will recommend that hospitals reduce elective procedures in anticipation of more COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization. VA hospitals are also canceling elective surgeries in case they need to take on COVID-19 patients as well.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is suspending its foreclosure and evictions through the end of April.
- The U.S. is closing its Canadian border.
- President Trump will hold another press conference either today or tomorrow with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss testing.
- An official HHS response plan dated March 13th outlines the full scope of the threat the virus poses. The report warns the pandemic could last 18 months and consist of multiple waves.
- S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams is warning to expect more than 15 days of social isolation to bend the infection rate curve.
- The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is suspending certain requirements to allow e-prescribing of controlled substances (e.g. opioids) that aren’t predicated with an in-person medical evaluation. According to the DEA: For as long as the Secretary’s designation of a public health emergency remains in effect, DEA-registered practitioners may issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients for whom they have not conducted an in-person medical evaluation, provided all of the following conditions are met:
- The prescription is issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of his/her professional practice.
- The telemedicine communication is conducted using an audio-visual, real-time, two-way interactive communication system.
- The practitioner is acting in accordance with applicable Federal and State law.
- The Department of Defense (DOD) is preparing to increase its response to the COVID-19 situation. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the DOD will:
- Provide around 5 million protective masks and 2,000 ventilators to health systems in need.
- The DOD has the capability to open 16 labs for COVID-19 testing.
- Prepare to call up additional members of the National Guard and Reserve forces.
- The DOD is preparing two military hospital ships to help deal with a surge in patients that exceed hospital capacity. Each ship has the capacity to treat 1,000 patients. The ships would most likely be used to take on non-COVID-19 patients to free up beds in hospitals for COVID-19 patients. The medical personal on board the ships would be normal civilian medical staff, not be naval medical staff.
- The Senate passed the “Phase II” bill, R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with broad bipartisan support.
- “Phase I” was the $8.3 billion supplemental appropriations bill Congress passed earlier in March.
- Congress is already moving on to a “Phase III” bill which is projected to exceed $1.3 trillion. Phase III is intended to primarily focus on stimulating the U.S. economy.
- The White House is also deeply involved in the Phase III negotiations. According to a proposal from the Treasury Department outlining key details, the White House is requesting:
- $500 billion of that total would be allocated to give most Americans a check from the government for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 in April and May. Specifically, Congress would issue the checks on April 6th and May 18th.
- The White House is requesting Congress to make $250 billion available for these payments for each of the two months.
- Details of the checks are still being worked out. The amount will probably vary based on family size and income level. Both checks would be the same amount.
- To help stimulate the economy, the bill would provide:
- $50 billion in U.S. Government loans to airline companies.
- $150 billion in for federal loans and loan guarantees to other sectors of the U.S. economy experiencing server financial distress.
- $300 billion for a newly created small business interruption loan program. It appears the government would provide funding to U.S. financial institutions who will facilitate the lending.
- The government would fully guarantee these loans.
- Employers with 500 employees or less could qualify for the loans.
- The loans would provide 100 percent of six weeks of payroll capped at $1,540 per week per employee (equivalent to $80,000 annually).
- Employers must continue to compensate their employees for eight continuous weeks after the loan is distributed.
- The program would include a streamlined underwriting process based on the previous 6-week payroll amount.
- The Treasury Department would issue a regulation that establishes the interest rate, loan maturity, and other important loan terms.
- Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has his own $750 billion proposal. At some point, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will need to negotiate with each other and with the White House on a final version of the bill. There is optimism that these negotiations will not result in the type of partisan fights that are typical with large bills.
- Phase III could be passed into law as early as next week.
COVID-19 Federal Response Update
Capitol Associates, Inc. (CAI) – Tuesday, March 17, 2020
- President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration and the Supplemental Appropriations bill that was passed and signed into law both gave the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) new authorities to suspend certain telehealth coverage requirements access to telehealth services.
- Today, CMS released a Fact Sheet and FAQ describing how it will use this authority to implement telehealth coverage changes.
- There are three types of virtual services physicians and other professionals can provide to Medicare beneficiaries: Medicare Telehealth Visits, Virtual Check-Ins, and E-Visits. CMS telehealth coverage changes apply differently to each of the three.
- Most of the telehealth coverage changes apply to Telehealth Visits. The descriptions for Virtual Check-Ins and E-Visits are mostly informational. CMS is not proposing major changes to those programs.
- For Telehealth Visits, CMS is:
- Suspending originating site requirements to allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive Telehealth Visit services from their home.
- Suspends the requirement that Telehealth Visits are only allowed in rural areas.
- Suspends the requirement that Telehealth Visits are with a provider from whom the patient has received a Medicare service within the last three years.
- Allows Telehealth Visits (and other telehealth services) to be conducted over non-compliant audio-visual connections using every day communication technologies such as FaceTime or Skype.
- Allows providers to reduce or waive cost-sharing for Telehealth Services.
- CMS also released Medicaid Telehealth Guidance to
- AHIP is maintaining a list of new COVID-19 coverage policies from its members.
- The House of Representatives re-passed R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with new technical changes. The bill will now be considered by the Senate which is expected to pass the bill without making changes.
- Meanwhile, President Trump and Congress began working on a new piece of bipartisan legislation which will be a massive stimulus bill which is expected to exceed $1 trillion.
- Both President Trump and Congress want the bill to include a provision that pays every American $1,000 per month until the virus is under control. There is broad bipartisan support for this proposal. There is some disagreement about minor details such as making those who earn over $1 million ineligible for the payments and the timing of when the checks would be issued. President Trump would like the checks to be issued within two weeks of the bill’s passage.
- Senate Democrats unveiled their own legislation that provides $750 billion to increase access to paid sick leave and provide new funding to help seniors, public housing, and schools and children cope with the virus.
- S. Airline companies are requesting $58 billion in federal funding to help them get through this emergency situation.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) is giving states new authority to approve labs to conduct COVID-19 tests. The FDA also will no longer require labs to send a sample of their COVID-19 test results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to confirm positive cases. This should reduce the number of tests that are needed and provide results more quickly.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is giving individuals and businesses an extra 90 days to pay federal taxes. Individuals and businesses are still required to file by April 15th, but they will have additional time to pay taxes they still owe. The National Security Council (NSC) reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was the target of a cyberattack on Sunday night. No further details were provided but it appears the attack was not successful.
Articles shared with permission from original source, Capitol Associates, Inc. (CAI).