COVID-19 Federal Responses: Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Friday, April 10, 2020

Friday, April 10, many healthcare providers woke up to find they’d received an automatic deposit in their account from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This deposit was their share of the $30 billion that HHS distributed from the $100 billion it received in the CARES Act.

  • Every Medicare-enrolled provider received a portion of the $30 billion HHS distributed, based on the providers 2019 Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) payments. For example, if a provider’s 2019 Medicare FFS payments were 0.05 percent of total Medicare FFS spending in 2019, the provider should have received 0.05 percent of the $30 billion. No action was required on the part of practices to receive their share of this distribution.

    These are grants, not loans, and do not have to be repaid. Note that the funds will go to each organization's TIN which normally receives Medicare payments, not to each individual physician. The automatic payments will come to the organizations via Optum Bank with "HHSPAYMENT" as the payment description.

  • Providers will receive a portion of the initial $30 billion based on their share of total Medicare FFS reimbursements in 2019.
  • The distribution is a grant that does not have to be repaid – if the provider agrees to not seek collection of out-of-pocket payments from a COVID-19 patient that are greater than what the patient would have otherwise been required to pay if the care had been provided by an in-network provider.
  • United Health Group (UHG) was the contractor that facilitated the payments on behalf of CMS.
  • Some providers reported they have not received a deposit from the Provider Relief Fund or they are not sure the amount is correct. Those providers should call the CARES Provider Relief hotline at (866) 569-3522. The hotline is operated by UHG.
  • It is not yet known how or when CMS will distribute the remaining $70 billion. Congress is also discussing legislation that would provide HHS with an additional $100 billion.

CMS issued guidance on new flexibilities regarding physician supervision and scope of licensure. The guidance would allow rural practitioners to provide care remotely from other states.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) published an update to her constituents on her website stating the IRS will “likely” begin making Recovery Rebate payments to Americans the week of April 13. The CARES Act Recovery Rebates will give individuals $1,200 ($2,400 for joint filers) and $500 for each child. That amount is based on adjusted gross income (from 2018) that exceeds a certain threshold.

  • The IRS created a new website to help people receive these payments. The payments are based on a person’s tax filings. However, not everyone who is eligible for the payments files taxes. This has caused concern that some people will not receive their money. This website will allow non-tax filers to provide the IRS with the information it needs to issue their payments.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci says he expects there will be many more antibody tests available next week. These tests will determine if someone’s immune system is naturally producing the antibodies needed to fight COVID-19. The tests will be especially helpful for identifying frontline healthcare workers who have not yet developed antibodies to fight the infection.

  • Dr. Fauci provided a more optimistic estimate of the total death toll. He appears optimistic that the U.S. will avoid the worst-case projection.

Tech giants Apple and Google announced they partnered to create a new system that will alert people if they came into contact with someone who has COVID-19. People will need to opt into the program. Participants will receive automatic alerts on their smart phones advising them to self-isolate if their phone, using blue tooth technology, detects that the person encountered someone who has COVID-19. The program has the potential to reach about one-third of the world’s population.

  • Dr. Fauci also discussed the prospect of using immunity certificates as a way to allow people to leave their lockdown.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new device for treating cytokine storms that occur in the most severe cases of COVID-19.

The government has entered into $1.1 billion worth of contracts with manufacturers to produce ventilators.