COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, April 27, 2020

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is suspending advance and accelerated payments to Medicare providers that it offered at the beginning of the public health emergency. CMS traditionally makes accelerated and advance payments (AAP) available to inject cash flow to providers who are affected by natural disasters. Providers are required to re-pay the AAPs.

  • On March 28, CMS expanded AAPs during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Since expanding the AAP programs, CMS approved about $100 billion in AAP payments. This includes over 21,000 applications totaling $59.6 billion in payments to Part A providers and almost 24,000 applications totaling $40.4 billion in advanced Part B payments.
  • CMS reasons that, because Congress passed $175 billion in aid to the health care system, it can end AAPs during the public health emergency.

The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) launched its portal for providers who provided COVID-19 testing and treatment for uninsured patients on or after February 4 to apply for reimbursement for that care from the government.

CMS published a new set of FAQs for its “general allocations” to providers under the Provider Relief Program.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added six new symptoms to its list of COVID-19 symptoms. The new symptoms include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

Today, the Small Business Administration (SBA) began accepting and processing applications for the Paycheck Protection Program again. Last week, Congress passed legislation to provide an additional $310 billion for the PPP. Before that bill was passed, the SBA completely distributed the $350 billion it received from the CARES Act. Upon reopening the application process, the SBA was immediately overwhelmed, causing delays for many lenders who facilitate the application process.

Both the House and Senate will return to Washington, D.C. on May 4. Congress has been on an extended recess since early April. Congress is expected to consider working on additional economic and health care relief legislation.

Dr. Deborah Brix, one of the top COVID-19 advisors to President Trump, said she expects some form of social distancing to last through the summer.

The Washington Post reported the White House has proposed expanded guidance on how to reopen various parts of society and the economy. The guidance includes how to reopen childcare programs, schools, places of worship, businesses, restaurants and bars, and public transportation. The guidance is not finalized and has not been officially issued.

The White House announced a new plan to partner with major retailers such as CVS to expand COVID-19 testing.

CMS announced its schedule of public stakeholder calls for the week. CMS plans to hold about 10 calls this week, which include “Office Hours” calls on Tuesday and Thursday, a call on “lessons from the frontlines,” and several site-specific calls.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says she is open to expanding direct payments to Americans during the public health emergency. The CARES Act provided a one-time $1,200 payment to individuals (or $2,400 to joint tax filers) that phases down above certain income levels. It also provides $500 per child. This provision enjoyed bipartisan support in the CARES Act. It is not clear how much support there is for an expansion of this program within either party.

CMS will not collect data for certain health plan quality reporting programs this year.

Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat producers in the country, is warning about the devastation the coronavirus is having on the livestock industry. Decreased demand means millions of pounds of meat could go to waste because farmers do not have a market to sell their products. Meat processing plants have also been forced to close due to workers infected with COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the creation of a new coordination center to help farmers find markets for their products and provide other forms of assistance.