COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, May 18, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, May 18, 2020

The biotech firm, Moderna, announced positive results of its early COVID-19 vaccine human clinical trials. The results indicate that all recipients of the vaccine produced antibodies “at or above” the levels of patients who have recovered from the virus. The trial did not prompt any safety concerns. Moderna plans to begin a new, much larger study soon.

  • NIH Director Francis Collins says there are several other promising vaccines in development. He expects at least one or two of those vaccines to begin wide scale testing as soon as July.
  • In an interview with 60 Minutes, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed his view that a full economic recovery is contingent on an effective vaccine.
  • President Trump is not waiting for a vaccine to be developed before creating a plan for immunizing every American. He recently announced his “Operation Warp Speed” initiative to procure and distribute vaccines as soon as they are ready. Former GlaxoSmithKline vaccine development executive Moncef Slaoui and Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command, will lead Operation Warp Speed.
  • President Trump announced he has been taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for over a week. Though studies on the drug’s efficacy for this purpose have thus far been inconclusive, President Trump has been controversially eager to support hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. Research on the drug’s ability to treat COVID-19 is ongoing, including a clinical trial the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began last week.

The Treasury Department published the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness application form that loan recipients must use to request their PPP loan be converted to a grant. Recipients must submit the form through their PPP lender.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) listed its schedule of stakeholder engagement calls for the week.

The Administration is soliciting applications for candidates to serve on its new nursing home safety commission. Applications must be submitted by Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidelines to states for reopening nursing homes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 diagnostic test that allows patients to collect their own nasal sample at home and send to a lab for testing.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold its quarterly hearing for the Administration’s report to Congress on CARES Act implementation and oversight on Tuesday. The CARES Act requires the Administration to provide quarterly reports to Congress about the trillions in relief Congress passed through legislation. The hearing will feature Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as the witnesses.

On Wednesday, the House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on the federal government’s actions to protect workers during COVID-19.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on Thursday on caring for seniors during the COVID-19 crisis.

On May 15, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted revised FAQs on the Provider Relief Fund General Distribution Portal to provide clarification to some questions providers voiced regarding the general distribution payments. The following two questions/answers were developed specifically to clarify this issue.

How did HHS determine the additional payments under the general distribution?

HHS is distributing an additional $20 billion of the general distribution to providers to augment their initial allocation so that $50 billion (in total) is allocated proportional to providers' share of 2018 net patient revenue. The allocation methodology is designed to provide relief to providers, who bill Medicare fee-for-service, with at least 2% of that provider’s net patient revenue regardless of the provider’s payer mix. Payments are determined based on the lesser of 2% of a provider’s 2018 (or most recent complete tax year) net patient revenue or the sum of incurred losses for March and April. If the initial general distribution payment you received between April 10 and April 17 was determined to be at least 2% of your annual patient revenue, you will not receive additional general distribution payments.

How can I estimate 2% of patient revenue to determine my approximate general distribution payment?

In general, providers can estimate payments from the general distribution of approximately 2% of 2018 (or most recent complete tax year) patient revenue. To estimate your payment, use this equation:

(Individual Provider Revenues/$2.5 Trillion) X $50 Billion = Expected Combined General Distribution.

To estimate your payment, you may need to use “Gross Receipts or Sales” or “Program Service Revenue.” Providers should work with a tax professional for accurate submission.

This includes any payments under the first $30 billion general distribution as well as under the $20 billion general distribution allocations. Providers may not receive a second distribution payment if the provider received a first distribution payment equal to or more than 2% of patient revenue.

NOTE: HHS is making a list publicly available of the providers who have received and accepted money from the Provider Relief Fund. 

We believe it is key for each practice to clearly document revenue losses and expenses it is incurring that are directly related to COVID-19. Documentation could include losses related to social distancing (such as cancellation of visits and procedures, Part B drugs that have passed their expiration date), costs of new infection control practices, PPE, digital health equipment, etc., and those that are not reimbursable from other sources (excluding loans that have to be repaid).

NOTE: Information coming out of the Capital is beginning to slow. Starting the week of May 18, we will begin providing federal updates for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – unless there is breaking news.