Coronavirus: A Shortlist for Healthcare Administrators & Operations

Coronavirus: A Shortlist for Healthcare Administrators & Operations

by Joseph D'Allegro, March 18, 2020

Last updated: July 6, 2020

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), Governor Phil Murphy and the White House have each taken numerous actions to help diagnose and treat COVID-19. 

We’ve tracked the state and federal announcements that are most important to healthcare office managers and administrators, to ease their burden. 

July 6: RHC & FQHC – CMS released additional guidance on telehealth services that have cost-sharing waived and additional claim examples for  Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)

July 6:  Hospitals – Eligible hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) now have until Tuesday September 1st to submit a Medicare Promoting Interoperability (PI) Exception Application.

July 2:  Medicare & Medicaid Providers – CMS posted guidance on the allowance of telehealth encounters for  electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) used in CMS quality reporting programs (MIPS, APM and Medicaid Promoting Interoperablity) for the 2020 and 2021 performance periods.

June 30: All NJ Residents – The Governor’s office has issued a 14-day quarantine advisory for all residents returning from any state that has a positive COVID-19 test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents.  As of June 30, there are 16 states on the list. 

June 25:  Healthcare Providers –  All New Jersey residents, regardless of healthcare coverage or immigration status, can find resources for free testing, treatment and how to apply for health insurance.

June 24: Medicare Providers — CMS announced flexibilities for clinicians participating in MIPS 2020 including the opportunity for those significantly impacted by the public health emergency to submit an extreme & uncontrollable circumstances application.  

June 23: Healthcare Providers  CMS announced the creation of a new office entitled, The Office of Burden Reduction and Health Informatics. The office will focus on reducing unnecessary burden, increasing efficiencies, continued administrative simplification, the increased use of health informatics, and improving the beneficiary experience.

June 23: Healthcare Providers — CMS released preliminary data on COVID-19 derived from Medicare claims. The data provides a highly instructive picture of the impact of COVID-19 by further confirming a number of long understood patterns in the disease. CMS believes that this information suggests the need for a transition from a fee-for-service system to a value-based one that fosters accountability.

June 15: Healthcare Providers — The Red Cross announced it will test all blood donations for Covid-19 antibodies, and share results with donors within 10 days. This will address an urgent shortage of blood, and allow healthcare providers to direct patients to a free testing option that serves the common good.

June 9: Healthcare Providers — The CDC promoted the use of telehealth services to improve safety for healthcare providers and patients.

June 8: Healthcare Providers — CMS released a guide for patients and beneficiaries to help them interact with healthcare staff and aid in the safe resumption of non-emergency services.

June 3: Hospitals — CMS reminded hospitals that participate in the Medicare Promoting Interoperability Program that the hardship exemption application deadline has been extended from July 1st to September 1st.

June 1: Nursing Homes  — CMS announced enhanced enforcement of nursing homes for infection control practices, with increased financial penalties for facilities with persistent violations.

June 1: Reproductive Healthcare Providers  — The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute (Quality Institute) released the New Jersey Reproductive Health Access Project: Provider Access Commitment Toolkit to educate providers on contraceptive care best practices. 

June 1: NJ Small Businesses  — The NJ governor’s office updated its business guide for non-essential retail businesses to open later in June. 

May 27: NJ Small Businesses — Google enhanced the tools available for small businesses, including online appointment settings and allowing verified businesses to add items like online classes, appointments and estimates to their profiles. 

May 26: Hospitals, State & Local Governments — CMS published an updated fact sheet for state and local governments and hospitals developing alternate care sites to expand capacity and provide needed care to patients. It has information on how to seek payments through Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

May 26: All NJ Small Businesses — The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) announced they are offering free assistance to any small business in NJ that wants help applying for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The AACCNJ is working with three SBA-approved lenders who have funding available as of May 26th, 2020. Apply online here

May 19: Employers — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its enforcement guidelines to require that employers subject to its illness record-keeping rules (which is most employers) must now track and report confirmed COVID-19 cases, if they’re work related. 

May 19: NJ Surgeons, Hospitals & Surgery Centers — The NJ Department of Health issued instructions for hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers to resume elective surgeries and invasive procedures starting May 26.

May 18: Nursing Homes — CMS announced new guidance for state and local officials regarding the safe reopening of the nation’s nursing homes. It details steps for infection prevention and control, testing, and surveillance.

May 14: Healthcare Research —HHS launched a $5 million initiative to fund research into the responsiveness of healthcare workers and healthcare systems to the coronavirus on May 14th. Researchers can apply for funding through June 15.

May 13: Nursing Homes — CMS released a new toolkit for nursing homes with best practices from state governments and private experts in New Jersey, New York, and across the country. 

May 13: Healthcare Providers — The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute (NJHCQI) has provided recommendations  for perinatal care during the Covid-19 pandemic. These recommendations include creative and innovative solutions to support pregnant individuals while also keeping health care providers safe.

May 7: Healthcare Providers — HHS extended the deadline for healthcare providers to attest to payment receipt from the Provider Relief Fund. They now have 45 days to attest and accept the program’s terms and conditions, up from 30 days.

May 7: NPs, CNSs & FAs Healthcare Providers — CMS announced that a permanent change to the Social Security Act allows Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs), and Physician Assistants (PAs) to certify beneficiaries as eligible for Medicare’s home health benefit. Billing codes GO179, GO180 and GO181 may be used for this, as detailed here.

May 6: Nursing Homes & LTC Facilities — CMS issued an updated memo addressing the new requirement that nursing homes and long term care facilities report COVID-19 data to the CDC, residents, and their representatives.

April 30:  Clinicians, Hospitals, ACOs & other Healthcare Providers — CMS announced a 2nd round of sweeping changes designed to ease the restrictions around testing, expand access to telehealth services and provide more flexibility to hospitalsclinicianslong-term care facilitiesRHCs and FQHCs, and Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities. It also temporarily relaxed the rules around the Medicare Shared Savings Program affecting ACOs.

April 30: Nursing Homes — CMS announced a new commission to assess nursing homes’ response to the pandemic.

April 30: Pharmacists, Medicare, & Medicaid — CMS announced new waivers and rule changes to make treatment easier, including covering COVID-19 tests ordered by any authorized healthcare professional, and expanding test parameters for pharmacists.

April 27: Small Business Assistance — The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small companies has been re-funded and the U.S. Small Business Administration began accepting new applications. Funding is expected to run out this week, but businesses are encouraged to apply anyway, in case funding becomes available again in the future.

April 26: Accelerated Payment Program — CMS announced that it is not accepting new applicants for its Accelerated Payment Program, and has begun reevaluating pending applications. It noted that it had approved $59.6 billion in payments to Medicare Part A providers, and $40.4 billion for Part B suppliers.

April 22: Hospital Reporting in NJ — Governor Murphy signed legislation requiring hospitals to report demographic data to the NJ Department of Health.

April 22: LTCHs, RHCs & FQHCs — CMS and the HHS’ Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response released a new toolkit to help Long-Term Care Hospitals, Rural Health Clinics, and Federally Qualified Health Centers maximize workforce flexibilities when addressing the coronavirus.

April 21: LTCHs, RHCs & FQHCs — CMS has continued to update and enhance the blanket waivers it offers Long-Term Care Hospitals, Rural Health Clinics, and Federally Qualified Health Centers. It also made staffing and training modifications for Intermediate Care Facilities serving individuals with Intellectual disabilities.

April 20: MIPS, ACO & APM — CMS increased flexibility for participants in its Quality Payment Program, including the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, Accountable Care Organizations and providers taking part in Alternative Payment Models. If you have questions about how your practice is affected, email NJII at qpp@njii.com.

April 17: RHCs & FQHCs — Congress and CMS expanded flexibility and billing requirements for Rural Health Clinics, and Federally Qualified Health Centers.

April 15: Hospitals, Clinics — CMS updated the blanket waivers it established to allow hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities to boost frontline medical staff.

April 14: Medicare — CMS announced the near doubling of payment for certain lab tests that use high-throughput technologies to rapidly diagnose large numbers of COVID-19 cases.

April 10: Clinicians — The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs announced that the boards and committees under its supervision, including the boards of Pharmacy and Dentistry, will temporarily suspend in-person continuing education requirements for maintaining licenses, registration and certification.

April 9: Healthcare Workers — The Environmental Protection Agency updated its massive list of disinfectants that work against the virus, along with the contact time needed to be effective.

April 9: Clinicians — The NJDOH updated the guidelines clinicians should follow for testing patients for the coronavirus.

April 7: Medicare — CMS issued a fact sheet to explain the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program to providers and announced that it had reduced processing times for Medicare payments to 4-6 days, down from 3-4 weeks.

April 6: Public Health Labs — HHS announced the purchase of rapid point-of-care tests that provide COVID-19 results in less than 13 minutes. They will be provided to state, territorial and tribal public health labs.

April 3: Recently Retired Healthcare Professionals — New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs called on retired health care professionals who have been inactive five years or less to return to practice. The division is allowing them to reactivate professional licenses temporarily, and waiving all fees and most requirements.

April 3: Open Payments — CMS noted that it cannot postpone the June 30 Open Payments data publication deadline, but that covered recipient dispute actions can be completed within the Open Payments system throughout the year. Covered recipients may review and dispute their data through December 31.

April 3: NJ Businesses — The New Jersey Economic Development Authority opened the Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program to provide grants to small businesses and zero-interest loans for mid-sized companies.

April 1: Billing Codes — The CDC has updated its official COVID-19 coding and reporting guidelines, effective through September 30th, 2020.

March 30: Hospitals & Medicare — CMS announced sweeping temporary regulatory changes. They allow hospitals to set up remote services and provide additional benefits to their medical staff, plus create a simplified way to enroll providers in Medicare.

March 29: Hospitals — The White House directed hospitals to report COVID-19 testing data to HHS, and data on bed capacity and supplies to the CDC.

March 28: Medicare — CMS expanded its Accelerated and Advance Payment Program for Medicare Part A providers and Part B suppliers that meet certain requirements.

March 27: MIPS — CMS issued a factsheet about the 2019 Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) submission deadline extension to April 30, and the neutral payment adjustment granted eligible clinicians who do not submit data for the year.

March 23: NJ Promoting Interoperability — The NJ Medicaid Agency gave the state’s Promoting Interoperability Program participants until June 30 to submit 2019 attestations.

March 23: Medicaid Waivers — CMS approved Medicaid waivers for 11 more states to relax enrollment and other requirements. This includes New Jersey, where pre-admission screening and other requirements were suspended or relaxed.

March 23: Tests Quest and Labcorp placed information on how to get Coronavirus tests on their sites.

March 22: Medicaid & CHIP CMS released new tools to support state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) including modified rules for payment.

March 22: Quality Reporting Extensions CMS granted extensions and exemptions for Promoting Interoperability (PI), the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and other Medicare programs.

March 20: Telemedicine CMS issued a toolkit for general practitioners to implement telemedicine services, for treating patients remotely.

March 19: Telemedicine Governor Murphy signed legislation expanding telehealth service access and expediting the licensing of out-of-state professionals.

March 18: Patient Hotline/Triage  Governor Murphy announced that NJ 211 has been activated to help handle COVID-19 related calls from New Jersey residents.

March 17: DSRIP The Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP) reporting deadline was extended past March 31. Email NJDSRIP@pcgus.com with questions.

March 17: TelemedicineMedicare allowed reimbursement for virtual patient check-ins. 

March 13: Medicare, Medicaid & CHIPHHS waived program restrictions for Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.

March 12:  Billing Codes CMS posted codes and payment amounts determined by Local Medicare Administrative Contractors.

March 12: Benefits & Coverage CMS issued a fact sheet on Essential Health Benefit (EHB) coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

Updated Regularly: Business Guidance — The New Jersey Business Action Center has been keeping up-to-date info on statewide rules affecting businesses.

Updated Regularly: Business Guidance The White House coronavirus task force has been updating information and guidelines for businesses

For additional resources, please refer to updates to HHS’ patient privacy updates, and CMS’ Coronavirus Partner Toolkit of resources and guidance for practices, caregivers, and the general public.

If you have questions or concerns about any changes in programs, policy or regulations and how they impact your obligations and deadlines please contact us.