COVID-19 Federal Response Update – Monday, June 22, 2020

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By Capitol Associates, Inc. 

Congress

  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, believes that certain temporary federal telehealth policies should be made permanent. Chairman Alexander is focused on three main changes; provider reimbursement regardless of the originating site, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for telehealth services, and providing telehealth services through common apps like FaceTime or texting.
  • Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Equal Access to Care Act that would allow providers to provide telehealth services outside of their licensed state for 180 days after the COVID-19 emergency period is over.
  • Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Prioritized Paycheck protection Program (P4) Act. This legislation would expand upon the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by:
    • Authorizing lending to small businesses with 100 employees or less who have already exhausted an initial PPP loan.
    • Extending the application deadline for an initial PPP loan to Dec. 30th.
    • Using existing PPP funding to create P4 loans.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published new demographic and financial data on national COVID-19 cases.
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced that the Coronavirus task Force will stop conducting public briefings.
  • Director of the White House National Economic Council Larry Kudlow expressed optimism that we can control a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. However, White House Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro said that the White House is preparing for a possible new wave of cases in the fall as a precaution.
  • A U.S. Census Bureau poll found that millions of Americans are going without healthcare due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders.
  • CMS is hosting Office Hours Calls on Tuesdays from 5:00- 6:00 p.m. to answer questions about CMS’s temporary actions. Call info for this week:
    • CMS is hosting weekly COVID-19 Care Site-Specific Calls to provide targeted updates and guidance for certain types of organizations.
    • CMS also posts recordings and transcripts of its calls on its website.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is increasing flexibilities for high deductible health plans (HDHP) to include the use of telehealth and remote care services and reimburse enrollees for over-the-counter and menstrual care products through tax-advantaged health pan accounts.
  • The Government Accountability Office reports that HHS still has a less than half of the recommended number of providers responding to national emergencies.
  • The National Institutes for Health (NIH) introduced the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) effort, a centralized, aggregate platform for COVID-19 patient data.
  • National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director, Ned Sharpless, expects that the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to at least 10,000 excess deaths from breast and colorectal cancers in the next ten years due to delays in cancer screenings, treatments, and clinical trials.

Nursing Homes

  • CMS has announced that Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans will cover COVID-19 laboratory testing for nursing home residents and patients.
    • The CDC also released testing guidelines for nursing home residents and patients.
  • New data from CMS suggests that the number of nursing home deaths in the U.S. has declined from approximately 32,000 in May to 29,457 through the first week of June.
  • The Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes, an independent commission established by CMS consisting of 25 experts will begin conducting an assessment regarding nursing homes’ response to COVID-19.

Vaccines, Testing and Reopening

  • The National Institutes of Health has stopped clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in treating COVID-19 after only 20 people enrolled for the study.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conducted an internal investigation that found that a batch of COVID-19 test kits distributed at the beginning of the pandemic may have contained contaminated reagents.
  • Rather than another widespread lockdown, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Fauci recommends a localized approach for responding to new regional outbreaks.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will join Friends of Cancer Research in the COVID-19 Diagnostics Evidence Accelerator, a collaborative project to advance diagnostic developments.

Congressional Hearings

  • The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is hold a full committee hearing on Tuesday, June 23 at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the oversight of the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19
  • The House Committee Repository is holding a joint committee hearing on Tuesday, June 23 at 1:00 p.m. to discuss the expansion and impact of telehealth for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA)
  • The House Budget Committee is holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 23 at 2:30 p.m. to discuss how COVID-19 made clear the inequalities in the U.S. and necessary changes to combat these inequalities.
  • The House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 23 at 2:00 p.m. to discuss the childcare crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on Monday, June 22 to discuss inequities on education, health and the workforce that have been widened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 23 at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and how to prepare for future pandemics.
  • The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is holding hearing on Wednesday, June 24 at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the role of the Strategic National Stockpile in pandemic response
  • The House Committee Repository is holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 23 at 11:30 a.m. to discuss how to support healthy air travel during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The House Committee on Financial Services is holding a hearing on Thursday, June 25 at 12:00 p.m. to discuss capital markets and emergency lending during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The House Committee Repository is holding a hearing on Thursday, June 25 at 12:00 p.m. to discuss how to serve the public during the pandemic.
  • The House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on Thursday, June 25 at 2:00 p.m. to discuss the nursing home crisis during COVID-19.
  • The House Committee on Financial Services is holding a hearing on Friday, June 26 at 12:00 p.m. to discuss the challenges and solutions for policyholders and insurers during the pandemic.
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday, June 30 on how to safely return to work and school. The hearing will feature testimony from:
    • Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
    • Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
    • Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • Brett Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Please  contact the AHRA Regulatory Affairs Committee with any regulatory questions you may have at regulatory@ahra.org.

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