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Senate Passes Stimulus Package to Address the Impact of COVID-19

The Senate passed the corona virus stimulus package, which includes $130 billion for “Primary Health Care”, under which hospitals will receive $130 billion for necessary expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. Given that elective procedures are being cancelled by patients across the county, hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and other facilities have seen revenues significantly decline.

The stimulus package also includes:

  • Over $16 billion for “Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund” for development of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and necessary medical supplies, as well as medical surge capacity, workforce modernization, enhancements to the U.S. Commissioned Corps, telehealth access and infrastructure, initial advanced manufacturing and related administrative activities;
  • $550 million for CMS “Program Management”
  • $460 million for “Rural Health” to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including telephone and virtual care for the underinsured and for continuation and expansion of telehealth and health activities; and
  • $200 million for the Federal Communications Commission to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing healthcare providers telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services.

 

On March 17, 2020, the Office of the Inspect General (“OCR”) announced it will use enforcement discretion for telehealth remote communications during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. The OCR Director, Roger Severino, announced “[w]e are empowering medical providers to serve patients wherever they are during this national public health emergency. We are especially concerned about reaching those most at risk, including older persons and persons with disabilities.” The OCR notified providers that “OCR will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties for noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA Rules against covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.  This notification is effective immediately.” The Notification of Enforcement Discretion on Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency from the OCR can be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/emergency-preparedness/notification-enforcement-discretion-telehealth/index.html.

On March 17, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (“CMS”) has also expanded its Medicare telehealth coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. This expansion will enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services from their providers without having to visit the facility in person. Prior to this announcement, Medicare was only permitted to compensate providers for telehealth services such as routine visits in certain circumstances. For example, the patient was not permitted to receive telehealth services in their home. The CMS Press Release can be found at: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/president-trump-expands-telehealth-benefits-medicare-beneficiaries-during-covid-19-outbreak.

If you have questions about how any of these measures may impact your practice, please contact our firm at 845-855-5900.

Written by Shea Fitzekam, Esq.

This article is not, and shall not be relied upon, as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only.

 

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