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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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04/13/2020

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  • This morning, many healthcare providers woke up to find that they received an automatic deposit in their account from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This deposit was their share of the $30 billion that HHS distributed from the $100 billion it received in the CARES Act.
    • Yesterday’s daily update stated this funding would only go to hospitals. That was clearly incorrect. In addition to distributing funding to frontline healthcare providers, HHS also distributed funding to practices to compensate them for lost revenue during the public health emergency. All facilities and providers that received Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursements in 2019 are eligible for this initial distribution.
    • Providers will be distributed a portion of the initial $30 billion based on their share of total Medicare FFS reimbursements in 2019.
    • The distribution is a grant that does not have to be repaid if the provider agrees to not seek collection of out-of-pocket payments from a COVID-19 patient that are greater than what the patient would have otherwise been required to pay if the care had been provided by an in-network provider.
    • United Health Group (UHG) was the contractor that facilitated the payments on behalf of CMS.
    • Some providers reported that they have not received a deposit for the Provider Relief Fund or they are not sure the amount is correct. Those providers should call the CARES Provider Relief hotline at (866) 569-3522. The hotline is operated by UHG.
    • It is not yet known how or when CMS will distribute the remaining $70 billion. Congress is also discussing legislation that would provide HHS with an additional $100 billion.
  • CMS issued guidance on new flexibilities regarding physician supervision and scope of licensure. The guidance would allow rural practitioners to provide care remotely from other states.
  • Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) published an update to her constituents on her website that says the IRS will “likely” begin making Recovery Rebate payments to Americans the week of April 13. The CARES Act Recovery Rebates will give individuals $1,200 ($2,400 for joint filers) and $500 for each child. That amount is phase down for adjusted gross income (from 2018) that exceeds a certain threshold.
    • The IRS created a new website to help people receive these payments. The payments are based on a person’s tax filings. However, not everyone who is eligible for the payments files taxes. This has caused concern that some people will not receive their money. This website will allow non-tax filers to provide the IRS with the information it needs to issue their payments.
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci says he expects there will be many more antibody tests available next week. These tests will determine if someone’s immune system is naturally producing the antibodies needed to fight COVID-19. The tests will be especially helpful for identifying frontline healthcare workers who have not yet developed antibodies to fight the infection.
    • Dr. Fauci provided a more optimistic estimate of the total death toll. He appears optimistic that will avoid the worst-end of the projection.
  • Tech giants Apple and Google announced they partnered to create a new system that will alert people if they came into contact with someone who has COVID-19. People will need to opt into the program. Participants will receive automatic alerts on their smart phones advising them to self-isolate if their phone, using blue tooth technology, detects that the person encountered someone who has COVID-19. The program has the potential to reach about one-third of the world’s population.
    • Dr. Fauci also discussed the prospect of using immunity certificates as a way to allow people to leave their lockdown.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new device for treating cytokine storms that occur in the most sever cases of COVID-19.
  • The government has entered into $1.1 billion worth of contracts with manufacturers to produce ventilators.