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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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06/04/2020

Key Updates:

Congress

  • The Senate could vote on the House-passed bill that makes some changes to the Paycheck Protection Program as soon as today.
  • A bipartisan group of legislators who lead committees with jurisdiction over Medicaid policy is asking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to direct more relief funding to Medicaid providers.
  • The debate over what to include in future COVID-19 relief legislation continues to play out in public. Republicans appear reluctant to include another round of payments to individuals. They believe the purpose of those payments was to help people as we entered a nation-wide economic “lockdown.” However, the economy is reopening so there is no longer a need for the individual payments. 
  • The Senate confirmed Brian Miller as the special Inspector General who will lead the oversight of the federal COVID-19 relief.
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is out with new long-term economic projections. According to the new projection, the CBO estimates that GDP will decline by three percent over the next ten years, which equates to almost $8 trillion.

CMS

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said some of the temporary Medicare telehealth changes will be made permanent in upcoming rulemaking. She did not specify which temporary policies will become permanent.
    • Some commercial payers also anticipate expanded telehealth policies.
    • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also supports expanding telehealth coverage.
  • Administrator Verma also published a blog post describing flexibilities CMS is offering to some of its alternative payment models (APM) being tested by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI).
  • CMS announced new enforcement policies it will take against nursing homes that cannot manage their infection control practices. CMS is increasing enforcement for facilities with persistent infection control violations, and imposing enforcement actions on lower level infection control deficiencies
    • As of May 24, 2020, about 12,500 nursing homes – approximately 80 percent Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes – had reported the required data to the CDC. These facilities reported over 60,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and almost 26,000 deaths. Of the nursing homes that reported data, approximately one in four facilities had at least one COVID-19 case, and approximately one in five facilities had at least one COVID-19 related death.

Vaccine and Testing

  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the U.S. will have at least 100 million COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year. He also believes we will have a few hundred million more vaccines by the beginning of 2021.
  • Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb thinks the vaccine could be seasonal.
  • Reports indicate that the White House’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine development initiative has selected companies that are finalists for the increased federal resources the initiative provides.
  • Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Adm. Brett Giroir will leave his role as the lead federal official overseeing COVID-19 testing by FEMA. He will return to his role at HHS full time.
  • Some public health experts are warning that the recent protests against racial injustice and inequality could cause cases to spike in those areas.