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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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03/26/2020

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Congress

  • Early this morning, Congressional and White House negotiators reached a deal to finalize its “Phase III” stimulus legislation. The final version of the bill is the product of over a week of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House. Congress has yet to release the official legislative text.
  • The bill could exceed $2 trillion in cost. It is intended to provide emergency federal funding to the U.S. healthcare system, small business, and certain industries that are the most affected such as the airline industry. The bill also provides direct financial assistance to most Americans through a $1,200 check for individuals ($2,400 for families). That amount phases down above a certain income threshold.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee published a summary of the federal spending provisions of the bill.
    • The summary indicates increases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to combat the coronavirus.
    • The bill also provides $117 billion to hospitals and veterans health centers.
  • The bill still includes $1,200 payments to individuals ($2,400 to joint tax filers and $500 per qualified child). The payments will phase down above certain income thresholds based on 2018 tax filings.
  • The Senate, which is still in session, is expected to pass the bill this afternoon. The House is currently out of session and it is not yet clear when or how the House will vote on the bill. The fastest and easiest way for the House to vote is by gathering as many Members as they can in the Chamber for a unanimous consent (UC) vote. However, if one present and voting Member objects, the bill cannot be passed by UC.
  • The House is trying to build the necessary support for a UC vote. If that option is not available, the House would have to call its Members back to Washington to vote in person. Special measures will need to be taken to make sure the in-person voting complies with social distancing and other preventive guidelines.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is giving Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans increased flexibilities to:
    • Delay premium payment deadlines.
    • Delay cancellation of coverage for late premium payments.
    • Allow early prescription refills and allow refills beyond a 90-day supply.
    • Expand coverage of telehealth services.
    • Some states that operate their own exchanges created Special Enrollment Periods to allow people to enroll in health plans.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to clarify how HIPAA privacy protections apply to COVID-19 patients.
  • The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) is responding to complaints of fraudulent activity while also providing flexibilities and clarifications about anti-kickback statute provisions.
    • OIG created a portal for all information and announcements related to COVID-19. The portal can be accessed from OIG’s main website or directly at oig.hhs.gov/coronavirus.
    • OIG also created an email address for questions about the anti-kickback statute:  OIGComplianceSuggestions@oig.hhs.gov
  • Seven more states received emergency Medicaid waivers from CMS.
  • HHS issued a request for information (RFI) asking for companies to respond if they can contribute to manufacturing ventilators. HHS appears willing to pay for 100,000 new ventilators.