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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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10/02/2020

HHS announces new $20 billion Provider Relief Fund distribution

On October 1st, HHS announced it will distribute $20 from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF). This “Phase 3” distribution is intended to provide additional financial assistance to providers who continue to experience financial challenges, previously ineligible providers (e.g. new practices that started in 2020) and behavioral health workers.

Providers will have from October 5, 2020 through November 6, 2020 to apply for Phase 3 General Distribution funding.

Eligibility
HHS is making a large number of providers eligible for Phase 3 General Distribution funding, including:

  • Providers who previously received, rejected or accepted a General Distribution Provider Relief Fund payment. Providers that have already received payments of approximately 2% of annual revenue from patient care may submit more information to become eligible for an additional payment.
  • Behavioral Health providers, including those that previously received funding and new providers.
  • Healthcare providers that began practicing January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020. This includes Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, dentists, assisted living facilities and behavioral health providers.

Payment Methodology
All eligible providers will be considered for payment against the below criteria.

  1. All provider submissions will be reviewed to confirm they have received a Provider Relief Fund payment equal to approximately 2 percent of patient care revenue from prior general distributions. Applicants that have not yet received Relief Fund payments of 2 percent of patient revenue will receive a payment that, when combined with prior payments (if any), equals 2 percent of patient care revenue.
  2. With the remaining balance of the $20 billion budget, HRSA will then calculate an equitable add-on payment that considers the following:
    • A provider’s change in operating revenues from patient care
    • A provider’s change in operating expenses from patient care, including expenses incurred related to coronavirus
    • Payments already received through prior Provider Relief Fund distributions.

Congress

  • Another bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill continues to elude White House and Congressional negotiators who have so far failed to make progress despite renewed talks. Democrats and Republicans still do not agree on the total amount of spending to include as well as how to compromise on many of the specific relief policies they hope to include the bill. Talks between Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are expected to continue despite the lack of progress.
    • The House will vote on a Democrat-led relief bill that is a $2.2 trillion version of their previously passed $3.3 billion relief bill, the HEROES Act. The bill not expected to have much, if any, Republican support nor will it be considered by the Republican-controlled Senate.
    • Earlier this week, White House negotiators reportedly put forward a $1.6 trillion proposal.
  • The Senate passed a Continuing Resolution to extend federal funding through December 11th. Funding was set to expire after September 30th without a legislative extension. The House already passed the bill and President Trump signed it into law.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • The FDA issued an updated FDA COVID-19 Response At-A-Glance Summary which provides a quick look at facts, figures and highlights of the agency's response efforts.
  • FDA developed new health education materials that have been culturally and linguistically tailored for diverse consumers. These materials are intended for health care professionals to share with their patients to help stimulate dialogue and answer pressing questions about FDA’s response to COVID-19. The materials provide information on the different areas of the FDA’s response to the pandemic, including health fraud, medical product supply, therapeutics, vaccine development, and diagnostic and antibody testing. 
  • According to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), many Medicaid providers have not applied for provider relief fund (PRF) funding for which they are eligible.
  • The Rural Healthcare Information Hub updated its Rural Response to COVID-19 page, highlighting essential resources, tools, and training to prepare for and respond to COVID-19 in rural communities.
  • CMS reported that Medicaid and CHIP enrollments increased by four million between February and June which represents a 5.7 percent increase since the PHE began in March.
  • HHS today announced today five cooperative agreements to health information exchange organizations (HIEs) to help support state and local public health agencies in their efforts to respond to public health emergencies, including disasters and pandemics such as COVID-19.
  • ASPR’s Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (TRACIE) published its COVID-19: Optimizing Healthcare Personal Protective Equipment and Supplies webinar, highlighting PPE preservation strategies, trends, challenges, and lessons learned/promising practices from presenters in the public and private sectors.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updates

Economy, Vaccine, Treatment and Testing

    • Moderna Inc., CEO said that its COVID-19 vaccine is not expected to be available until next year. Moderna will not seek FDA approval for its vaccine until November 25th at the earliest.
    • The FDA is still investigating a reported adverse reaction to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate that is currently in phase three trials. AstraZeneca paused U.S. trials pending an investigation from regulators but has resumed testing in other countries.
      • Participants in trials for other vaccine candidates have reported only mild side effects from their vaccine.
    • The NIH has awarded nearly $234 million to improve COVID-19 testing for underserved and vulnerable populations. A part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, the RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program will support 32 institutions across the United States and will focus on populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
    • Several commercial health plans that temporarily waived copays for telehealth visits are set to reinstate copays for these services.
    • On Friday, October 2, the National Academies will release the final Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine report during a free webinar. The final report follows a discussion draft that was released on September 1, 2020, to obtain input from the public.
    • Gilead Sciences will take over distribution responsibilities from the federal government for its remdesivir drug that received an emergency use authorization (EUA) to treat COVID-19.
    • It is not yet conclusively know how long a recovered COVID-19 patient remains immune to reinfection. NIH Director Francis Collins’ new blog looks at data on how long people infected with OTHER less life-threatening coronaviruses stay immune after they recover.  A new study in Nature Medicine indicates that “immunity to other coronaviruses tends to be short-lived, with reinfections happening quite often about 12 months later and, in some cases, even sooner.”
    • A study published in Health Affairs shows that non-COVID-19 hospital admissions are still below pre-pandemic levels, especially for Hispanic populations.