Editor's note: This article will be updated with new information about the novel coronavirus outbreak as it relates to home health, home medical equipment and the aging-in-place community as we receive it. Please make sure you check homecaremag.com/coronavirus for longer articles, news releases and other updates on a daily basis. Note that date stamps are Central time.

If you have questions about the material included here or information to share, please email HomeCare Editor Hannah Wolfson at hwolfson@cahabamedia.com or HomeCare Managing Editor Kristin Easterling at keasterling@cahabamedia.com.


Tuesday, May 26, 12:30 p.m.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice has moved the annual Financial Management Conference to a virtual event. Choose from 28 best-in-class education sessions on the most important and timely topics, and taught by the most trusted experts in the industry. More information on FMC 2020 will be available in the days ahead and at fmc2020.nahc.org, so please watch out for it. 

Thursday, May 21, 11:00 a.m.

The American Association for Health Care has released a state by state breakdown of the estimated cost to test every nursing home resident and staff just once, which would cost $440 million nationwide. A pdf is available here. (Note: This does not include the cost to test residents and staff at assisted living and other long term care facilities.) 

The chart shows the cost of ongoing COVID-19 testing of nursing home residents and staff is unsustainable without additional funding and support from federal and state governments. Even the CDC’s recent recommendation to test all nursing home staff weekly would cost more than $1 billion every month. 

“For months now, we have been advocating for expanded and priority testing in nursing homes to protect our residents and caregivers, but this is a significant undertaking and cost for nursing homes to shoulder on their own. That’s why we have asked HHS to grant our request for a $10 billion emergency relief to help fund expedited testing and the additional staffing needed to respond to this unprecedented health crisis,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Health Care Association and National Center of Assisted Living.
 

Thursday, May 21, 10:20 a.m.

The Compliance Team is hosting a webinar on how DMEPOS providers should approach re-opening. "Re-Opening During the Pandemic - Back to Work Guidance for DMEPOS" takes place today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

As businesses re-open during the COVID-19 era, transitioning from quarantines and social mitigation poses risks for DMEPOS providers of all stripes. This upcoming webinar will focus on daily routines that need to be in place so that getting back into the swing of things is safe for both your employees and patients alike. Presented by Sandra Canally, RN. CEO and Founder of The Compliance Team Inc.

The webinar is free to attend. Click here to register.

Friday, May 15, 9:00 a.m.

Golden Technologies’ sales team has undergone an extensive training program to educate them on today’s digital marketing tools. This recent training effort comes as a response to the change in the way their home medical equipment retailers are doing business during the current COVID-19 pandemic and anticipates a ‘new’ normal in retail sales moving forward.

Due to social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, social media platforms have proven to be necessary tools in the retail selling process. Golden sales representatives continue to be educated on platforms, such as Facebook, to act as guides to their retailers that are just starting to explore social media marketing.

In addition to social media training, the sales team has been trained on and encouraged to use video conferencing platforms to hold virtual meetings. They are prepared to conduct virtual meetings with buyers regarding merchandising and product lineup, as well as product training for the retailer sales associates. Once a state reopens, the sales representative will be able to meet with more retailers in a shorter timeframe. Virtual meetings, along with Golden’s fully stocked inventory, will allow the retailer to have their lift recliner, scooter and power wheelchair programs ready to sell faster. Golden has also introduced new digital tools that will allow a sales representative to provide the retailer with in-depth account insight that will help maximize their merchandising efforts.

“The goal of our digital initiative is to offer enhanced support and convenience to our retailers with safe meeting and training options, digital marketing tools, and quick ship inventory,” said Jason Davis, Vice President of Sales. “We strive to anticipate the needs of our retailers, so this training has equipped our sales representatives with the ability to proactively help them in their urgent effort to recover from the effects of this global health crisis.”

Golden offices are open and operating with CDC guidelines in mind.

Visit goldentech.com for more information.

Wednesday, May 13, 4:00 p.m.

The Small Business Administration issued much-anticipated guidance today for businesses who had received emergency loans under the COVID-19 relief package, saying that Paycheck Protection Program loans less than $2 million won't get extra scrutiny. You can read more here. See page 46, question 16.

Friday, May 8, 9:00 a.m. 

The American Association for Homecare has updated its Third-Party & MCO Tracking page to include additional guidance from Aetna, Anthem and CareCentrix. 

Highlights include:

Aetna has updated its home oxygen policy guidelines, which includes a note that "Requirements for qualifying PaO2 laboratory test values for home oxygen will be waived for COVID-19 infected persons." This policy liberalization will remain in effect until June 4, 2020.

Anthem has suspended prior authorization requirements on durable medical equipment and most categories of respiratory supplies for patients who need these devices for medical reasons, as determined by a physician.

CareCentrix shared ew information on order delivery requirements, quantity changes, face-to-face requirements, replacement equipment for individuals displaced by COVID-19, and PAP instruction by phone or video messaging. Guidance varies among the six CCX plans covered.

See the tracking page for full details. The Association plans to continue working with officials on polices during the pandemic.

 

Thursday, May 7, 10:00 a.m.

HomeCare Connect, a workers' compensation company that helps smooth the home health and home medical equipment process for injured employees, is offering on-site temperature screening for clients. As states lift stay-at-home orders and companies return to work, HomeCare Connect is helping employers keep workers safe.

“Now, we’re taking a proactive stance to help clients maintain safe work areas and avoid COVID-19 infections,” said Vice President of Clinical Operations Anita Jovic, RN, BSN, MBA.

Temperature screenings are available nationally and on a 24/7 basis to accommodate factories and other operations with multiple shifts.  Initially, HomeCare Connect is offering the service to employers, insurance carriers, third-party administrators, and other payers that are already doing business with the company. Visit homecareconnect.com for more information.

Friday, May 1, 1:30 p.m.

Diestco Manufacturing, a provider of mobility accessories, has converted about 80% of capacity to sewing fabric face masks for local hospitals and municipalities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Our customers using wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers are in the highest level of vulnerability when exposed to the COVID-19 virus due to breathing disorders and compromised immune systems. Being able to protect them and others to prevent the spread of the virus seemed like a no brainer," said company President Dan Deistel in a press release.

Wednesday, April 29, 10:25 a.m. 

WellSky, a global health and community care technology and services company, and Qlik, a leading data and analytics company, announced the launch of a new COVID-19 heat map feature. WellSky and Qlik’s heat map technology harnesses clinical staff zip code data supplied by client agencies to compare staff locations against confirmed COVID-19 cases across the U.S. By layering and blending this data, home-based care agencies can gain new insight into the personal protective equipment supply chain and where staff may need increased access to PPE resources, which includes medical face masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns. Now agencies can better manage their overall PPE supply and use data to adjust to changing conditions to deliver resources based on greatest need and highest concentration of cases. Access the heat map here

Tuesday, April 28, 10:00 a.m.

Trella Health released a heatmap to visualize counties with large populations of Medicare patients considered high-risk for serious illness if infected with COVID-19. The map was created using Trella’s access to 100% of Medicare Part A and B Fee-for-Service (FFS) claims data. Because chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF) are two conditions correlated with increased rates of hospitalization and mortality in COVID-19 cases, the number of COPD+CHF patients in each county was used as the underlying criteria for the heatmap. Another metric included is the number of COPD+CHF patients per home health agency, which Trella hopes will help home health agencies predict demand and need. View the map here.

Thursday, April 23, 4:17 p.m.

EasyBreathe, a supplier of sleep apnea solutions, has donated BiLevels and BiPAPS and supportive supplies such as masks to Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH) in Los Angeles, California. The donation follows the FDA's announcement that these devices can help COVID-19 patients who need respiratory support but don't need full ventilation. 

"The [machines Easy Breathe donated] will give us a welcome option in fighting COVID-19," said Debra Flores, Chief Nursing/Chief Operating Officer, who heads MLKCH's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Not every patient requires a ventilator but some of our patients still need help with breathing support. These machines fill that gap."

Thursday, April 23, 12:50 p.m.

Poisonings from cleaning products are on the rise, reports the New York Times. A study released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that calls to poison hotlines this year for cases involving cleaners and disinfectants rose significantly compared with the same period over the previous two years, and charts a dramatic spike in March for both categories.

Doctors emphasize that cleanliness is important, but so is educating people on what disinfectants are safe to use, and keeping the products out of reach of children.

Wednesday, April 22, 10:00 a.m.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, at the direction of the Trump Administration, has released a new toolkit to help state and local authorities navigate workforce challenges brought about by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“The Administration has taken swift and unprecedented emergency action to lift regulatory constraints, ease federal rules and approve waivers that help local hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities boost their frontline medical staffs and increase their ability to care of patients in the face of crisis. This new resource will help states apply all of these important changes on the ground in order to maximize their workforce to ensure care for patients,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a press release.

Click here to read the full release and access the toolkit.

Monday, April 20, 8:00 a.m.

In a press conference over the weekend, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced that nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities will now be required to report coronavirus cases directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to the families of patients. 

“It's important that patients and their families have the information that they need, and they need to understand what's going on in the nursing home,” Verma said at the White House briefing.

The guidance follows thousands of deaths across the country in nursing homes, including more than 1,100 people in New York State, representing around 9% of the state's deaths from COVID-19, reports Politico.

Thursday, April 16, 4:20 p.m.

On April 14, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted 3B Medical, based in Winter Haven, Florida, Emergency Use Authorization for 3B Medical’s new High-Flow H80 System and its Luna BPAP ST non-invasive respiratory devices. These devices may now be used in the U.S. during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

"Both of these devices complement our existing line of respiratory devices. I am pleased that 3B Medical will be able to join the manufacturing industry's collective surge in production capacity to meet global shortages across the board for all therapeutic devices used to treat COVID-19 patients," said Jose Llana, M.D., 3B Medical's vice president of sales.

Tuesday, April 14, 11:43 a.m.

The Department of Health and Human Services has ordered 6,190 new ventilators for the federal stockpile to be filled by May 8 and 29,510 by June 1. It has signed seven contracts under for ventilator production under the Defense Production Act to ResMed, Vyaire, Medtronic, Hill-Rom, General Electric, Hamilton and Zoll for a total of 137,431 ventilators by the end of 2020. 

"President Trump and HHS's use of the DPA is getting private manufacturers what they need to ramp up ventilator production rapidly," said HHS head Alex Azar in a news release. "We are grateful to the patriotic Americans at companies working around the clock and retooling factories to increase ventilator production. The thousands of ventilators delivered to the Strategic National Stockpile starting this month, continuing through the spring and summer, will mean we have more capacity to respond to the pandemic as it evolves. HHS and FEMA deployment of ventilators from the stockpile have helped ensure that hospitals in states such as New York have not run out of ventilator capacity while working to save lives."

Here's the breakdown:

  • General Electric's $64.1 million contract is for 2,410 ventilators produced by June 29, with 112 by May 4 and 736 by June 1.
  • Hamilton's $552 million contract is for 14,115 ventilators produced by July 3, with 850 by May 8 and 4,404 by May 22.
  • Hill-Rom's $20.1 million contract is for 3,400 ventilators produced by July 13, with 400 by June 1.
  • Medtronic's $9.1 million contract is for 1,056 ventilators to be produced by June 22, with 200 by May 4 and 678 by June 1.
  • ResMed's $31.98 million contract is for 2,550 ventilators produced by July 13, with 400 by May 4 and 1,150 by June 1.
  • Vyaire's contract $407.9 million contract is for 22,000 ventilators produced by June 29, with 1,200 ventilators by May 4 and 9,100 by June 1.
  • Zoll's $350.1 million contract is for 18,900 ventilators produced by July 3, with 1,010 by May 4 and 4,410 by June 1.

 

Friday, April 10, 11:40 a.m.

As Congress continues to debate relief and aid for the pandemic, NAHC and other hospice stakeholders have reached out with priorities for the industry. Find their requests here.

 

Friday, April 10, 11:25 a.m.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced today that it is beginning distribution of $30 billion of $100 billion enacted as part of the CARES Act to compensate Medicare suppliers. Home health and HME suppliers are included in the disbursement, and providers should begin receiving payment as early as today. Find our coverage here.

 

Thursday, April 9, 10:05 p.m. 

Although personal protective equipment (PPE) has been in short supply, Manufactury, a California-based supplier and manufacturer, has reached out to share with HomeCare readers that they have plenty on hand to supply to home medical equipment and home health providers. 

The company is selling disposable masks and full-face shields, goggles, gowns, shoe covers and full body suits. You can see what they have on offer here; for more information or to purchase, contact Nick Blankenship at nblankenship@princelionheart.com or (805) 450-6970.

·

      Thursday, April 9, 9:03 p.m. 

The National Association for Homecare and Hospice is conducting a survey of Medicare Home Health Providers to determine how the pandemic has affected them. The data gathered will support NAHC's efforts to work with Congress on any further stimulus packages and also as it pushes CMS for additional relief. Click here to take the survey. 

 

Thursday, April 9, 5:35 p.m. 

CMS announced today it will remove non-invasive ventilators from Round 2021 of the Competitive Bidding Program. Read our coverage here

 

Thursday, April 9, 3:00 p.m.

Ventilators are running out across the nation, but many doctors are reporting that the life-saving devices may not be needed for COVID-19 patients, STAT reports. While patients with the virus are presenting with alarming low oxygen saturation rates, many remain alert and don't present other symptoms of hypoxia, according to the report. While evidence is slim, it's possible less invasive treatment may help these patients recover faster. 

Monday, April 6, 2:19 p.m.

An analysis from BMO Capital Markets found that occupancy at senior living homes could drop by half in the next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg reports. The bank expects occupancy to fall below 70% during the outbreak as tours are canceled, residents are isolated and worries about infection keep potential residents at home. 

A separate report from the National Investment Center found that about half of nursing home and senior care facilities who responded to a survey reported a slowing pace of move-ins in the last 30 days. 

 

Monday, April 6, 1:45 p.m.

The HOMES Annual Meeting and Golf Tournament scheduled for May 6-7, has been postponed. A new date has not been announced.

The New England Home Care and Hospice Conference, scheduled for May 13-15, has been cancelled. Organizers are looking to restructure the educational and networking opportunities for members.

Check the HomeCare upcoming events page regularly to keep up to date with the latest on events in the industry. Let us know about your event by emailing keasterling@cahabamedia.com.

 

Friday April, 3, 12:35 p.m.

Several major commercial payers shared policy updates with AAHomecare this week regarding policies and procedures amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. Humana has suspended signature-at-delivery for DME providers to support social distancing and Anthem is suspending select prior authorization requirements so providers can focus on caring for patients diagnosed with COVID-19, among other changes.

 

Thursday, April 2, 2:43 p.m. 

Home health agencies are saying that a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) -- especially masks -- is hitting them hard. BAYADA Home Health announced it has used up a year's worth of great over the course of a week--and launched a fund raising effort to gather donations. On its page, the nonprofit organization, which has some 30,000 caregivers in the field, says it needs 175,000 gowns, 100,000 surgical masks, 45,000 N95 masks, and more. 

The Colorado Springs Gazette is reporting that Colorado Care Workers Unite, a Denver-based group that advocates for home health workers, is calling attention to the PPE shortage and asking home health workers to be classified as essential to help them qualify for paid sick leave under state rules.
 

 

Thursday, April 2 2:05 p.m.

Two new training opportunities related to COVID-19 have been announced: 

  • The HME training company dmetrain is offering a free online training course for home medical equipment providers; the course is being regularly updated. Read more here
  • NextStep, a startup that trains and places workers into high-demand health care roles, announced the launch of an online certificate designed to improve the safety of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and caregivers working with COVID-19 patients. The program is a partnership with LeadingAge and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). Read more here

 

Monday, March 30, 4:25 p.m. 

The American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) figures that home medical equipment providers in non-rural and non-bid areas will see a reimbursement rate increase of about 30%, thanks to the COVID-19 legislative package passed last week. The package includes relief for suppliers serving Medicare beneficiaries in non-rural areas that are not subject to competitive bidding. Dating back to March 6, the reimbursement rate for items that have been receiving 100% of the competitive bidding adjusted fee schedule will now get a blended rate of 75% adjusted and 25% unadjusted rates (the 2015 fee schedule). 

AAHomecare has done a rate analysis on popular HCPCS codes. They anticipate that oxygen concentrator (E1390) will see a 36% increase, portable oxygen concentrator (E1392) will see a 10% increase, and gas portable oxygen system (E0431) will see a 21% increase. 

The legislation also removes the 2% sequester cuts from May 1-December 31, 2020. AAHomecare estimates that will bring roughly $137.8 million back to the industry. 

 

Monday, March 30, 11:30 a.m.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice issued guidance to members over the weekend advising that most providers would be exempt from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Recent Department of Labor guidance suggests health care providers are not "eligible employees" for the benefit.

 

Wednesday, March 25, 1:46 p.m.

Bill Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, just gave a quick update from Washington at the conclusion of a NAHC webinar on home health's response to COVID-19. Items he touched on that are pending or under consideration include: 

  • The latest Congressional stimulus package, which the Senate is expected to vote on this afternoon, includes allowances for non-physician practitioners, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to certify eligibility for home health;
  • There is an emergency rule, currently pending with the Office of Management and Budget, that would include some encouragement for home health Telehealth services and some more flexible definitions of "homebound" patients, although not a waiver of the homebound requirement; and
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is considering a number of pending measures, including a suspension of the Review Choice Demonstration and living the requirement for signed orders from physicians.  

Dombi also said NAHC is working on an emerging issue in which a number of nursing facilities and assisted living facilities (ALFs) are refusing to allow hospice or home health staff on the premises to provide care to residents. Dombi said there is guidance from CMS that skilled nursing facilities should allow hospice staff in to work with patients they have in their service, but some facilities are interpreting the "should" to mean it's at their discretion. CMS doesn't have jurisdictions over ALFs, but Dombi said NAHC is working with trade organizations to fix the issue. 

Dombi is doing regular videos to update members and others in the home health and Homecare community on the fast-changing situation. You can see the latest here

 

Wednesday, March 25, 12:00 p.m.

FAIR Health released a brief today estimating the total costs for COVID-19 patients may range from a low of $362 billion in charges and $139 billion in estimated in-network amounts to a high of $1.449 trillion in charges and $558 billion in estimated in-network amounts. The projections are derived from estimates issued by public health experts, that from 66 million to 198 million Americans may become infected with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and that from 4.9 million to 19.8 million of them may require inpatient stays. Find the full brief here.

Wednesday, March 25, 8:43 a.m. 

The Environments for Aging Expo & Conference, which was scheduled for April 25-28 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, has been cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions. "We look forward to you joining us at the next EFA Expo & Conference in 2021," organizers wrote in a news release.They published a list of frequently asked questions here

 

Wednesday, March 25, 8:03 a.m. 

The Senate and White House reached a deal early this morning on a coronavirus stimulus package worth about $2 trillion; the Senate is expected to vote mid-day today. The package includes aid for affected companies and workers and direct payments to individuals. It also offered aid to laid off workers and incentives to encourage closed companies to keep paying employees. It includes $350 billion for lending programs for small businesses that keep payrolls steady during the epidemic. 

 

Tuesday, March 24, 10:17 a.m. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced a series of relief measures when it comes to Medicare quality reporting to ease the strain of COVID-19 response, including for post-accuse providers. Read the full story here

 

Tuesday, March 24, 9:53 a.m. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced last night that it has given Section 1135 Medicaid waivers to an additional 11 states, bringing the total number to 13. The waivers allow the states to make changes to prior authorization and provider enrollment requirements and facilitate reimbursement for care delivered in alternative settings. The new list of states includes: Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia, on top of previously approved waivers for Florida and Washington state. 

 

Monday, March 23, 4:45 p.m. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) is alerting the public about fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), with perpetrators targeting beneficiaries through telemarketing calls, social media and in-person visits. Read more here

 

Friday, March 20, 2:45 p.m.

The American Association for Homecare and VGM is assessing the HME industry's quantities of patient-ready ventilators. If you supply ventilators or home oxygen, take the survey here. Please only one response per company.

 

Thursday, March 19, 3:30 p.m.

Prochant, an HME billing and process outsource company, is also tracking the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their website. Follow the live thread at this link for updates from payers, CMS and more. 

 

Wednesday, March 18, 12:57 p.m. 

We're getting word of several upcoming events in the industry cancelling, postponing or moving online. Here's the latest. (If you'd like to share changes to your event, please email us.) Please visit our Industry Calendar to check the status of your event.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Leadership and Advocacy Conference, scheduled for March 23-27 has been cancelled. Leadership is taking Advocacy Day online.

Aging in America, scheduled for March 24-27 in Atlanta, is cancelled. Conference organizers are exploring virtual options.

The National Home Infusion Association Annual Meeting, scheduled for April 5-9 in Denver, Colorado, has been cancelled. Organizers are looking to move the conference sessions online.

The LeadingAge Leadership Summit, set for April 20-22 in Washington, D.C., has been postponed to August 10-12. 

The Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services and Supplies (MAMES) Spring Excellence in HME Conference, scheduled for April 28-30 in Des Moines, Iowa, has been cancelled. Much of the content will be moved forward to the fall show Oct. 7-9 and registration fees may be refunded or moved to the fall event. 

The ATA 2020 Annual Conference and Expo, set for May 3-5 in Phoenix, Arizona, is moving online with a target date of early summer. ATA is also offering COVID-19 webinars addressing telehealth matters. 

AAHomecare's Washington Legislative Conference, scheduled for May 20-21 in Arlington, Virginia, has been cancelled. The association is looking for additional opportunities for advocacy throughout the year.

 

Tuesday, March 17, 1:17 p.m. 

Wondering what happened with Congress' COVID-19-related stimulus package? The House, after revisions that scaled back the paid-leave program in the bill, passed it Monday evening, sending it to the Senate. The new measure would still provide two weeks of sick leave to some workers affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The Wall Street Journal reports that some senators have questioned the bill; the Trump administration is pushing for aid to small and mid-sized businesses; and Politico reports that senators are already working on a new, separate version of the bill. 

 

Tuesday, March 17, 12:54 p.m. 

To keep vulnerable seniors at home and lighten the load on clinicians an health care facilities, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that it will expand Medicare's telehealth coverage to allow beneficiaries to receive a wider range of services without having to travel to a health care facility in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Dating back to March 6, 2020, Medicare will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country. You can read the full coverage here

 

Monday, March 16, 11:37 a.m.

Some agencies may be experiencing an increase of denial of service due to the coronavirus outbreak, Synzi CEO Lee Horner tells HomeCare--either nurses refusing to take home visits or patients not allowing caregivers to enter because they want to self-isolate. Remote check-ins might be one solution. Read our Q&A with Horner to learn more. 

Friday, March 13, 4:46 p.m.

Pres. Trump on Friday declared a national emergency on Friday, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to access billions of dollars and giving the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) license to waive regulations and laws about hospital operations and other health care matters. Trump said he would give HHS head Alex Azar "broad new authority." 

In a statement posted on the HHS website in response, Azar said that the declaration "gives HHS important powers to enhance state and local communities’ ability to respond to the outbreak, including flexibility around Medicare and Medicaid rules. The entire Trump administration, including our leaders at HHS, is identifying every flexibility we can offer and any obstacle we can eliminate to help those on the frontlines protect Americans from this outbreak.”

 

Friday, March 13, 3:02 p.m.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) has issued a FAQ sheet about what constitutes covered essential health benefits (EHBs) when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak. Read the details here

 

Friday, March 13, 1:12 p.m.

The Compliance Team, Inc., a nationally recognized health care accreditation organization, is holding a webinar next week to help DME and other health care providers understand reporting requirements and guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Founder and CEO Sandra Canally, RN should be available for questions during the webinar. You can register here. 

Meanwhile, The Compliance Team recommends reviewing your infection control and emergency preparedness policies to ensure you are following them to protect staff and patients. The company is prioritizing all surveys to make sure providers have the ability to provide continuity of care. 

 

Friday, March 13, 11:53 a.m.

In a memorandum to be released in the Federal Register on Monday, March 16, President Trump has ordered that the Department of Health and Human Services "shall take all appropriate and necessary steps" to make sure respirators are available for health care personnel. 

"Unfortunately, at present, public health experts anticipate shortages in the supply of personal respiratory devices (respirators) available for use by healthcare workers in mitigating further transmission of COVID-19," reads the memo, which is dated March 11. 

It also requires the Department of Labor to consider steps to increase the availability of respirators. 

Read the memo here

 

Friday, March 13, 9:44 a.m.

Politico reports that the Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill expect to hash out a virus-related aid package today. The two sides are in disagreement over sick leave provisions. Two proposals are out there. One, which HomeCare previously reported, would require employers to offer 14 days of paid leave during a public health emergency and would include a refundable tax credit for employers with 500 employees or less. Home health agencies have already said it would create an undue burden for their businesses. The other is a proposed temporary federal sick leave program that would give workers who have become ill with COVID-19 or are caring for family members with the disease would receive some part of their wages for up to three months. 

 

Friday, March 13, 9:04 a.m.

The National Home Infusion Association (NHIA) has cancelled its 2020 Annual Conference at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Denver, Colorado, scheduled for April 5-9, 2020.

NHIA has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. and understands the important role association members play in providing healthcare products and services to high-risk populations that are vulnerable to the virus.

The decision was made out of concern for the safety of attendees and in response to public health advisories to limit travel and large gatherings where increased exposure to the virus is likely to occur.

“Each year, NHIA has been proud and excited to gather with the home and specialty infusion community at our annual conference, offering an unparalleled opportunity to network and learn about the latest industry practices, products, and services,” said NHIA President & CEO Connie Sullivan, BSPharm, in a press release. “I want to thank everyone that has been working tirelessly to ensure a fantastic conference.”

NHIA will continue to monitor the virus and assess options for providing virtual content or holding the conference later in 2020.

 

Thursday, March 12, 4:08 p.m.

A list of recommendations to Congress for what to include in coronavirus-related legislation supported by more than 20 health care experts includes several suggestions that involve home health, including funding home health providers to provide nutritional services to quarantined vulnerable populations.

The letter, published on the Health Affairs Blog on Thursday, is titled “Health Care Priorities For A COVID-19 Stimulus Bill: Recommendations To The Administration, Congress, And Other Federal, State And Local Leaders From Public Health, Medical, Policy And Legal Experts." Signatories include representatives from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Yale Medical School and Yale University, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, the Brookings Institution, the Aspen Institute, the Commonwealth Fund and others. It was open for additional signatures; you can sign it here.

Much of the letter focuses on public health infrastructure, hospital care and the development of treatments and vaccines. But several points are of interest to those in homecare:

1. Under the heading "low-income families," they recommend a $1 billion increase in the Social Services Block Grant to help, among other things, "Prevent or reduce inappropriate institutional care by providing for community-based care, home-based care, or other forms of less intensive care."

2. Under the heading "Implement Specific Protections for Especially Vulnerable Groups," it says "Access to food is a critical part of health for vulnerable populations under quarantine; consider funding existing visiting nurses or home health providers to provide nutritional services to quarantined vulnerable populations."

3. Under the heading "Institute Protections for Health Care Workers of All Professions On the Frontlines of the Epidemic," it discusses options to make sure all health care workers have adequate safety equipment; encourages setting up a fund to protect health care workers, including nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and others, from financial harm; and also discusses providing child and elder care tax breaks for health care workers called on to work extra hours.