WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 26, 2020)—The Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package yesterday with provisions designed to help stabilize the economy and provide direct aid to most individuals and families.

The bill also contains measures related to Medicare HME policy, including:

  • Extending the 50/50 blended rate for HME in rural and non-contiguous, non-competitively bid areas and establishing a new 75/25 blended rate for all other non-competitively bid areas through the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency. The 75/25 blended rate provision is retroactive to March 6, 2020. While the duration of the current emergency is impossible to predict, Capitol Hill contacts have noted to us that the Zika virus public health emergency (PHE) lasted 360 days, while the PHE related to the H1N1 flu outbreak lasted 450 days.
  • Temporary elimination of 2% Medicare sequester reduction that went into effect in 2013. This relief will be effective for May 1-Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Elimination of the 3-year established patient relationship requirement from the telehealth provisions in earlier COVID-19 relief legislation.

“These measures provide welcome support for the HME community as we serve patients impacted by COVID-19 and work to reduce the extraordinary burdens this outbreak is putting on hospitals and health care professionals nationwide,” said Tom Ryan, AAHomecare president and CEO, in a press release. “This legislation is a great step forward, but there are still numerous policy changes we’re seeking that will protect patients and HME professionals alike while also allowing our industry to make the strongest possible contribution to overcoming this pandemic.

“Our policy recommendations include providing coverage for short-term oxygen for beneficiaries with acute conditions to ease hospital overflow issues, allowing the Standard Written Order and test results confirming diagnosis of COVID-19 to meet documentation requirements for all DMEPOS products and services, and including suppliers providing services to COVID-19 patients in their homes among priority groups for personal protective equipment,” continued Ryan. “AAHomecare is working closely with other stakeholders in our industry to engage with CMS, state health officials and Medicaid authorities, and major third-party payers on these issues.”

“I would like to commend Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and members of the Senate Finance Committee for their leadership in shaping this comprehensive legislation that will allow our healthcare infrastructure to better respond to the challenges ahead,” added Ryan. “The HME community is ready to play our part in getting our nation through this emergency as safe and strong as possible.”

After Senate passage, expected this evening, the legislation will move to the House of Representatives and could be considered as early as Thursday.