Trump Administration: Hospitals and Doctors Receiving Stimulus Funding Cannot Send Patients Surprise Bills
On April 9, the Trump administration announced that hospitals receiving money from the $2 trillion stimulus bill will have to agree not to send “surprise” medical bills to patients treated for COVID-19. The stimulus bill includes $100 billion for the health care system, and release of the first $30 billion, aimed at hospitals, is expected soon. Hospitals that accept the grants will have to certify that they will not try to collect more money than the patient would have otherwise owed if the medical attention had been provided in network. Find more details from the McGuireWoods team here.

FDA Grants Emergency Use to Blood Cleaning Device for Coronavirus
On April 10, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for a blood purification system intended for coronavirus patients whose immune systems overreact to the virus. The system has components made by Terumo BCT and Marker Therapeutics and is intended for adults admitted to intensive care who are experiencing or have impending respiratory failure.

HHS, FEMA Ask States to Take Control of Drive-Through Testing Sites
On April 9, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a memo wanting states to consider taking control of drive-through coronavirus testing sites, currently run by HHS and FEMA, that have tested more than 77,000 people to date. HHS officials reiterated that the federal government will continue to operate the sites if governors request such assistance, and said that HHS would not hold states to the deadline listed in the memo from last week. Find the memo here.

HHS Waives HIPAA Penalties at Community-Based Testing Sites
On April 9, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights loosened its enforcement of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules, announcing it will not impose penalties on covered entities or business associates that exercise good faith at COVID-19 testing sites, during the pandemic. The enforcement discretion is effective immediately and is retroactively applied to March 13, 2020. The announcement is meant to allow certain covered providers, including large pharmacy chains, and their business associates to participate in community based-testing sites. Find more details here.

HHS: Guidance for Licensed Pharmacists, COVID-19 Testing, and Immunity under the PREP Act
On April 8, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released guidance that states pharmacists will qualify as “covered persons” under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, and they may receive immunity with respect to claims for loss caused by, arising out of, relating to or resulting from the administration or use of FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests. The guidance does not change reimbursement policy regarding whether a licensed pharmacist can get reimbursed from a government or private payer for ordering or administering an FDA-authorized test. Find the final guidance here.

CMS: Open Payments Dispute Timeframe Will Not Change Due to COVID-19
On April 8, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, statutory requirement for Open Payments data publication and resource constraints limit CMS’s ability to deviate from the established schedule. Therefore, the covered recipient pre-publication review and dispute period will remain April 1-May 15, 2020.

CMS: No Changes to Interest on Accelerated Medicare Pay
On April 7, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) responded to hospitals’ asking CMS to waive or lower the interest on advanced payments that providers request under the Medicare accelerated pay program. CMS announced that it does not have the authority to waive or change the interest rate on Medicare debts, including those repayments. The response also added that hospitals would have a year before the 10.25 percent interest rate kicks in.

FCC Approves Plan for $200 Million COVID-19 Telehealth Program
On April 3, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a plan to use $200 million allocated by Congress for a grant program for hospitals and health system providers aiming to use telehealth in their COVID-19 response. The FCC will begin reviewing applications today, April 13. The $200 million comes from the third coronavirus stimulus package signed into law on March 27. Providers would be able to use a streamlined application to apply for funding to fully cover their telehealth needs, from broadband connectivity to devices. Eligible providers may be in postsecondary education programs, including teaching hospitals, community health centers, local health departments or agencies, community mental health clinics, nonprofit hospitals, rural health clinics and skilled nursing facilities. Providers that are selected would not be responsible for the costs of their telehealth projects, officials said, and would be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted or the pandemic ends. Keep updated on the FCC response to telehealth and COVID-19 here.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.