(March 13 – 19, 2020)

* * * *

Governmental Agencies Issue Waivers and Guidance in Response to COVID-19 Declaration

* * * *
Earlier this week, the White House declared a national emergency regarding COVID-19. In response to this declaration, governmental agencies issued the following waivers, guidance, and statements:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued nationwide blanket waivers under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act, waiving and modifying health care laws, rules and regulations affected by COVID-19. Among other waivers, HHS waived certain conditions of participation, certification requirements, program participation requirements for health care providers, licensure requirements, and sanctions under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. In connection with HHS’s 1135 waiver, CMS issued blanket waivers of certain laws, rules and regulations for Skilled Nursing Facilities, Critical Access Hospitals, Acute Care Hospitals, and Home Health Agencies. These waivers became effective on March 15, 2020 for services provided on or after March 1, 2020. For more information, click here or here.
  • CMS expanded telehealth coverage for Medicare beneficiaries and will make payments for telehealth visits that are furnished to beneficiaries in their homes. Providers may now offer services via telehealth to beneficiaries regardless of where the patient is located by connecting with their patients through applications that allow for real-time audio and video communication, such as Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, and Skype. In conjunction with CMS’s action, HHS waived sanctions and penalties for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) violations against health care providers who use everyday communication applications to connect with patients. For more information on telehealth coverage, click here or here.
  • HHS issued a limited waiver of sanctions and penalties for certain provisions under HIPAA. The waiver became effective on March 15, 2020. The official bulletin detailing this action may be found here.
  • The Office of Inspector General issued a policy statement notifying physicians and other practitioners that they will not be sanctioned or penalized for reducing or waiving cost-sharing obligations that Federal health care program beneficiaries may owe for telehealth services. For the full report, click here.
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) will now permit DEA-registered practitioners to issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients for whom they have not conducted an in-person medical examination, as required under the Controlled Substance Act, so long as the practitioners meet certain conditions. This exception will continue for as long as the HHS Secretary’s designation of a public health emergency remains in effect. To access DEA guidance regarding this exception, click here.
  • CMS released guidance to providers to limit all non-essential adult elective surgery and medical and surgical procedures, including dental procedures. The recommendation may be implemented immediately in an effort to manage vital health care resources. More information regarding this guidance may be found here.

Transcript of COVID-19 Calls

CMS Fact Sheets on Corona Virus Coverage

CMS recently published fact sheets on new HCPCS codes for coronavirus tests and clarified coverage for coronavirus hospitalizations.