Archive for September, 2020


Coronavirus Update for Tuesday, September 29

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 2:30 p.m. on Monday, September 29.

Provider Relief Fund

HHS has revised its Provider Relief Fund FAQ with updated information about the tax identification number (TIN) validation process for phase 2 general distribution payments. The update consists of six changes, all marked “modified 9/28/2020,” on pages 30 and 31 of that document.


Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS announced that it will distribute 150 million units of a rapid point-of-care COVID-19 diagnostic test to states with the expectation that they will be used to facilitate the reopening of schools, critical infrastructure, and businesses and to support first responders.
  • HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, has posted the presentation “COVID-19: Optimizing Healthcare Personal Protective Equipment and Supplies,” which was the centerpiece of a recent webinar.  Go here to see the presentation and find information about how to view the recorded webinar.


Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Public Charge Rule Takes Effect

The “public charge rule” that the administration introduced in 2019, only to have it challenged in the courts, is now being enforced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after a federal court lifted an injunction on its implementation.

The rule authorizes USCIS to deny a green card to any immigrant who receives certain public benefits – such as food stamps, public housing vouchers, welfare, or Medicaid – for more than 12 months within any three-year period.  The expressed purpose of the rule is to deny green cards to individuals who may become dependent on publicly funded services – a so-called “public charge.”

Health care providers have expressed concern that some people who are not subject to public charge review will mistakenly believe they are, avoid enrolling in Medicaid if they qualify – or even withdraw from the program – and turn instead to providers in search of free care when they are sick or injured.

Learn more about the USCIS’s intentions for implementing the public charge rule here and learn more about the latest developments on this issue in the article “Trump administration reimposes ‘public charge’ rule following court victory” in the online publication The Hill.…

Expand Use of Telehealth, Group Recommends

The federal government should encourage greater use of telehealth, a task force has recommended.

Among the changes recommended by the task force, it called on the federal government to make permanent some of the temporary extensions of the use of telehealth authorized for Medicare in response to COVID-19, including:

  • Lifting geographic restrictions and limitations on originating sites.
  • Allowing telehealth for various types of clinicians and conditions.
  • Acknowledging, as many states now do, that telehealth visits can meet requirements for establishing a clinician/patient relationship if the encounter meets appropriate care standards or unless careful analysis demonstrates that, in specific situations, a previous in-person relationship is necessary.
  • Eliminating unnecessary restrictions on telehealth across state lines.

In making these recommendations the task force noted that increased use of telehealth has not driven an increase in health care utilization or costs, as many feared; it has led to a decline in the frequency with which patients miss scheduled appointments; and it can prevent delays in patients seeking care and reduce exposure to pathogens.

The Taskforce on Telehealth Policy is a collaboration between the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Alliance for Connected Care, and the American Telemedicine Association.

Learn more about the task force’s work, including its …

Coronavirus Update for Wednesday, September 23

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the federal government as 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 23.

Continuing Resolution to Fund the Federal Government

The House has passed, and the Senate is expected to take up and pass as soon as this week, a continuing resolution to fund the federal government from the beginning of the new fiscal year, on October 1, through December 11; the president is expected to sign the measure.  Key health care provisions in this continuing resolution include:

  • Changes in the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program that extend the period before repayment begins and the period before the balance must be repaid in full; reduce the recoupment percentage; and lower the interest rates for this and comparable programs.
  • A delay in the Affordable Care Act-mandated reduction of Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments to the states through December 11.
  • Extended funding for Community Health Centers, the National Health Services Corps, and the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program through December 11.
  • Extended funding for the Special Diabetes Program through December 11.
  • Extended authorization for the certified community behavioral health clinics demonstration program through December 11.
  • Clarification that drugs and biologicals used for medication-assisted

Private Insurer Payments Far Exceed Medicare Payments, Study Finds

“…employers and private insurers … paid 247 percent of what Medicare would have paid for the same services at the same facilities,” according to a new study by the Rand Corporation, which also notes that “This difference increased from 224 percent of Medicare in 2016 and 230 percent in 2017.”

The study also found that:

  • From 2016 to 2018, the overall relative price for hospitals (including inpatient and outpatient care) increased from 224 to 247 percent, a compounded annual rate of increase of 5.1 percent.
  • Some states (Arkansas, Michigan, Rhode Island) had relative prices under 200 percent of Medicare; others (Florida, West Virginia, South Carolina) had relative prices that approached 350 percent of Medicare.
  • High-value hospitals — those offering low prices and high safety — do exist. In at least some parts of the country, employers have options for high-value facilities that offer high quality at lower prices. However, there is no clear link between hospital price and quality or safety.


Learn more from the Rand Corporation study “Nationwide Evaluation of Health Care Prices Paid by Private Health Plans.”…