COVID-19 Resources for Providers and Health Plans

Published: March 12, 2020; Last Updated: May 11, 2020

New Century Health is closely monitoring the outbreak and spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization and a national emergency under the Stafford Act, the virus may pose a more serious risk to individuals with underlying illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. This Resource Center was created to support your efforts to protect the health of the public, patients, physicians and other staff members with resources from federal agencies, as well as professional societies in our partners’ fields of oncology and cardiology.

We encourage you to frequently check these resources to ensure you have the most up-to-date guidance. You should also be aware of announcements, legal requirements and guidance issued by your state and locality, as they may vary.

Review the latest information on:


Resources for High-Risk Populations

Oncology

Medical and Nursing Societies

Other Oncology Resources

  • The National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s COVID-19 site includes guidelines for treatment by cancer site, as well as coronavirus-related resources from its member institutions, such as screening tools and patient education materials.
  • The Community Oncology Alliance has launched a COVID-19 email list serv for all health care professionals to help prevent and treat the disease. The Alliance has also compiled clinician and administrator tools, patient-facing materials and other resources.
  • The Advisory Board rounded up the tactics that several cancer facilities are using to protect their patients from the virus.
  • ASCO and ONS have teamed up to deliver a weekly webinar series, Caring for People with Cancer During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The webinars are held on Thursdays at 4 p.m. EDT.
  • Cancer.net, ASCO's patient information site, has published an overview of what people with cancer need to know about COVID-19.
  • Experts from two cancer centers in hard-hit Seattle share lessons from their experiences treating patients with cancer during the COVID-19 outbreak in a free online article in Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
  • Meanwhile, The Lancet Oncology has published findings from China that COVID-19 patients with cancer had higher rates of severe events, including death (39%), than those without cancer (8%). The article is also open access.

Cardiology

  • The American College of Cardiology (ACC) developed its COVID-19 Hub to educate the cardiovascular care teams who will be on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. Guidelines on the site cover topics including definitions of essential and non-essential procedures, underuse of the emergency department by stroke and heart attack patients, cardiovascular complications in COVID-19 patients, and hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin toxicity. Other ACC resources on the hub include webinars on managing patients with the disease and recent research from areas hard-hit by COVID-19. In mid-April, the ACC’s CardioSmart patient initiative issued guidance to patients on when and how to seek help for symptoms of stroke and heart attack.
  • The president of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention recommended against elective cardiac procedures during the pandemic, and also issued recommendations for managing myocardial infarction (heart attack) in patients with confirmed or possible COVID-19. The ACC has also published a list of tests and procedures that have the potential to be deferred.
  • In a joint statement, the ACC, American Heart Association (AHA) and Heart Failure Society of America have advised physicians “not to add or remove any RAAS-related treatments, beyond actions based on standard clinical practice,” when patients with cardiovascular conditions are diagnosed with COVID-19. Despite some speculation that these drugs may increase risk for the disease because they use the same pathway, the organizations say the data has yet to support harmful or beneficial effects.
  • Cardiologists from China and the United Kingdom summarize the acute and long-term complications of coronaviruses in the European Heart Journal. For key points from the article, read the ACC’s synopsis
  • For patient-friendly educational content, visit the AHA's Coronavirus Resources page or the ACC's CardioSmart site.  

COVID-19 Clinical and Technical Guidance

Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC)

The CDC has developed a virtual Situation Room for regular updates on this global situation. Specific resources for health care professionals include:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Non-Emergent, Elective Medical Services And Treatment Recommendations

On April 19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its recommendations on non-essential surgeries and other procedures, including new guidance for restarting postponed care in some geographic areas.

CMS Partner Toolkit

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued specific guidance on COVID-19 screening, treatment and transfer procedures; limits on nursing home visitation, delaying elective procedures and re-opening facilities. These and other CMS resources are located in this CMS Partner Toolkit


Coding, Coverage and Reimbursement

CMS Details Support For Clinicians

CMS has posted a letter to clinicians that outlines actions it has taken to ensure they have maximum flexibility to reduce unnecessary barriers to providing patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The summary includes information about telehealth and virtual visits, accelerated and advanced payments, and recent waiver information.

Coding and Reimbursement Resources

On March 5 and February 13, 2020, CMS announced new Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes for health care providers and laboratories to test patients for COVID-19. These codes are in effect as of April 1, 2020, for services occurring after February 4, 2020. Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) have published payment rates for these codes here. Information on increased CMS payment for high-production coronavirus lab tests is available here.

As of April 1, 2020, new ICD-10 coding guidance related to COVID-19 is also in effect. See the CDC ICD-10 webpage for these updates.

CMS announced it will pay for covered telehealth services at the same rates as in-person services occurring March 1, 2020 through the end of the national public health emergency. For more information, see the “Site of Service Differential for Medicare Telehealth Services” section on pages 13-15 of CMS’s March interim final rule [CMS-1744-IFC]. Furthermore, CMS has expanded the list of services that can be provided using audio-only telephone communication, with higher payment rates for some services. See the “Payment for Audio-Only Telephone Evaluation and Management Services” section on pages 137-141 of CMS’s April interim final rule [CMS-5531-IFC] and the full list of telehealth codes (last updated on April 30, 2020) here.

CMS has released a comprehensive, 53-page FAQ document on Medicare fee-for-service billing related to COVID-19.

Plan Design Flexibility

On April 30, 2020, CMS issued an updated fact sheet for Medicare Advantage organizations and Part D plan sponsors on COVID-19 requirements and flexibilities, including paperwork reductions, changes to Star ratings methodologies and appeals processes.

Other Coverage Resources

CMS has published information about what is covered during this public health emergency, including diagnostic laboratory tests, immunizations and vaccines, telemedicine and drugs. See the coverage-related resources for:

In addition, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has established a web page to help the public and insurance professionals understand private health insurance coverage issues related to COVID-19. 


Additional Important Policy Updates

New Flexibilities Under Federal Health Programs

The national public health emergency declarations made by the President and HHS Secretary allow federal agencies to waive or modify certain federal requirements to address the emergency. CMS has announced several such waivers, some of which are also supported by provisions in recently enacted stimulus bills.

These include:

Medicare Shared Savings Program Flexibilities

In two recent interim final regulations with comment period (IFC) published by CMS – March interim final rule [CMS-1744-IFC] and April interim final rule [CMS-5531-IFC] – the Agency has laid out several policies intended to address potential pandemic-related impacts for accountable care organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). While the regulations do have a 60-day public comment period, they are in effect now and retroactively dating back to January or March of this year as specified in the regulations. In the IFCs, CMS is:

  • Clarifying that the MSSP “Extreme & Uncontrollable Circumstances” policy removes downside risk for each month of Public Health Emergency as declared by the HHS Secretary dating back to January 2020.
  • Carving out COVID-19 “episodes of care” – costs of inpatient services through one month of outpatient services following hospital discharge for patients with COVID-19 – from participating ACOs’ performance year expenditures, benchmark updates, and revenue calculations for the loss sharing limit (two-sided risk BASIC Track ACOs).
  • Closing this year’s MSSP application cycle to new entrants for the 2021 performance year and allowing ACOs with agreements ending this year to either renew into a new five-year agreement or extend their current agreement for a fourth year under their existing historical benchmark.
  • Allowing BASIC Track ACOs to remain in their current track for 2021 and then move up to the level they would have been at in 2022.
  • Temporarily redefining “primary care services” used for beneficiary alignment to the ACO to include services provided virtually through telehealth, virtual check-ins, e-visits or telephone. As described on our “Coding, Coverage and Reimbursement Resources” webpage, CMS also expanded the services that can be provided using audio-only telephone communication and has increased the reimbursement rates for some of these services. See the “Payment for Audio-Only Telephone Evaluation and Management Services” section on pages 137-141 of CMS’s April interim final rule [CMS-5531-IFC] and the full list of telehealth codes (last updated on April 30, 2020) here.

Read this April 29 fact sheet for more details.

Stay up-to-date on all the new waivers, flexibilities and other COVID-19 related policy changes by frequently visiting the CMS Current Emergencies and Partner Toolkit web pages. (Note: You may need to refresh your browser to display new content.)

HIPAA

For information about the HIPAA waivers around providing telehealth see HHS’ notification of enforcement discretion and FAQs.

Federal Funding

President Trump’s March 13, 2020 national emergency declaration authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use its disaster relief funds (~$40 billion) to aid in the response.

In addition, the federal government has enacted three major relief bills in response to the pandemic:

Phase 1: Coronavirus Preparedness & Response Supplemental Appropriations Act: $8.3 billion in emergency funds, including to the CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support public health efforts and vaccine research and development.

Phase 2: Families First Coronavirus Response Act

  • 6.2% increase in federal match for Medicaid coronavirus spending and a state option to receive a 100% federal match for COVID-19 testing services for uninsured individuals through their Medicaid programs.
  • Requiring insurers in federal programs (Medicare, TRICARE, VA, Indian Health Service) to cover tests and related services without cost-sharing or prior authorization requirements.
  • $1 billion to reimburse costs associated with testing uninsured individuals.
  • Other provisions include paid sick leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, expanded nutrition assistance, and enhanced health care workforce safety standards.

Phase 3: $2 Trillion CARES Act

  • $349 billion for small business “Paycheck Protection Program” loans of up to $10 million to support payroll, mortgage, rent and utility payments—forgivable if certain conditions are met.
  • $454 billion for the U.S. Treasury Department to make loans, loan guarantees and other investments in Federal Reserve programs and facilities to support eligible businesses, States and municipalities; e.g., the Main Street Lending Program offers 4-year loans to companies in good financial standing before the crisis that employ up to 10,000 workers or have revenues of less than $2.5 billion. Also, see the Treasury Department’s provisions on payroll tax deferral and the employee retention credit here.
  • 2% Medicare reimbursement bump from May through December
  • 20% Medicare add-on payment for COVID-19 hospital inpatient DRGs
  • $100 billion emergency fund to reimburse providers for expenses or lost revenues due to coronavirus
  • $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile
  • $1 billion for purchases under the Defense Production Act

Under the national Public Health Emergency, CMS also expanded its Accelerated and Advanced Payment Program. This expansion allowed health care providers to receive up to three months’ pre-payment of historical Medicare fee-for-service billings (or six months for hospital providers) with recoupment to begin after 120 days. CMS announced on April 26 that it has already paid $100 billion to about 45,000 applicants, and that the application period is now closed. See a CMS fact sheet for details.

For more on the CARES Act, see this section-by-section summary and supplemental appropriations bill, as well as the final bill text.

Phase “3.5”: CARES Act Replenishment

Congress and the President reached a $484 billion interim deal, signed into law on April 24, to replenish CARES Act funds. Among the new funds provided:

  • $321 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program PPP loans
  • $50 billion for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) Program, $10B for EIDL grants, and $2B for SBA administrative/staffing costs to implement.
  • $100 billion for HHS, including $75 billion to the Provider Relief Fund to cover increased expenses and lost revenue and $25 billion for coronavirus testing. Of this $25 billion, $11 billion was intended for states, localities, territories, and tribes to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, scale-up laboratory capacity, trace contacts, and support employer testing. Funds are also made available to employers for testing.
  • The legislation also provided $1 billion more for the CDC, $1.8 billion for the NIH, $22 million for the FDA, $825M for community health centers and rural health clinics and up to $1 billion to cover testing costs for the uninsured.

Congressional leaders are currently debating phase 4 stimulus and recovery legislation.

Resources For States

CMS has produced several checklists, fact sheets and other tools aimed at making it easier for states to receive federal waivers and implement existing flexibilities in their Medicaid and CHIP programs. These could be used for a range of activities, including temporarily expanding certain services and coverage, easing certain requirements for providers or patients, or increasing provider reimbursement, among other temporary changes.

These resources include a State Medicaid and CHIP Telehealth Toolkit and a Fact Sheet on Medicaid Telehealth Flexibilities (pursuant to state laws) with example State Plan Amendment language. 

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