Hospitals & Health Systems

On April 13, 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) began accepting applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program (“Telehealth Program”), money which is part of the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“Cares Act”).  The Telehealth Program will provide $200 million in funding to assist eligible health care providers deliver telehealth services to patients in their homes or other mobile locations to combat novel Coronavirus 2019 (“COVID-19”).  The funding is available for eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by compensating providers for their telecommunication services, information services, and devices necessary for them to provide critical telehealth services.
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Nonprofit leaders have encountered numerous challenges over a few short weeks. How can we pursue our mission when our office is closed? Can we continue to make payroll? How do we recover after cancelling major fundraisers?

Husch Blackwell’s COVID-19 Response Team has compiled numerous resources to help nonprofit leaders adapt to new legislation, including the Families Forward Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). You can find these resources here, with an article specifically directed to nonprofit leaders here.
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Today, the Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, issued an Executive Order that significantly loosens his previous restrictions on the performance of elective surgeries by modifying prior language and adding an additional exception to the prohibition.  Specifically, the new Order states that, effective April 21, 2020 and continuing until 11:59 pm on May 8, 2020.

All licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities shall postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without timely performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician; provided, however, that this prohibition shall not apply to either of the following:
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As many of you are aware, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) along with many states have waived licensing and other requirements to allow healthcare providers to use non-hospital space to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, conduct testing and perform other clinical operations.  Healthcare providers across the country are exploring options to increase

hospital buildingOn April 3, 2020 the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) released DQA Memo 20-001, which establishes the process for hospitals and critical access hospitals (collectively, “hospitals”) to temporarily expand acute care inpatient services in order to maintain the health and safety of hospital patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This guidance is provided in conjunction with the blanket waivers recently issued under § 1135 of the Social Security Act by the Center for Medicare and Medicare (CMS). The CMS blanket waivers relieved certain regulatory burdens imposed on healthcare providers, such as the ability to expand inpatient beds to enable healthcare providers to focus on providing care during the current public health emergency.

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Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) held a Special Open Door Forum that was open to the public on April 8, 2020. CMS has been working to address the COVID-19 pandemic through 1) increasing hospital capacity, 2) rapid expansion of the healthcare workforce, 3) relaxing health care administrative requirements, and promoting the use of telehealth, which this call was focused on. The call provided an opportunity for health care providers to ask specific questions and express concerns about telehealth and Medicare reimbursement.
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Updated Thursday, April 2, 2020

CMS 1135 waivers allow the U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services Secretary to temporarily waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Policy (CHIP), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements to ensure that sufficient health care items and services are available to meet needs during a declared public health emergency.  Individual health care providers and associations may trigger additional waivers through feedback and requests to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response or CMS Regional Offices.
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Updated Thursday, April 2, 2020

CMS 1135 waivers allow the U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services Secretary to temporarily waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Policy (CHIP), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements to ensure that sufficient health care items and services are available to meet needs during a declared public health emergency.  Individual health care providers and associations may trigger additional waivers through feedback and requests to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response or CMS Regional Offices.
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On March 24, 2020, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) prepared correspondence to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) seeking waivers of certain Medicaid requirements pursuant to Section 1135 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 1320b-5) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The correspondence to CMS was shared on March 24, 2020 with the Wisconsin Legislature Joint Committee on Finance seeking their approval to submit the Section 1135 Waiver to CMS. The letter to CMS prepared by DHS states that Wisconsin is implementing all the blanket waivers issued by CMS on March 13, 2020 in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), to the extent applicable.
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Hallway in a hospitalOn Friday, 3/13/20, CMS issued blanket 1135 waivers that impact acute care hospitals as a result of President Trump’s declaration of a state of an emergency due to COVID-19. The blanket waivers temporarily allow acute care hospitals to relocate acute care inpatients to their excluded distinct part units (DPUs), and patients from the DPUs to the acute care hospital to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. In addition, to these CMS blanket waivers, on 3/13/20, the Texas Hospital Association (THA) requested additional waivers from CMS and the Texas Health and Humans Services Commission (HHSC) from other federal and state requirements. EMTALA has also issued guidance on setting up alternative screening sites to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. Further, HHSC has issued guidance on what visitors are allowed in the hospital.
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