In this episode, your Hospice Team shares insights on operationalizing recent government guidance for hospices facing coronavirus obstacles. We discuss the role of virtual visits, how to use telehealth, and the practical impact of the Medicare appeal waiver. Listen to the full episode here:

On March 22, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) temporarily lifted the requirements for hospices to submit Hospice Item Set (“HIS”) data and hospice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (“CAHPS”) survey data.  Prior to CMS’s action, failure to comply with these data reporting requirements of the Hospice Quality Reporting Program (“HQRP”), absent an exception, resulted in a 2 percent reduction to a hospice’s annual Medicare payment update. Continue Reading COVID-19 Hospice How-To Series: Taking Advantage of the Temporary Quality Reporting Data Submission Relief

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. Continue Reading Update for Acute Care Hospitals on CMS Waivers and HHSC Guidance for COVID-19

In a March 24th letter to all of the nation’s Governors, Secretary Alex Azar of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) called upon states to take immediate action to loosen regulations that present obstacles to the delivery of effective in person and telehealth services during the COVID-19 emergency. In an effort to “carry out a whole-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Secretary Azar asked governors to urgently take steps to “extend the capacity of the health care workforce.” Continue Reading HHS Urges States to Remove Most of Remaining State Licensing Barriers During COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 17, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance related to how Covered Entities can comply with HIPAA and the Privacy Rule and still disclose protected health information (PHI) about individuals infected with or exposed to COVID-19 to law enforcement, paramedics, other first responders, and public health authorities (Essential Providers). Continue Reading OCR Issues Guidance Related to Disclosures to Law Enforcement, Paramedics, Other First Responders and Public Health Authorities for COVID-19 Related Purposes

Representatives of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are reaching out to speak with hundreds of hospital officials nationwide to provide feedback to HHS and to Congress about the most difficult challenges that hospitals are currently facing in responding to COVID-19.  The OIG emphasizes that this outreach and discussion “is not an investigation or audit of your individual hospital.”  The approximately 20-minute interview seeks current information regarding 1) challenges, 2) strategies that hospitals are using to address challenges, and 3)  recommendations for how Government can best support your efforts.  The request is for any available administrators to provide input, such as a critical incident commander or an administrator in emergency preparedness, infection control or general hospital operations.  OIG conducted similar interviews during the 2016 Ebola outbreak.

Since February 6, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid  (CMS) issued official Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for health care providers in all care settings to implement in an effort to control the rate of COVID-19 transmission. However, a special focus is on nursing facilities because these facilities house the country’s population most susceptible to COVID-19. In the CDC’s March 18, 2020 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the agency highlights the COVID-19 outbreak at a nursing home in King County, Seattle, Washington, in which 81 of the 130 residents (62%) contracted COVID-19, and 49 of those residents were hospitalized. The median age of the infected residents was 81 years old. To date, 80% of deaths related to COVID-19 are of persons 65 years old or greater.  Therefore, it is imperative nursing homes take drastic measures to reduce the risk of severe illness or death associated with COVID-19. Husch Blackwell’s answers to the Frequently Asked Questions below follow the current CDC and CMS guidance which outlines these drastic measures. Continue Reading COVID-19 FAQs for Nursing Facilities

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced last week that he will delay the implementation of a sales tax on medical billing services until the Texas Legislature considers the proposed change when it meets in a regular session in 2021. The Comptroller’s staff will work with industry leaders leading up to the 140-day session in order to develop language that could amend the state’s sales tax statutes. The regular session of the Texas Legislature is scheduled to begin January 12, 2021, and end June 1, 2021.

Our prior article discussed the Texas Comptroller’s policy change in the fourth quarter of 2019, which would have rendered medical billing services subject to Texas sales tax, after longstanding reliance on rulings which exempted such services. Continue Reading Texas Comptroller Postpones Medical Billing Sales Tax Policy Until Texas Legislature Weighs in in 2021

On March 20, 2020, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) released revised guidance to prevent and control COVID-19 in Long Term Care Facilities and Assisted Living Facilities.  This revision is based on the knowledge that older and medically vulnerable adults have a significantly higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.

Continue Reading Wisconsin Department of Health Services releases REVISED Guidance to Long Term Care Facilities and Assisted Living Facilities

Stethoscope and Tablet_600x600-2On March 17, 2020, U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) released guidance clarifying that restrictions under the Ryan Haight Act (the Act) are removed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing health care practitioners to prescribe controlled substances to patients through the use of telemedicine without any “in-person medical evaluation.” The Act generally prohibits practitioners from dispensing controlled substances through the internet without an in-person evaluation, unless an applicable exception is met. One exception to the Act occurs in the event of a public health emergency, which was triggered when HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared an emergency in response to COIVD-19 effective January 31, 2020. Practitioners now have the go-ahead to prescribe controlled substances through telemedicine technology without compliance with the Act’s requirements, but only for the duration of the public health emergency due to COVID-19.
Continue Reading Texas Responds to DEA Announcement Allowing Prescription of Controlled Substances via Telemedicine during COVID-19 Emergency