COVID-19 Update June 10, 2020
Notes from Governor Cuomo’s Briefing
– Day 102 of the COVID Crisis
– Day 17 of Civil unrest
– Every region in the state is now reopening
– Long Island entered phase two today
– The focus during this phase will be on data, mainly daily testing results
– “We all have a role to play”… our response to COVID has been a social issue depending on people participating in measures to prevent the spread from employers to employees and other individuals
– Closing was the easy part… the states and countries that have reopened have
seen increases in the number of cases
– Governor reiterated the need to be smart and safe when reopening
especially in a place like NYC
– Moving forward we must:
– Monitor the reopening
– Energize the reopening
– Stimulate the economy with large scale development projects that can help drive economic growth
– In response to a question on the reopening of outdoor swimming pools in Phase two
DeRosa stated that guidance will be put out for municipalities in the coming days
– In response to schools reopening in the fall the Governor stated that he is unsure
as he does not know where we will be in terms of COVID
State Medical Associations Ask Washington for More Aid to States
MSSNY and six other state societies have drafted a letter to the U.S. Senate urging them to provide additional funding to the States and the Medicaid program. As you know, the Heroes Act that recently passed the House provided a $1 trillion dollars in funding to assist States, and a 12% increase in federal Medicaid matching funds.
As State CEOs, you understand that state tax revenues have plummeted, forcing Governors and State Legislatures to make difficult state budget decisions that could negatively impact physicians. States and physicians desperately need additional assistance from Congress. The letter also urges the Senate to direct HHS to release Provider Relief Funding to Medicaid-dependent providers immediately.
June 5, 2020
Dear Senators McConnell and Schumer:
The undersigned large state medical associations, representing tens of thousands of physicians across the nation, thank you for supporting physicians and helping us continue to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Senate considers another vital COVID-19 response package, we ask that you prioritize the stability of our state-federal partnerships that form the foundation of our health care delivery system. Addressing the needs of states and physicians on the frontlines combating the virus will ensure that our health care system and our economy recover from this crisis.
Additional Aid to States and the Medicaid Program
With millions of Americans losing their jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, Medicaid has become an essential safety net for families and enrollment is rapidly growing. Half of America’s children and people with disabilities were already enrolled in Medicaid prior to COVID-19. The growth in unemployment has also significantly reduced state tax revenues as states have been forced to commit substantial additional resources to fight the economic and health care impact of COVID-19. As a result, states are in serious financial trouble and they do not have the same financing options that are readily available to the federal government. Thus, states will be forced to cut health care funding.
Moreover, states have little flexibility and will be forced to impose cuts on physicians and hospitals that are on the frontlines now already reeling financially from the COVID outbreak, and who will be needed during the second surge caused by months of delayed care. Medicaid physicians have yet to receive any federal assistance and they will not be able to sustain state cuts during the pandemic to remain accessible to patients enrolled in Medicaid and other federal, state, and local health care programs. Medicaid patients (children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled) are already among our most vulnerable patients and during the national emergency, more must be done to protect them. We cannot afford to lose our current health care workforce during this crisis.
While we appreciate the support Congress provided in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with the temporary 6.2% increase in Medicaid matching funds for states, more help is needed for states and physicians to meet the increasing Medicaid enrollment demands and our patient’s health care needs.
Therefore, we urge Congress to:
Provide additional aid to the states to protect the health care workforce and to prevent irreversible health care cuts.
Increase Medicaid matching funds by 14% consistent with the Heroes Act.
Direct HHS to release Provider Relief Funds to Medicaid physicians immediately.
Additional HHS Emergency Provider Relief Funding and a More Equitable Distribution Formula
We greatly appreciate the funding that Congress provided to physicians through the HHS Provider Relief Fund. It is helping to sustain some physician practices that are facing increased health care expenses and severe 50-70% revenue losses caused by the public health emergency, social distancing, efforts to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) and public health orders to refrain from providing non-urgent care. However, physician practices will need additional funding to remain accessible to patients in their communities given the substantial revenue losses, the extended timeframe for reopening, the ability to only operate at 50% capacity in the future because of social distancing, safety measures, and limited PPE.
Moreover, physicians are essential to the health of their communities, as well as their economic well-being. Physicians contribute to their local economies and are important employers. The fall-out from this crisis threatens to fundamentally alter the long-term stability of physician practices, and could lead to increased consolidation, which hurts competition and drives up costs for patients and employers. Additional Congressional help is needed to sustain our nation’s health care delivery system.
We also urge adoption of the Provider Relief Fund distribution methodology in the House “Heroes Act,” H.R. 6800. To date, only heavy Medicare-participating physicians have received funding and only 11% of the $50 billion allocation has gone to physicians. We believe the House formula ensures a transparent, equitable distribution of funding to all providers based on their own proportionate share of expenses and revenue losses caused by the pandemic. Moreover, it would ensure that pediatricians, obstetricians, and Medicaid-dependent providers receive funding. These physicians are in the greatest need of funding because their traditionally lower reimbursement rates don’t provide the reserves to sustain their practices through the emergency.
We strongly urge Congress to increase funding to the HHS Provider Relief Fund by another $100 billion to sustain physician practices and protect patient access to care; and to ensure the funds are distributed commensurate with each provider’s COVID-19 related expenses and revenue loss from all payers.
Require all ERISA Health Plans, Medicare Advantage, and TriCare for Military Families to Cover and Pay for Telehealth and Telephone Audio-Only Services
Giving physicians the capability to provide services to patients via telehealth and telephone is essential to preventing the spread of the virus to the public, vulnerable patients, physicians, and their staff. However, many elderly and low-income patients either don’t have access to telehealth or experience difficulty navigating virtual visits with both audio and video capabilities. Therefore, it is essential that telephone visits also be covered and paid for an in-person rates by all payers.
Recognizing that it is vital for the elderly to be in contact with their physicians and receive timely care, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved audio-only visits for the Medicare fee-for-service program but have not provided payment for it under the risk-adjusted Medicare Advantage program payments.
We ask Congress to protect the public health and include telehealth video and audio-only services in all federally regulated programs and plans, for our more vulnerable low-income patients and elderly Medicare Advantage patients.
Increase Support for the Production, Distribution, and Availability of PPE and Testing, and Accelerate Contact Tracing
There continue to be massive shortages of PPE and testing, as well as barriers to conducting COVID-19 contract tracing. We urge Congress to prioritize the production, distribution, and availability of PPE and testing, and accelerate efforts to conduct contact tracing. All of these are essential to the safe reopening of medical practices and the economy and must be prioritized for all health care workers.
California Medical Association
Florida Medical Association
Massachusetts Medical Society
Medical Association of Georgia
Medical Society State of New York
North Carolina Medical Society
Texas Medical Association
Permanently Higher Telehealth Pay Rates Under Review, CMS Says
CMS Administrator Seema Verma discussed the prospects for extending telehealth coverage and pay rates permanently during a recent STAT virtual event today. “I can’t imagine going back,” she said during the event. But it may not be up to her. While Ms. Verma and President Donald Trump have repeatedly touted the gains telehealth has made for CMS beneficiaries during the pandemic, the federal government has not finalized permanent changes that would expand access to telehealth and coverage rates.
During the pandemic, CMS made telehealth available to all beneficiaries. Previously, it would only cover telehealth in specific regions and circumstances. The rates were also lower than in-person visits and did not include audio-only visits. One of the reasons telehealth was able to expand so rapidly in the last few months was because of the coverage changes.
“People recognize the value of (telehealth), so it seems like it would not be a good thing to force our beneficiaries to go back to in-person visits,” Ms. Verma said, mentioning that virtual visits increased 40-fold in some places during the pandemic.
However, in a CMS press release on June 9, Ms. Verma also acknowledged the value of in-person visits as healthcare facilities reopen for elective care.
“While telehealth has proven to be a lifeline, nothing can absolutely replace the gold standard: in-person care,” she said. Ms. Verma also said the government was evaluating whether to permanently pay the same rates for telehealth visits as in-person visits. A permanent nationwide expansion would be up to Congress because current laws limit coverage, she said.
Gov.: Nursing Homes to Test Employees Once a Week Instead of Twice
Today, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order that permits nursing homes which are located in regions of New York State that have reached Phase 2 of reopening to test their employees for Covid-19 once per week, instead of twice per week.
NYS Interim Advisory for In-Person Special Education Services and Instruction
During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency – June 8, 2020
Special education services and instruction may be provided in-person this summer. For those inquiring about speech therapy as well, there is language contained in this about how that should be handled with respect to PPE/masks/social distancing.
Child Care and Day Camps
Higher Education Research
The NYSDOH invites you to participate in the Spectrum of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) webcast on Thursday June 11th, 2020 3-4PM
DOHMD Launches Home Delivery for Condoms, HIV Self-Test Kits
The city health department will send condoms, lubricant, and HIV self-test kits directly to New Yorkers to supplement sexual health services that may have been affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic, announced officials today.
The home delivery program, Door 2 Door, aims to give New Yorkers access to safer-sex products that are normally distributed to 3,500 nonprofit organizations and businesses citywide, according to the city health department. The city distributes about 30 million male condoms, internal condoms, and lubricant packs to residents each year.
“Even during a global pandemic, sex remains an important part of overall health and well-being for many people,” said Dr. Oni Blackstock, assistant commissioner for the health department’s HIV bureau, in a statement. “As New Yorkers have had to adapt to the realities of the pandemic, so have the health department’s service models.”
The rate of sexually transmitted infections was increasing prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and officials at health departments across the country say they are worried the lack of screening and testing will cause a spike in transmissions.
The health department does not encourage New Yorkers to go in-person for regularly scheduled testing for HIV or other sexually transmitted infections, but recommends
COMPLIMENTARY WEBINAR by Garfunkel Wild
Returning to Work in the COVID-Era: Employee Issues, What to Expect and How to Prepare
WHEN: Friday, June 12, 2020 | 10:00 am – 11:00 am (EDT)
As businesses prepare to reopen or have already reopened, there are common questions facing employers. This webinar will address the challenges to reopening and how best to respond to new types of employee questions and issues that arise. Below are just a few types of questions we will be addressing:
- What guidelines should or must my business put in place to comply with social distancing and reopening requirements?
- How do I respond to employees who are not following our protocols?
- Can you require employees, customers, or patients to submit to medical testing? And, if so, what types of tests are acceptable?
- How do I handle employee requests to stay out of work longer because they are uncertain or afraid of COVID-19 and returning to work?
- If an employee refuses to return to work, how will that affect my PPP loan?
- How should I handle all the unemployment requests I am receiving?
- Should I contest them if I offered the employee his or her job back? What are
the consequences of not contesting?
Pandemic Exacerbated Shortage of Injectable Opioids by Hospitals
In a “Special Report,” Reuters examines how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a shortage of injectable opioids, which are regularly used in hospitals to treat patients on ventilators. Reuters adds that while the abundance of some types of opioids fueled the opioid crisis, “hospitals faced chronic shortages of the same painkillers in injectable form – narcotics vital to patients on breathing machines.” Reuters examines the contributing factors that led to a shortage of the opioids needed by hospitals including market forces and supply chain issues.
WHO Clarifies Position on Asymptomatic Spread of Coronavirus
The Washington Post (6/9) reports, “The World Health Organization moved Tuesday to clarify its position on whether people without symptoms are widely spreading the new coronavirus, saying much remains unknown about asymptomatic transmission.” Monday’s comment by a WHO official who called “such asymptomatic transmissions ‘very rare’ – touched off a furious scientific debate over the unresolved question and attracted widespread criticism of the organization.” The Post says that “less than 24 hours later, WHO convened a special news conference to walk back its comments, stressing that much remains unknown.”
New Cases of Coronavirus Nearly Doubled in CA and TX After States Reopened
New cases of coronavirus “in California and Texas, the country’s two largest states, have nearly doubled this month, from the daily case numbers recorded when the states began reopening in May, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.” A month after reopening, California “recorded around 3,200 new cases on June 8, according to Johns Hopkins University.” Meanwhile, Texas reported around 2,000 new cases on May 31 and June 5 after it started the first phase of reopening on May 1. Newsweek (6/9)
MSSNY Offers Practice Administrator/Group Manager Membership
Group manager or practice administrator qualifies for free Affiliated Interest Group (AIG) membership if 50% of physicians in the practice are members.
Benefits include publications, information delivered electronically, access to online Medical Directory of New York State, access to Members Only section of MSSNY website, faxes on legislative calls to action, MSSNY reference guides, insurance and financial services, educational benefits, and the opportunity to serve as committee advisors and to participate in MSSNY political activities. call Ruzanna: 516-488-6100 x 403.