HHS Secretary Alex Azar Extends Public Health Emergency for Additional 90 Days
As expected, on July 23, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar extended, for an additional 90 days, the current COVID-19 public health emergency, which was set to expire on July 25. Many physicians have expressed concern about the impending deadline and the implication for various regulatory waivers implemented because of the pandemic, including those pertaining to telemedicine.
Senate Republicans Delay Release of Next COVID Package
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had originally planned to release and begin discussion on the next COVID relief package this week, however, that has been pushed back to Monday, at the earliest. He indicated that while they have an “agreement on principle” with the administration, they are still working to resolve some disagreements and finalize the details. Once agreement is reached between the Senate Republicans and the administration, they can begin to start negotiations with the Democrats. Our understanding at this point is that rather than introducing one bill, there will be a series of bills. Leadership hopes to complete work on the relief bill before August recess, which is scheduled to begin August 10.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) Introduces Legislation to Give Specific Waiver Authority to HHS to Extend Pass-Through Periods Due to the Public Health Emergency
At the request of ASCRS, and the Ophthalmic Pharmaceutical Coalition, Senator Rand Paul introduced S. 4295, the “Public Health Emergency Pass-Through Payment Fairness Act of 2020,” which gives specific authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to temporarily extend the pass-through period due to the public health emergency.
Due to the cancellation of elective procedures, such as cataract surgery, the utilization of drugs that are currently on pass-through status have been negatively impacted. The utilization of these drugs during the pass-through period is part of a formula that is used to modify the APC payment once the drugs come off pass-through.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology joined ASCRS, OOSS, and other members of the Ophthalmic Pharmaceutical Coalition in issuing support for the legislation and urging leadership to include it in the next COVID relief package, which is currently being drafted.
Bipartisan House Letter Calls for COVID-19 Liability Protections
Representatives Lou Correa (D-CA) and Mike Johnson (R-LA) have sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging Congress to implement targeted and time-limited COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers and facilities, as well as for businesses and non-profit organizations, that follow proper public health guidelines in response to the current pandemic. The letter was signed by 12 other members of Congress.
ASCRS Joins the Alliance of Specialty Medicine in Letter to Newly Established Office of Burden Reduction and Health Information Outlining Key Priorities and Recommended Actions
On July 20, ASCRS joined the Alliance of Specialty Medicine in a letter to Mary Greene, MD, the director of the newly established Office of Burden Reduction & Health Informatics in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The letter outlines the key recommended actions that CMS can take to reduce administrative burden on specialty physicians in the areas of the Quality Payment Program, prior authorization, interoperability and access to patient data, and network adequacy standards.
HHS Extends Deadline for Medicaid and CHIP Providers to Apply for Provider Relief Funds to August 3
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the deadline for eligible Medicaid and CHIP physicians and organizations to submit information and apply for funding from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund from July 20 until August 3, 2020. HHS is distributing approximately $15 billion to eligible physicians who have not previously received a payment from the Provider Relief Fund. The payment amount will be at least 2 percent of reported gross revenue from patient care, and the final amount will be determined based on submitted data, including the number of Medicaid patients served. HHS has developed a fact sheet outlining the application process and answering frequently asked questions.