The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27, 2020, provides $100 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (“Relief Fund”) to support eligible health care providers. Less than a month later, Congress passed the Payroll Protection Program and Health Care Act, providing an additional $75 billion to the Relief Fund, raising the total funds available to $175 billion. As of the end of April 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) released to providers two tranches of Relief Funds totaling $50 billion. HHS disbursed the first $30 billion tranche (“Tranche 1”) between April 10 and April 17, 2020. Currently, HHS is disbursing the second $20 billion tranche (“Tranche 2”). Because these are grant funds – not loans – repayment is not required. What HHS requires is that the Recipients attest to and follow the Relief Fund’s Terms and Conditions. Before we turn to the Terms and Conditions, it is important to understand HHS’ Relief Fund disbursement process.
HHS Relief Fund’s Terms and Conditions Certifications, Acknowledgments and Reports Public Disclosure of Payments
This article on the sweeping and urget changes in the telehealth space has been updated to reflect the April 30, 2020, press release by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announcing expanded Medicare payments and coverage for telehealth services.
Congress has passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, increasing the total amount available under the Paycheck Protection Program by $310 billion. Of that sum, $60 billion is set aside for loans to be made through small and very small community banks and credit unions. The bill also includes an increase of $10 billion for EIDL grants, $75 billion to help overwhelmed providers and hospitals, and $25 billion for coronavirus research.
On April 21, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of the first at-home COVID-19 test pursuant to its Emergency Use Authorization authority.
UPDATE: CMS reevaluates Accelerated Payment Program, suspends Advance Payment Program for Part B suppliers and points providers to relief fund
On April 26, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is reevaluating pending and future amounts that it will pay under its Accelerated Payment Program and is suspending its Advance Payment Program for Part B suppliers, effective immediately. CMS noted it has already approved almost 24,000 applications resulting in $40.4 billion of payments for Part B suppliers, including doctors, non-physician practitioners and durable medical equipment suppliers.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a new payment ruling and announced that effective April 14, 2020, and through the remainder of the emergency period, Medicare will pay $100 under Part B for each COVID-19 clinical diagnostic laboratory test (CDLT) processed using “high-throughput” equipment.
As an update to our prior blog post, on April 20, 2020 FDA announced the authorization of the first COVID-19 test for home collection of specimens. This announcement, made via the Agency’s FAQs on Diagnostic Testing for SARS-CoV-2 webpage, comes after weeks of FDA reporting that it has been working closely with manufacturers on such a test during the weekly Virtual Town Hall Meetings hosted by the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. FDA clarifies that the test is only authorized for home collection of specimens to be sent back to a laboratory for processing. FDA still has not authorized a COVID-19 test “to be completely used and processed at home.”
Governor Murphy Signs Various Bills into Law Seeking to Help Business Operations and Health Care Providers
Governor Murphy signed a number of bills into law on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 to help mitigate various negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The selection below illustrates new laws that specifically seek to facilitate the running of certain business operations as well as help licensed professionals, which may be of interest to a wide array of health care providers.
$100 Billion Emergency Fund for Providers Under the CARES Act: New Guidance and Terms & Conditions of Acceptance
On April 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) provided additional details regarding its plan to provide billions in relief to providers in an effort to off-set healthcare-related expenses resulting from the Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) outbreak.
Passed into law on March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also called the “CARES Act”, provided $100 billion in funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (the “Fund”). The Fund is a pre-existing resource overseen by the Office of Financial Planning & Analysis within HHS. The $100 billion added via the CARES Act was made available to qualifying healthcare providers to reimburse them for “health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to [COVID-19]”. The CARES Act stipulated that the $100 billion would be made available to public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers and other entities as may be further specified in regulations or guidance, provided that any such provider must “provide diagnoses, testing or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19”. Monies received from the Fund may not be used to cover expenses that have already been reimbursed through other sources or that other sources are obligated to reimburse. Little other detail regarding the funding or mechanism for disbursal was provided in the CARES Act itself.
Amendments to the procedure for granting idle time benefits
Today, 9 April 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers amended the criteria for granting idle time benefits to employers affected by the crisis. The most essential amendments:
- An employee receiving an idle time benefit shall be granted an additional allowance of EUR 50 for each dependent child under the age of 24 for whom the employee is entitled to a personal income tax credit on the date of granting the idle time benefit;
- The members of the management board and supervisory board of the employer affected by the crisis may also receive the idle time benefit, if the income from economic activity of the employer affected by the crisis in 2019 does not exceed EUR 100,000;
- Idle time benefit is also available to employees concurrently receiving old-age or retirement pension.
- The procedure for calculating the idle time benefit for micro-enterprise taxpayers affected by the crisis has been adjusted.
- From now on, only Cabinet Regulation No. 165 will apply to all employers affected by the crisis, regardless of the sector.
The text of the amendments to the Cabinet Regulation No. 165 is available here.
Changes in employment
- It is determined that illness due to Covid-19 is not considered to be an accident at work;
- Self-isolation during performance of job duties, if a person does not show signs of acute respiratory infection and the person is not recognized as a contact person of Covid-19 infectious disease, does not apply to:
- Latvian citizens, who return from Lithuania and Estonia after performing their job duties;
- Lithuanian and Estonian citizens, who enter the territory of Latvia to perform their job duties.
Medical devices and personal protective equipment
- Procurement organized by public persons, subject to certain conditions, allows the purchase of personal protective equipment and medical devices, the conformity assessment procedure whereof has not been initiated or has not been fully completed, and which do not contain CE mark.
The text of the amendments to the Cabinet Order on declaring the state of emergency is available here.