Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Look-Alike NOFO Open for Coronavirus Testing Funding

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is now accepting applications from designated Look-Alikes for the FY 2020 Health Center Program Look-Alikes: Expanding Capacity for Coronavirus Testing (LAL ECT) notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) (HRSA-20-147). The purpose of this funding is to support LALs in expanding their COVID-19 testing capacity. Applications are due in by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, June 2. Emails were sent to each LAL’s Authorizing Official and Project Director with additional information. See the LAL ECT technical assistance (TA) webpage for additional resources and templates.

ICD-10-CM Official Coding Guidelines Related to COVID-19

The PA Department of Human Services issued MA Bulletin 99-20-06 to advise providers of diagnosis coding guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for healthcare encounters related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This bulletin applies to all providers enrolled in the Medical Assistance (MA) Program who render services to beneficiaries enrolled in the MA Fee-for-Service (FFS) system. Providers rendering services in the MA managed care delivery system should address any coding or billing related questions to the appropriate managed care organization (MCO). Effective with dates of services on and after April 1, 2020, providers should use the new diagnosis code U07.1, COVID-19. For dates of service beginning February 20, 2020, providers should refer to the CDC interim guidance for conditions related to COVID-19.

CMS Gives States Medicaid Managed Care COVID-19 Response Options

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services Informational Bulletin that provides states guidance on how to temporarily modify Medicaid managed care contracts to address the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The guidance provides several options that states can consider adjusting provider payment methodologies and capitation rates within Medicaid managed care contracts while preserving systems of care and access to services for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Refusal of Suitable Work – A New Unemployment Compensation Challenge

The COVID-19 crisis has brought many new challenges as employers are navigating bringing furloughed staff back to the workplace. When employees are asked to return to work, they are required to return, unless they have good cause for refusing the offer.

  • Section 402(a) of PA Unemployment Compensation Law states that an employee could be ineligible for compensation for any week in which their unemployment status is due to the refusal of suitable work, without good cause. Determining whether there was good cause for a refusal of work is based upon each claimant’s circumstances.
  • The Office of Unemployment Compensation has created a new form, UC-1921W, so employers can notify the department that suitable work was refused. This form must be submitted by the employer within seven days from when the return to work offer was made.
  • During the current COVID-19 crisis, employees could refuse to return to work because they are at high risk of complications from the virus and their employer cannot make reasonable accommodations, or they are being asked to return to work at reduced hours that result in earning less than they did prior to the layoff. UC staff will review specific reasons like these and make determinations based on the facts of each individual case.

Read Employer UC & COVID19 FAQs for more information and helpful guidelines.

2021 Marketplace Final Rule

On May 7, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final annual Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters and Letter to Issuers for the 2021 benefit year. This final rule and letter provide payment parameters and instructions to insurers and consumers. In the initial proposed rule in January, CMS proposed eliminating advance premium tax credits (APTCs) for enrollees with $0 plans who choose to auto-renew. This was not adopted or finalized in this rule. The final rule allows for faster effectuation dates for consumers enrolling after the 15th of the month, allowing coverage to begin the first of the following month instead of waiting an additional 30+ days. Some other changes include counting drug manufacturer coupons toward the annual limitation on cost-sharing and promoting the adoption of Value-based Insurance Designs (VBID). Here is the fact sheet with more details on the final rule.

Pandemic Response Accountability Committee Launches “Track the Money” Website

Recently, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee created a website to assist the public and stakeholders in understanding where federal COVID-19 funds are being allocated. While the information is relatively general at this point, this website is expected to be periodically updated to provide more detail, including:

  • Monthly obligations and expenditures on federal assistance awards and contracts related to COVID-19 funds as reported by participating agencies.
  • Relevant operational, economic, financial, grant, subgrant, contract, subcontract and other information on recipients of COVID-19 funds.

Downloadable, machine-readable, open format reports on covered funds as well as mapped funding information are searchable by state and zip code. Find the website here.

Unemployment Compensation and PA Act 9 of 2020

A new Pennsylvania law (Act 9 of 2020) signed by Governor Wolf on March 27, 2020 requires Pennsylvania employers to provide notice to employees about unemployment compensation benefits at the time of separation from employment or when an employee’s work hours are reduced. The PA Department of Labor has released a form to assist employers in complying with this new requirement, Form UC-1609. Employers should complete this form and provide it to employees at the time of separation. Additionally, Act 9 of 2020 provides relief from charges to employers for claims related to the COVID-19 outbreak and waives the one week waiting period for employees. Unlike the notification requirement amendments, these changes will expire on January 1, 2021.

PA Health Department Announces CDC Teams to Assist in COVID-19 Response

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sent three teams to Pennsylvania to assist with the COVID-19 response. These teams are working to become familiar with the situation across the state so they can begin aiding locations in need. There are two teams assisting long-term care facilities and one team assisting food facility outbreaks. The CDC teams will be onsite in Pennsylvania for two weeks to help in the response using their expertise. These teams will help assess the situation, teach infection control practices, and offer training on personal protective equipment (PPE) and outbreak response at the facilities they visit. Read more here.

Legislation Introduced to Ensure Rural Health Providers Receive Relief Funds

Senators Murkowski, Hyde-Smith, Manchin and Bennet and Representatives Small and Hagedorn led the bicameral, bipartisan introduction of the Save Our Rural Providers Act (S. 3823). This important legislation would ensure that a portion of the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for payments to eligible health care providers is reserved for rural health providers.  Twelve rural hospitals have already closed this year, and hundreds more are vulnerable to closure. This Act will provide the lifeline needed for rural providers as they struggle to keep doors open during this pandemic.