Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

CDC Adds COVID-19 Vaccine-Specific Content for Providers and Public

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added vaccine-specific content to their extensive Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Vaccines gateway page. These new resources include information on vaccination planning, how vaccine safety will be monitored, and FAQs. These resources are intended to clarify how COVID-19 vaccine recommendations will be made and how the vaccines will be monitored for safety, to build trust and confidence in future COVID-19 vaccines. As more information becomes available and as vaccines become authorized or approved and recommended for use in the U.S. updates will be added.

ACS Guidance on Cancer Screening During COVID-19

Cancer prevention and early detection are central to the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) mission to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer. Early detection of cancer through screening reduces mortality from many cancers. Far too many individuals for whom screening is recommended remain unscreened, and this situation has been aggravated by the substantial decline in cancer screening resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the pandemic-related disruptions will likely exacerbate existing disparities in cancer screening and survival across groups of people who have systemically experienced social or economic obstacles to screening and care. In response to these challenges, the American Cancer Society developed the ACS – Resuming Cancer Screening During COVID-19 Toolkit to summarize the current situation and to provide guidance on how public health agencies, healthcare providers, and screening advocates across the nation can promote and deliver cancer screening appropriately, safely and equitably during the pandemic.

Recent CMS Releases Related to Telehealth and COVID-19

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a preliminary report providing Medicaid and CHIP data on telehealth use during the COVID-19 public health emergency through June 30. It provides a snapshot of services delivered via telehealth to Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries between March and June across various states and age groups, noting the significant increase in telehealth services compared to the same period last year. CMS also released a supplement to its State Medicaid & CHIP Telehealth Toolkit to help states navigate telehealth service delivery and reimbursement. The supplement’s updated FAQs include resources states may consider for FQHCs, specifically financing flexibilities in response to the pandemic.

If ACA Falls, So Could Coverage for Millions of Young People

Next month, the Supreme Court will consider whether to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–and with it, preexisting-condition protections. The Commonwealth Fund examines the potential impact on young people, who have made the largest insurance coverage gains of any age group since the ACA was passed. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the authors estimate 2.3 million people ages 20 to 39 who didn’t have prior underlying health conditions have tested positive for COVID-19. “Uncertainty about long-term health effects may be sufficient for health insurers to designate COVID-19 infection as a preexisting condition,” the authors write. “Some may go further and designate anyone who is tested regularly for COVID-19 as having a preexisting condition.” Read more.

Can COVID-19 Transmission Be Prevented by Mouthwash?

A new study conducted by researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine has found that a common dental item can inactivate human coronaviruses: mouthwash and oral rinses. Results were published in the Journal of Medical Virology, in which researches tested various oral and nasopharyngeal rinses–one percent solution of baby shampoo, a neti pot, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers and mouthwashes–to determine how well they inactivated human coronaviruses. Read the news release.

U.S. Reports A Record 500,000 Plus COVID-19 Cases Over Past Week

The United States reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week, as states and cities resorted to stricter new measures to contain the virus that is raging across the country, especially the American heartland. The record was broken Tuesday, even as the Trump administration announced what it called its first-term scientific accomplishments, in a press release that included “ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC” written in bold, capital letters. Twenty-nine states reported their highest day of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Provider Relief Fund Guidance Changes… Again

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) amended its Sept. 19 Post-Payment Notice of Reporting Requirements on Oct. 22. The key changes include:

  • Accounting Method. Organizations can use their normal method of accounting (cash or accrual basis).
  • “Lost Revenue” Definition. The definition of lost revenue has been modified to permit up to the amount of the differences between 2019 and 2020 actual patient care revenues.
  • Deadline. Organizations have an additional six months to expend funding–through June 30, 2021.
  • Direction. Providers are directed to use funds for expenses before applying PRF funding to lost revenue.

The amended reporting requirements guidance can be found here. For more information on the PRF reporting requirements update, see summary of this week’s All PA FQHC CEO meeting and BKD CPAs & Advisors article.

Health Alert on Additional Factors to Determine Close Contacts of Persons with COVID-19

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) released Health Alert 533 – 10/26/20 – ADV – Additional Factors to Determine Close Contacts of Persons with COVID-19. This Health Advisory provides recommendations and considerations for determining close contacts to people with SARS-CoV-2 infection. DOH provides this guidance based on available information about COVID-19 and it is subject to change. Click here to access all of the 2020 Health Alerts, Advisories and Updates.

CMS Telehealth Services Expansion

On Oct. 14, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced expansion of the list of telehealth services that Medicare will reimburse at fee-for-service levels during the public health emergency (PHE). To further this goal, there is increased support for state Medicaid/CHIP agencies, including this CMS State Medicaid and CHIP Telehealth Toolkit. CMS guidance related to distant site telehealth services at FQHCs states any service approved under the Physician Fee Schedule can be furnished by any health care practitioner working within their scope of practice and delivered from any location. Payment to FQHCs for a distant site telehealth service is set at $92. See FQHC/RHC-specific guidance from CMS on telehealth coverage during the PHE here.

State Begins Distribution of COVID-19 Rapid Tests

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has shared that states are now receiving the Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test cards and PA DOH would like to distribute some of these cards to any FQHCs who are interested and currently have a CLIA certificate. For more on this rapid test, see Pennsylvania Health Alert 532 – 10/08/20 – ADV – Point of Care Antigen Test Use and Interpretation or review the Abbott training toolkit. According to DOH, the tests demonstrate a 98% accuracy for positives and have about a 30% false negative rate. There is no cost to providers or patients for the tests. The form to order the test cards can be accessed here: Health Care Rapid Antigen Tests. DOH is processing the requests already received by region based on rates of positivity in the region.