Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

KHN Reports on Early Testing Decisions and the Potential Lasting Impact to the Nation

A new KHN article describes how government decisions in the early days of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak have already impacted the magnitude of the pandemic and may affect the country for months to come. The article explains, for the first time, how the CDC initially sent the same number of test kits to public health labs in all 50 states, even though the outbreaks were highly localized at that point — meaning that the tests didn’t go to where they were most needed.

KHN’s reporting is part of KFF’s continuing efforts on the coronavirus outbreak. The story also ran in The Daily Beast and, as always, KHN content is available to republish free of charge.

About The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Kaiser Health News:

Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, KFF (the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation) is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.  KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF and is the nation’s leading and largest health and health policy newsroom, producing stories that run on khn.org and are published by hundreds of news organizations across the country.

COVID-19-Guidance for Health Care Providers in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of State (DOS) are reminding healthcare providers of guidance released and updated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the DOH on numerous aspects related to the COVID-19 response. This guidance is for all healthcare providers including those practicing in outpatient and urgent care settings and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). Coordination and collaboration with all level of healthcare providers is essential for a measured response to COVID-19. As a frontline practitioner, we depend on your expertise and encourage you to remain up to date as information continues to change and evolve. The following are critically important guidance documents for your review:

Guidance for Preventing Exposure and Transmission

Guidance on reporting, testing and specimen collection

We encourage you to check the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health websites regularly for updates. To sign up to receive Health Advisories from the Pennsylvania Department of Health please register using https://han.pa.gov.

Thank you for your continued participation and assistance in this response. As a healthcare provider you are uniquely positioned to support a healthy Pennsylvania for all and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Sincerely,

Rachel L Levine, MD                           Kathy Boockvar
Secretary of Health                              Secretary of the Commonwealth

Pennsylvania Department of Health Provides Update on COVID-19, 165 New Positives Bring Statewide Total to 644

Harrisburg, PA- The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed as of 12:00 a.m., March 23, that there are 165 additional positive cases of COVID-19, and one new death in Montgomery County, bringing the statewide total to 644 in 34 counties. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.

“Our notable increase in cases over the last few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home.”

Statewide, there are 644 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 6,595 patients who have tested negative, and 3 total deaths. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending.

Statewide – The Wolf Administration has announced:

  • Postponing in-person events that consist of 10 people or more throughout the United States.
  • Discretion for religious leaders in holding services.
  • No-visitor policies at all State correctional facilities and nursing homes to ensure the safety of inmates, residents, staff and visitors.
  • Restricted-visitor policies in state centers.
  • Restricted-visitor policies in assisted living and personal care homes.

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.

Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics

  • For the daily COVID-19 Report, visit here.
  • For all press releases regarding coronavirus, please visit here.
  • Find the latest information on the coronavirus here.
  • Photos of the state’s lab in Exton are available for download and use here.
  • Coronavirus and preparedness graphics are available here near the bottom of the page: here
  • Community preparedness and procedures materials are available here.
  • For an updated map with the number of cases, visit here.

All Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to sign up for AlertPA, a text notification system for health, weather, and other important alerts like COVID-19 updates from commonwealth agencies. Residents can sign up online at www.ready.pa.gov/BeInformed/Signup-For-Alerts.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Nate Wardle, Health, 717-787-1783 or ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

Inspector General Warns Public About New Social Security Benefit Suspension Scam

March 19, 2020

The Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, is warning the public about fraudulent letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19 or coronavirus-related office closures. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not suspend or discontinue benefits because their offices are closed.

The Social Security Office of the Inspector General has received reports that Social Security beneficiaries have received letters through the U.S. Mail stating their payments will be suspended or discontinued unless they call a phone number referenced in the letter. Scammers may then mislead beneficiaries into providing personal information or payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash, to maintain regular benefit payments during this period of COVID-19 office closures.

As of Tuesday, March 17, 2020, local SSA offices are closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns; however, Social Security employees continue to work. Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any communication you receive that says SSA will do so is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.

Social Security will never:

  • threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee;
  • promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment;
  • require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card;
  • demand secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem; or
  • send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.

If you receive a letter, text, call or email that you believe to be suspicious, about an alleged problem with your Social Security number, account, or payments, hang up or do not respond. We encourage you to report Social Security scams using our dedicated online form, at https://oig.ssa.gov. Please share this information with your friends and family, to help spread awareness about Social Security scams.

For more information, please visit https://oig.ssa.gov/scam. Members of the press may make inquiries to
Social Security OIG at oig.dcom@ssa.gov.

CMS: COVID-19 Provider Enrollment Relief FAQs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CMS) has  released Frequently Asked Questions on Medicare Provider Enrollment Relief related to COVID-19 including the toll-free hotlines available to provide expedited enrollment and answer questions related to COVID-19 enrollment requirements.

A copy of the FAQs can be found here:  https://www.cms.gov/files/document/provider-enrollment-relief-faqs-covid-19.pdf

These tools, and earlier CMS actions in response to the COVID-19 emergency, are all part of ongoing White House Coronavirus Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19, please visit www.coronavirus.gov. For a complete and updated list of CMS actions, guidance, and other information in response to COVID-19, please visit the, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.

 

CMS Update: Relief for Clinicians, Providers, Hospitals and Facilities Participating in Quality Reporting Programs in Response to COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CMS) has announced it is granting exceptions from reporting requirements and extensions for clinicians and providers participating in Medicare quality reporting programs with respect to upcoming measure reporting and data submission for those programs. The action comes as part of the Trump Administration’s response to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

CMS is implementing additional extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy exceptions and extensions for upcoming measure reporting and data submission deadlines for several CMS programs.  For those programs with data submission deadlines in April and May 2020, submission of those data will be optional, based on the facility’s choice to report.

CMS recognizes that quality measure data collection and reporting for services furnished during this time period may not be reflective of their true level of performance on measures such as cost, readmissions and patient experience during this time of emergency and seeks to hold organizations harmless for not submitting data during this period.

You can find a copy of the press release here:  https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-announces-relief-clinicians-providers-hospitals-and-facilities-participating-quality-reporting

CMS will continue monitoring the developing COVID-19 situation and assess options to additional relief to clinicians, facilities, and their staff so they can focus on caring for patients.

New Tools To Help Speed States’ Access to Emergency Flexibilities and Resources

The Trump Administration has released new tools to strip away regulatory red tape and unleash new resources to support state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Because of the President’s bold action in declaring COVID-19 a national emergency, CMS now has a full suite of tools available to maximize responsiveness to state needs. The agency has created four checklists that together will make up a comprehensive Medicaid COVID-19 federal authority checklist to make it easier for states to receive federal waivers and implement flexibilities in their program.

The tools include:

You can find a copy of the press release here: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/trump-administration-releases-covid-19-checklists-and-tools-accelerate-relief-state-medicaid-chip

These tools, and earlier CMS actions in response to the COVID-19 emergency, are all part of ongoing White House Coronavirus Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19, please visit www.coronavirus.gov. For a complete and updated list of CMS actions, guidance, and other information in response to COVID-19, please visit the, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.

 

Pharmacists Association Publishes Resources

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has completed an evaluation of the evidence related to proposed treatments for people with COVID-19.  It also includes an assessment of the evidence around supportive treatments and selected chronic medications that may be used in this population.  The table will be updated regularly as new evidence becomes available. 

ARC Releases Statement on COVID-19

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is carefully and continually monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it is impacting the Appalachian Region. ARC staff, who are now primarily working from home, are diligently continuing to process and administer grants, new applications, progress reports, and payment requests as they are received.

We are assisting grantees whom are unable to meet project goals or timelines due to the current situation. If you are a current ARC grantee experiencing such challenges, please email your ARC project coordinator and state program manager as soon as possible for help with needed accommodations regarding your project’s deliverables, timelines, budget, or other operations. (When emailing, please put your ARC project number in the subject line. This will make responding to your request easier).

To support the health and safety of our partners, grantees, and communities, we have also made the following adjustments:

  • We have extended the application deadline for the Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy to March 31, 2020. Should this program, or the ARC/ORNL Summer STEM program, need to be modified further, an announcement will be made in mid-April.
  • We have extended the deadline for POWER applications to April 24, 5 pm ET. Additional revisions can also be made to applications already submitted to power.arc.gov during this thirty day extension.
  • We are convening the Appalachian Leadership Institute virtually through online learning modules in lieu of the upcoming field seminars scheduled for Beckley, West Virginia and Boone, North Carolina.
  • We have postponed Envision Appalachia: Community Conversations for ARC’s New Strategic Plan. Our intent is to restart our strategic planning process at a time when we can gather in-person to discuss our Region’s future.

We will be posting any additional ARC operational updates on www.arc.gov, and in forthcoming issues of In The Region.

This is a challenging time for our communities, our Region, and our country. Please continue to check with state and federal authorities for health-related guidance and information.

Pennsylvania Medicaid Agency Releases Licensing Update

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is committed to serving vulnerable populations every day, and that commitment will not waiver in the face of an emergency.  In order to assure protection of those who are in a DHS licensed setting, staff in DHS licensed settings and our DHS licensing staff, DHS will be taking steps to address the current situation.

This communication applies to all facilities licensed by the DHS and includes the following program offices:

  • Office of Developmental Programs (ODP)
  • Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF)
  • Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL)
  • Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS)
  • Office of Long-Term Living/Bureau of Human Service Licensing (BHSL)
  1. From March 16 to March 30, DHS will not be conducting any annual licensing inspections. Any inspections scheduled for this timeframe will be completed as soon as possible once normal operations resume.
  2. Licensing staff will continue to conduct on-site investigations for any serious incident or complaint during this time period.
  3. If a facility currently has a provisional license or its revoked license is under appeal, an on-site visit may occur as necessary during this time.
  4. Currently, DHS is not able to send out annual license renewals. As such, if during this time you would have received a renewed license packet then your existing license is still valid.
  5. As previously announced, childcare centers and group childcare homes located outside of a residence must close unless they have applied for a waiver to continue to operate.  Group childcare homes located in a residence and family childcare homes may choose to operate without a waiver or may voluntarily close.
  6. In the coming days, DHS will be issuing guidance on specific regulations that will be suspended under the authority of the Governor’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency issued on March 6, 2020, to help providers in dealing with the current emergency and maintain a healthy environment for those they serve and their employees.
  7. DHS is currently and will continue to evaluate future needs and plans for how we will conduct licensing and will support those we license. As we develop this future guidance, we will keep you informed.
  8. As you have questions on any issues, please contact your regional office licensing representative. DHS staff continue to work during this time period, and you should contact the regional office using their phone number or email.
  9. In addition to following the protocol at the Department of Health’s website (https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx), if a facility has a person diagnosed with COVID-19, it needs to be reported to your licensing regional offices.