Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

COVID-19 Vaccines Additional Doses: Codes & Payment

The FDA amended the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for both the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to allow for an additional dose in certain immunocompromised people.

Effective August 12, 2021, CMS will pay to administer additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines consistent with the FDA EUAs, using CPT code 0003A for the Pfizer vaccine and CPT code 0013A for the Moderna vaccine. We’ll pay the same amount to administer this additional dose as we did for other doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (approximately $40 each).

We’ll hold and then process all claims with these codes after we complete claims system updates (no later than August 27).

Learn more about Medicare COVID-19 vaccine:

Pennsylvania Implementing “Vaccine or Test” Requirement

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Administration has given some state employees the choice of being vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly, calling it the “vaccine or test” requirement. If the covered individuals are not fully vaccinated by Sept. 7, 2021, they will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. In addition, all new external hires for the facilities covered by the policy must be vaccinated before commencing employment, starting Sept. 7. According to the administration, the policy will affect approximately 25,000 employees working in 24-hour-operated state facilities, which include state hospitals, state homes for people with intellectual disabilities, veterans’ homes, state correctional facilities and community health centers (NOTE: this is NOT referencing FQHCs—this is what the state department of health uses to refer to their network of public health nurses).

CDC Strengthens COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendation for Pregnant Women

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now officially recommended that people who are pregnant be vaccinated against COVID-19. This updates and strengthens their previous guidance that stated they were eligible and just suggested a conversation with their provider. Their statement reads: “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people aged 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.”

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Availability of Up To $500 Million in Emergency Rural Health Care Funds Under the American Rescue Plan

Funding Will Expand Access to COVID-19 Vaccines, Health Care Services and Food Assistance in Rural America

The Biden-Harris Administration announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making up to $500 million available in grants to help rural health care facilities, tribes and communities expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, health care services and nutrition assistance.

President Biden’s comprehensive plan to recover the economy and deliver relief to the American people is changing the course of the pandemic and providing immediate relief to millions of households, growing the economy and addressing the stark, intergenerational inequities that have worsened in the wake of COVID-19.

“Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is playing a critical role to help rural America build back better and equitably as the nation continues to respond to the pandemic,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Through the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants, USDA will help rural hospitals and local communities increase access to COVID-19 vaccines and testing, medical supplies, telehealth, and food assistance, and support the construction or renovation of rural health care facilities. These investments will also help improve the long-term viability of rural health care providers across the nation.”

Background:

Applicants may apply for two types of assistance: Recovery Grants and Impact Grants.

The Biden-Harris Administration is making Recovery Grants available to help public bodies, nonprofit organizations and tribes provide immediate COVID-19 relief to support rural hospitals, health care clinics and local communities.

These funds may be used to increase COVID-19 vaccine distribution and telehealth capabilities; purchase medical supplies; replace revenue lost during the pandemic; build and rehabilitate temporary or permanent structures for health care services; support staffing needs for vaccine administration and testing; and support facility and operations expenses associated with food banks and food distribution facilities. Recovery Grant applications will be accepted on a continual basis until funds are expended.

The Administration also is making Impact Grants available to help regional partnerships, public bodies, nonprofits and tribes solve regional rural health care problems and build a stronger, more sustainable rural health care system in response to the pandemic.

USDA encourages applicants to plan and implement strategies to:

  • develop health care systems that offer a blend of behavioral care, primary care and other medical services;
  • support health care as an anchor institution in small communities; and
  • expand telehealth, electronic health data sharing, workforce development, transportation, paramedicine, obstetrics, behavioral health, farmworker health care and cooperative home care.

Impact Grant applications must be submitted to your local USDA Rural Development State Office by 4:00 p.m. local time on Oct. 12, 2021.

For additional information, please see the notice (PDF, 343 KB) in today’s Federal Register. USDA encourages potential applicants to review the application guide at www.rd.usda.gov/erhc.

People With Medicare Who Are Immunocompromised Would be Able to Receive an Additional COVID-19 Dose At No Cost

In response to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent action that authorizes an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised individuals, CMS is assuring people with Medicare who qualify for an additional dose that they can receive it with no cost sharing. This is part of President Biden’s commitment that patients have access to the necessary vaccinations to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Medicare would pay for administering an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccines consistent with the modified FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) that was announced today. For COVID-19 vaccines administered on or after March 15, 2021, the national average payment rate for physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and many other immunizers is $40 to administer each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Medicare program would continue to pay providers $40 to administer this additional dose – the same amount as paid for other doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

CMS will share more information and guidance in the coming days about billing and coding for the additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised patients.

For additional information:

Visit EMS.gov for Information About COVID-19 for EMS Systems and Clinicians!

Resources include guidance documents, links to the latest from the CDC, and information about vaccine safety and administration

With cases of COVID-19 surging again across the country, EMS clinicians and leaders may once again be responding to increased numbers of PUIs, have questions about handling exposures, and be looking for information about coronavirus vaccines.

The EMS.gov COVID-19 Resources for EMS page continues to provide a number of helpful tools, on topics ranging from crisis standards of care to first responder mental health. The source of each resource is clearly identified, including documents created by the Federal Healthcare Resilience Working Group EMS/Prehospital Team.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of EMS once again would like to thank EMS clinicians and our public safety and healthcare colleagues across the country for your dedicated service. What you do is vital to our communities and our nation. We urge you to take steps to ensure the health and safety of you, your patients and your families and protect yourself from COVID-19, stress, and other dangers.

Please contact nhtsa.ems@dot.gov with questions or comments.

Learn more.

Biden-Harris Administration Provides $121 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds to Support Local Community-Based Efforts to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations in Underserved Communities

As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration is providing $121 million to support the work of trusted community-based efforts to increase vaccinations in underserved communities. These awards will go to community-based organizations across the country that are working in their communities to build vaccine confidence, share factual information about vaccines, and answer people’s questions about getting vaccinated. This investment is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to support and empower local trusted voices within communities to help encourage vaccination, protect more people, and save lives. This funding was made available by the American Rescue Plan and is being distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

These awards, in addition to $125 million awarded last month, establish, expand and sustain community-based efforts to mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, patient navigators, social support specialists and others to increase vaccinations.

“We understand the important role trusted messengers in local communities play to help people make informed health care decisions, including whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today’s investments are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to strengthen equity and support organizations that focus on underserved communities as they work to increase vaccinations and keep people safe and healthy.”

Award recipients will engage with regional and local partners, including faith-based organizations, regional and local health departments, health centers and other community-based health providers, and minority-serving institutions, to reach underserved and high-risk communities to help bolster COVID-19 vaccination rates. For example, this funding will be used to support partnerships between academic and community-based organizations like churches and local fire departments to improve COVID-19 health literacy and vaccination rates in rural counties. Likewise, funding will support African American, Latino, and Tribal partnerships that engage clergy, churchgoers, adolescents, and others with trusted information about vaccines and work within their communities to get more people vaccinated.

“This community-based COVID-19 vaccine outreach program will make it possible to reach people in vulnerable and medically underserved communities and help reduce disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates,” said Acting HRSA Administrator Diana Espinosa.

For a list of awards recipients, see https://www.hrsa.gov/coronavirus/local-community-based-workforce.

Contact CBOVaccineOutreach@hrsa.gov with any questions.

Learn more about how HRSA is addressing COVID-19 and health equity.

Introducing “Vira” the Vaxchat Bot

Johns Hopkins University introduces Vira, a vaccine education chatbot, to answer common COVID-19 vaccine questions. The university’s International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), in collaboration with IBM Research, developed Vira. All you need to do is type your question into the chatbot and in just seconds, Vira will offer evidence-based answers vetted by Johns Hopkins vaccine scientists. Vira can be used on both desktop and mobile devices.

Disability Nondiscrimination Laws Apply to People with “Long COVID”

The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice (DOJ) jointly published guidance on how disability nondiscrimination laws apply to people with “long COVID” who may be newly covered because of the impact of the COVID-19 infection. The guidance discusses when long COVID may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal civil rights laws. The White House shared the guidance, along with a directory of resources available through programs funded by the Administration for Community Living, as part of a comprehensive package of resources for people with disabilities, including those with long COVID and other post-COVID conditions.