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Daily News

March 31, 2020

As Medicare Advantage plans wait for the final rates and pay policies for 2021, some stakeholders praised CMS’ recent interim rule for changes to the star ratings and other policies in light of the COVID-19 outbreak -- but one expert says premiums could still go up next year.

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The National Association of Accountable Care Organizations estimates the COVID-19 pandemic could cost Medicare up to $115.4 billion over the next year, and derail Medicare ACOs.

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Attorneys general from 20 states and the District of Columbia called for FDA to ease risk mitigation requirements for abortion medication mifepristone, or at least allow certified prescribers to use telehealth to prescribe the drug during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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March 30, 2020

CMS on Monday (March 30) lifted numerous safety rules and other regulations to give hospitals more flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including allowing them to move patients to makeshift off-site locations and reducing the amount of supervision required for certain non-physicians to provide services.

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CMS is offering wide-ranging Medicare flexibility for dialysis and ambulance providers as well as oversight audits, and has made it easier for beneficiaries to access respiratory devices like ventilators amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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CMS on Monday (March 30) made sweeping regulatory changes to telehealth, further easing use of telehealth in Medicare by lifting requirements on provider relationships and face-to-face care, as well as expanding telehealth in hospice and home health, to tackle COVID-19.

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CMS will provide emergency funding to Medicare providers by dramatically expanding its accelerated and advance payment program during the COVID-19 emergency, the agency announced Saturday (March 28).

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Kaiser Permanente’s updated chloroquine-rationing policy provides lupus patients with a 14-day refill of the drug, instead of a 90-day supply, and patients with other auto-immune diseases are being switched to alternative drugs to shore up supplies for COVID-19 patients.

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Health care providers and health care systems that administer hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate to patients as a potential COVID-19 treatment must track adverse events and report them to FDA within seven calendar days from onset of the event.

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The Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai on Monday (March 30) proposed using $200 million allocated by Congress for a grant program for hospitals and health system providers aiming to use telehealth in their COVID-19 response.

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Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on Monday (March 30) asked CMS Administrator Seema Verma to immediately lift a regulation that prevents providers from billing Medicare for audio-only telehealth services.

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HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Janssen Research & Development and Moderna Therapeutics are working with FDA to streamline development and approval of the two companies’ potential COVID-19 vaccines, HHS announced Monday (March 30).

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A provision in the $2 trillion stimulus law lets hospitals and laboratories set prices on COVID-19 tests, and employers and insurers worry some providers might price gouge and balance bill patients.

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After pushback from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and President Donald Trump, FDA on Sunday (March 29) authorized Ohio-based nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute’s decontamination system for use in sanitizing as many as 160,000 N95 masks for reuse.

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CMS is allowing private individual and small group market insurers to alter their plan designs mid-year to expand or provide telehealth services in light of the coronavirus pandemic and asks states to take a similar approach.

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Democratic leaders in the House and Senate health committees Friday (March 27) said they’ll fight to include in the next stimulus package a number of proposals aimed at expanding access to affordable health insurance and making COVID-19 vaccines and treatments free for all patients.

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The HHS Office for Civil Rights on Saturday (March 28) issued a bulletin reminding providers that discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex and religion are prohibited in HHS-funded programs, while noting the office has already received several complaints as providers react to COVID-19.

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March 27, 2020

President Trump on Friday (March 27) signed into law Congress’ phase three COVID-19 stimulus bill that includes a long-sought measure to reform FDA’s over-the-counter drug monograph regulatory framework.

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Consumer diagnostic testing companies are working with FDA to get emergency use authorization for at-home COVID-19 tests and telehealth consultations with health care professionals.

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CMS’ rule requiring hospitals to disclose their prices does not infringe on hospitals’ First Amendment rights, the agency argues in recent court papers while also dismissing the administrative costs that hospitals will incur to comply with the rule.

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