Coronavirus Daily Update: New Telehealth Bill Introduced; SNFs See 9% Bump

During this critical time, Home Health Care News remains committed to bringing you all the essential news related to home-based care operations. At the same time, we also recognize the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to our regular content, we’ll continue to highlight industry-related developments and mitigation strategies in this rolling bulletin.

What you need to know from Friday-Sunday (June 12-14):

— Texas and Florida are experiencing a startling rise in coronavirus cases, John Hopkins data shows. The states are in the third and second phase of their reopening processes, respectively. Overall, Texas has seen well over 80,000 cases and nearly 2,000 deaths as of Friday, while Florida has about 70,000 infections and is inching toward 3,000 deaths. In-home care providers will likely have to face new challenges as states reopen.

— Skilled nursing facilities received a 9% Medicare reimbursement bump during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis under the new Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM), according to Skilled Nursing News. Speaking of new Medicare payment models, HHCN recently checked in on the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) here.

— U.S. Representatives G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) have introduced the bipartisan Helping Ensure Access to Local TeleHealth (HEALTH) Act. The bill will codify Medicare reimbursement for community health centers and rural health clinics for telehealth services. The legislation may not pave the way for home health telehealth reimbursement, but it shows how Congress is still tying to open new doors and reduce red tape within Medicare.

— Multiple nations in Africa are turning to home care initiatives as the coronavirus inundated hospitals, according to Bloomberg.

What you need to know from Thursday (June 11):

— More than 30 members of the Texas House of Representatives requested increased support for home health agencies from the state department of health this week, according to Corridor News. “These agencies are doing their best to keep their patients safe, but they’re also incurring higher costs and navigating a difficult reporting process,” Rep. Erin Zwiener said. “The state of Texas can help just like we have with nursing homes.”

— LeadingAge sent a letter to federal lawmakers Wednesday pleading for additional funding for home health agencies and home health workers. Additionally, it re-emphasized the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) relief and asked for telehealth reimbursement on behalf of home health agencies.

The Federal Reserve committed to keeping interest rates near zero Wednesday, aiming to help the U.S. economy during a battle with the coronavirus. No rate hikes are expected at least through 2022, the rate-setting committee said. “We’re not thinking about raising rates,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said at a news conference.

— COVID-19 infections in the U.S. surpassed 2 million Wednesday, according to Reuters. New infections are rising slightly after five weeks of declines — partially due to increased testing and partially due to state reopenings. All 50 states are now reopened or in the process of reopening.

— The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its weekly unemployment claims report Thursday. Last week, more than 1.5 million more Americans filed for unemployment insurance, showing that new unemployment is slowing, but that Americans are still being put out of work due to the coronavirus and the subsequent recession.

What you need to know from Wednesday (June 10):

— A growing number of hospitals and health systems are prioritizing home- and community-based preventive care. They include MetroHealth in Ohio, which has launched a free hotline to help coordinate a variety of at-home care services amid the coronavirus, reports Kaiser Health News.

— In April 2020, all health care professional services declined 68% in utilization and 48% in revenue based on total estimated in-network amounts compared to April 2019, nationally. That’s according to a new report from FAIR Health, available here.

— The United States surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to a New York Times database. The database shows that the COVID-19 outbreak has continued to spread, with cases rising in 21 states.

— The U.S. government on Wednesday said it is investing to help a company develop an at-home saliva test to look for antibodies to coronavirus, according to CNN.

— One trend that may emerge after the coronavirus pandemic subsides: more state-level licensure requirements for home care agencies. HHCN has the story here.

What you need to know from Tuesday (June 9):

— The Trump administration and CMS released a new guide for Medicare patients and beneficiaries starting to reconsider their in-person care options. “Thanks to President Trump’s unprecedented expansion of telehealth, many patients have been able to access their clinicians while staying safe at home,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in an announcement. “But while telehealth has proven to be a lifeline, nothing can absolutely replace the gold standard: in-person care.” More details are available here.

— In addition to that news, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday it is distributing a combined total of $25 billion in coronavirus relief to Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers, plus safety-net hospitals. Medicaid-reimbursed home-based care providers will be able to begin the process of receiving those funds via an online portal launching Wednesday.

— The United States has officially entered into a recession. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a peak in monthly economic activity occurred in the U.S. economy in February 2020. That peak marked the end of an expansion that began in June 2009 and the start of a new recession. Overall, the economic expansion that ended in February lasted 128 months. During the last recession, Medicaid saw a drastic increase in enrollment. That’s something Medicaid-reimbursed in-home care providers should keep their eyes on moving forward, though some experts are discounting a similar enrollment spike this time around.

— Speaking virtually during a Biotechnology Innovation Organization conference on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci described COVID-19 as his “worst nightmare.” The infectious disease expert specifically highlighted how the coronavirus was able to spread across the globe in such a short period of time. “In a period of four months, it has devastated the whole world,” Fauci said. “And it isn’t over yet.” The New York Times has the details here.

— A new study suggests stay-at-home measures have been highly effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, reports CNN. If widespread stay-at-home orders were not implemented after the coronavirus first hit the U.S., there would have been roughly 60 million more infections across the country. The latest estimate comes from a study published Monday in Nature.

What you need to know from Monday (June 8):

— Nearly 600 front-line health care workers in the U.S. have died as a result of the coronavirus, a project by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News suggests. That figure includes everyone from doctors to hospital janitors, administrators and nursing home workers. That number is significantly higher than the number the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out: 368. However, the CDC has noted that its count is likely too low.

— The global death toll is also reaching striking numbers, according to Johns Hopkins University. Data collected by the university suggest more than 400,000 people worldwide have now died as a result of the virus.

— The coronavirus has ushered in what many predict will be lasting changes to the health care system. The latest in the home-based care realm? Intermountain Healthcare’s new in-home hospital-level care.

— The small businesses landscape will also likely see some lasting changes as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. More than one in five small businesses say they’re two months or less away from closing, according to a recent MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce poll. That figure is relevant to the home-based care industry because it’s dominated by mom-and-pop shops. On top of that, more than 100,000 businesses have closed permanently since March, according to research out of University of Illinois, Harvard University and the University of Chicago.

— As states continue to reopen and more Americans go back to work, the economy is showing signs of improvement. Still, the economic fallout the COVID-19 emergency created are significant. The federal budget deficit was $424 billion in May, nearly double what it was a year earlier, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

For daily updates from the week of June 1, click here.

For daily updates from the week of May 26, click here.

For daily updates from the week of May 18, click here.

For daily updates from the week of May 11, click here.

For daily updates from the week of May 4, click here.

For daily updates from the week of April 27, click here.

For daily updates from the week of April 20, click here.

For daily updates from the week of April 13, click here.

For daily updates from the week of April 6, click here.

For daily updates from the week of March 30, click here.

For daily updates from the week of March 23, click here.

For daily updates from the week of March 16, click here.

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