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 Tuesday (April 7)
— CMS announced Tuesday it has delivered almost $34 billion in the past week to home health providers and other health care organizations on the front lines battling the 2019 novel coronavirus. The funds have been provided through the expansion of the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
— In a new report from the HHS Office of Inspector General, hospitals reported that their most significant challenges center on testing and caring for patients with known or suspected COVID-19 — and keeping staff safe. The fact that most hospitals continue to struggle with PPE does not bode well for home health providers, which federal decisionmakers aren’t prioritizing in terms of supplies.
— Nursing homes in Connecticut will get a 10%, “across-the-board increase” in their Medicaid reimbursements, with operators that volunteer to turn their facilities into dedicated COVID-19 treatment facilities eligible for even greater financial benefits. HHCN sister publication Skilled Nursing News has the story here.
— Health care workers treating COVID-19 patients should be rewarded financially, according to President Trump, speaking at a White House coronavirus task force this week. Trump, who called health care workers. “incredible,” was specifically answering a question about considerations for a fourth COVID-19 relief effort.
— New York, the District of Columbia, Alaska, Hawaii and New Jersey are among the most aggressive when it comes to measures aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus, according to a new ranking from WalletHub. Texas, Utah, Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas are among the least aggressive.
CMS shares accelerated payments data
CMS has approved roughly $34 billion in payments to Medicare providers over the past week through the agency’s Accelerated and Advanced Payment Program.
So far, the faster accelerated payments process launched by CMS last month for COVID-19 has resulted in processing times of between four to six days, down from the normal three to four weeks.
Over the past week, CMS has received over 25,000 requests from health care providers and suppliers for accelerated and advance payments, approving over 17,000 of those requests. Prior to COVID-19, CMS had approved just over 100 total requests in the past five years, with most being tied to natural disasters such as hurricane.
“Health care providers are making massive financial sacrifices to care for the influx of coronavirus patients,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “Many are rightly complying with federal recommendations to delay non-essential elective surgeries to preserve capacity and personal protective equipment. They shouldn’t be penalized for doing the right thing. Amid a public health storm of unprecedented fury, these payments are helping providers and suppliers – so critical to defeating this terrible virus – stay afloat.”
CMS announced a COVID-19 update to its accelerated payments program on March 28.
HHCN is attempting to get home health care-specific advanced patent totals from CMS.
What you need to know from Monday (April 6)
— 47% of home-based care providers believe COVID-19 will have a negative impact on the long-term health of their businesses, a new survey released by Axxess has found.
— PPE is in such short supply that thieves are starting to target valuable supplies. Over the weekend, roughly $250,000 of personal protective equipment was stolen from Wilson Care Group, a home health care provider and senior living operator in Hawaii.
— On Monday, Encompass Health Corp. (NYSE: EHC) announced it will award frontline employees in its 134 hospitals, 245 home health locations and 83 hospice locations with additional paid time off in recognition of their work during the COVID-19 outbreak. With more than 21,000 employees across the country that will benefit from the additional paid time off, Encompass Health’s investment is estimated at $50 million.
— In a recent poll of 266 home-based care professionals, only one-quarter reported that they are actively offering virtual care services. The poll was conducted during a recent HHCN webinar sponsored by AlayaCare.
— The number of new deaths in New York appears to be leveling off, though the state is still the epicenter of coronavirus in the U.S. The Home Care Association of New York State (HCA-NYS) and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) will discuss the situation on the ground during an HHCN webinar on Friday.
— The government is starting to roll out new and faster tests, but there are still results delays and an overall lack of materials. In-home care providers have been mostly left out of the testing picture entirely.
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