Tag: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Medicare Ambulance Relief Bill introduced in Senate

Yesterday, Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021 (S. 2037). Senators Cortez Masto and Collins were joined by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) as primary cosponsors and leads on the legislation.

S. 2037 is identical to H.R. 2454 by Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and would extend the temporary Medicare ground ambulance increases of 2% urban, 3% rural and the super rural bonus payment for five years. The increases are currently scheduled to expire on December 31, 2022. The five-year extension would allow for the increases to remain in place during the two-year delay on ambulance data collection due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, an analysis of the data by MedPAC and subsequent action by the Congress to reform the Medicare ambulance fee schedule.

The legislation would also help ensure that rural zip codes in large urban counties remain rural following geographical changes under the fee schedule as a result of the 2020 census data. The current definition using rural urban commuting areas (RUCA) in Goldsmith Modification areas would be modified for zip codes with 1,000 people or less per square mile would also be rural. Ground ambulance service providers and suppliers could also petition the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make the argument that a specific zip code should be rural. It is vital that this provision be implemented before CMS makes changes from the 2020 census data which will likely occur in 2023.

The AAA has been leading the effort on the legislation with the support of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Association of EMTs, National Rural Health Association and the National Volunteer Fire Council.

The AAA will be launching a Call to Action shortly requesting AAA members to ask their Senators to cosponsor S. 2037, and reach out to their Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 2454 if they have not already done so.

We greatly appreciate the leadership of Senators Cortez Masto, Collins, Stabenow, Cassidy, Leahy, and Sanders on this vitally important legislation.

CMS Bolsters Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccines

From CMS on June 9, 2021

Biden Administration Continues Efforts to Increase Vaccinations by Bolstering Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccinations for Medicare Beneficiaries

As part of President Biden’s commitment to increasing access to vaccinations, CMS announced an additional payment amount for administering in-home COVID-19 vaccinations to Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty leaving their homes or are otherwise hard-to-reach. This announcement further demonstrates continued efforts of the Biden-Harris Administration to meet people where they are and make it as easy as possible for all Americans to get vaccinated. There are approximately 1.6 million adults 65 or older who may have trouble accessing COVID-19 vaccinations because they have difficulty leaving home.

While many Medicare beneficiaries can receive a COVID-19 vaccine at a retail pharmacy, their physician’s office, or a mass vaccination site, some beneficiaries have great difficulty leaving their homes or face a taxing effort getting around their communities easily to access vaccination in these settings. To better serve this group, Medicare is incentivizing providers and will pay an additional $35 per dose for COVID-19 vaccine administration in a beneficiary’s home, increasing the total payment amount for at-home vaccination from approximately $40 to approximately $75 per vaccine dose. For a two-dose vaccine, this results in a total payment of approximately $150 for the administration of both doses, or approximately $70 more than the current rate.

“CMS is committed to meeting the unique needs of Medicare consumers and their communities – particularly those who are home bound or who have trouble getting to a vaccination site. That’s why we’re acting today to expand the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to people with Medicare at home,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-Lasure. “We’re committed to taking action wherever barriers exist and bringing the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic to the door of older adults and other individuals covered by Medicare who still need protection.”

Delivering COVID-19 vaccination to access-challenged and hard-to-reach individuals poses some unique challenges, such as ensuring appropriate vaccine storage temperatures, handling, and administration. The CDC has outlined guidance to assist vaccinators in overcoming these challenges. This announcement now helps to address the financial burden associated with accommodating these complications.

The additional payment amount also accounts for the clinical time needed to monitor a beneficiary after the vaccine is administered, as well as the upfront costs associated with administering the vaccine safely and appropriately in a beneficiary’s home. The payment rate for administering each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the additional in-home payment amount, will be geographically adjusted based on where the service is furnished.

How to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine:

As this action demonstrates, a person’s ability to leave their home should not be an obstacle to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. As states and the federal government continue to break down barriers – like where vaccines can be administered – resources for connecting communities to vaccination options remain key. Unvaccinated individuals and those looking to assist friends and family can:

  • Visit vaccines.gov (English) or vacunas.gov (Spanish) to search for vaccines nearby
  • Text GETVAX (438829) for English or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish for near-instant access to details on three vaccine sites in the local area
  • Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY: 1-888-720-7489) for assistance in English and Spanish

Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines:

The federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge or with no cost-sharing for all people living in the United States. As a condition of receiving free COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, vaccine providers cannot charge patients any amount for administering the vaccine.

Because no patient can be billed for COVID-19 vaccinations, CMS and its partners have provided a variety of information online for providers vaccinating all Americans regardless of their insurance status:

  • Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage: Beneficiaries with Medicare pay nothing for COVID-19 vaccines or their administration, and there is no applicable copayment, coinsurance or deductible.
  • Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):State Medicaid and CHIP agencies must cover COVID-19 vaccine administration with no cost sharing for nearly all beneficiaries during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) and for over a year after it ends. For the very limited number of Medicaid beneficiaries who are not eligible for this coverage (and do not receive it through other coverage they might have), providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to underinsured individuals through the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as discussed below. Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, the federal matching percentage for state Medicaid and CHIP expenditures on COVID-19 vaccine administration is currently 100% (as of April 1, 2021), and will remain 100% for more than a year after the COVID-19 PHE ends. The ARP also expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccine administration under Medicaid and CHIP to additional eligibility groups. CMS recently updated the Medicaid vaccine toolkit to reflect the enactment of the ARP at https://www.medicaid.gov/state-resource-center/downloads/covid-19-vaccine-toolkit.pdf.
  • Private Plans: The vaccine is free for people enrolled in private health plans and issuers COVID-19 vaccine and its administration is covered without cost sharing for most enrollees, and such coverage must be provided both in-network and out-of-network during the PHE. Current regulations provide that out-of-network rates must be reasonable as compared to prevailing market rates, and the rules reference using the Medicare payment rates as a potential guideline for insurance companies. In light of CMS’s increased Medicare payment rates, CMS will expect health insurance issuers and group health plans to continue to ensure their rates are reasonable when compared to prevailing market rates. Under the conditions of participation in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program, providers cannot charge plan enrollees any administration fee or cost sharing, regardless of whether the COVID-19 vaccine is administered in-network or out-of-network.

The Biden-Harris Administration is providing free access to COVID-19 vaccines for every adult living in the United States. For individuals who are underinsured, providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund administered by HRSA after the claim to the individual’s health plan for payment has been denied or only partially paid. Information is available at https://www.hrsa.gov/covid19-coverage-assistance.

For individuals who are uninsured, providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals without insurance through the Provider Relief Fund, administered by HRSA. Information on the COVID-19 Claims Reimbursement to Health Care Providers and Facilities for Testing, Treatment, and Vaccine Administration for the Uninsured Program is available at https://www.hrsa.gov/CovidUninsuredClaim.

More information on Medicare payment for COVID-19 vaccine administration – including a list of billing codes, payment allowances and effective dates – is available at https://www.cms.gov/medicare/covid-19/medicare-covid-19-vaccine-shot-payment.

More information regarding the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Requirements and how the COVID-19 vaccine is provided through that program at no cost to recipients is available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/vaccination-provider-support.html.

CMS | Medicare COVID-19 Data Snapshot

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released our monthly update of data that provides a snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on the Medicare population. The updated data show over 4.1 million COVID-19 cases among the Medicare population and over 1.1 million COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The updated snapshot covers the period from January 1, 2020 to March 20, 2021. It is based on Medicare Fee-for-Service claims and Medicare Advantage encounter data CMS received by April 16, 2021.

View the Updated Snapshot

HR2454 | Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021

From Representative Terri Sewell

Rep. Sewell Introduces Legislation to Protect Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services for Rural and Underserved Communities

Washington, D.C. – This Congress, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), along with Reps. Devin Nunes (CA-22), Peter Welch (VT-AL), and Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), introduced H.R. 2454, the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021. The bill would ensure that ambulance service providers, including rural providers and those in underserved communities, are able to continue delivering quality critical first responder and health care services.

“When tragedy strikes and medical emergencies happen, we should feel confident that our first responders have the resources they need to deliver life-saving care,” said Rep. Sewell. “Unfortunately, inadequate Medicare reimbursement rates are putting a strain on ambulance service providers in the most vulnerable communities across the country and making it harder for them to care for our neighbors.”

“The problem is particularly severe for rural communities and has been worsened by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic,” continued Sewell. “That is why I am proud to introduce the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021. This bill would permanently adjust Medicare reimbursement practices so that vital ambulance services remain vibrant and available to all Americans.”

“This bipartisan bill includes key reforms to ensure that rural Americans are not harmed by the delay in updating the Medicare ground ambulance fee schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Nunes, Lead Republican Co-Sponsor. “Extending these temporary Medicare ground ambulance add-on payments for another five years and expanding coverage for those who live in zip codes with fewer than 1,000 people per square mile will keep ambulance costs affordable for Americans when they need ground ambulance transportation.”

“Rural ambulance services save lives and provide needed care in underserved areas every day,” said Rep. Peter Welch, Lead Democratic Co-Sponsor. “This bipartisan bill will ensure that patients in rural areas have access to critical ambulance services and that the providers of these services receive fair, consistent reimbursement for their important work. It’s time for Congress to pass this bill and give ambulance services the certainty they need to continue serving all Americans.”

“Ambulance services are critically important to rural Americans who may live close to an hour away from the nearest emergency room,” said Rep. Mullin, Lead Republican Co-Sponsor. “Providing this care literally means the difference between life and death for many people. As we continue to battle the closures of critical access hospitals across Oklahoma, ambulance services are more important now than ever before. We must ensure that rural Americans receive the care they need. I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of this bill which would enhance and increase resources for first responders in Oklahoma.”

Currently, ambulance service providers across the country are reimbursed by Medicare at rates below the cost of providing services, as determined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Consequently, providers rely on “add-on” payments to continue providing services. Add-on payments vary depending on whether a provider is located in an urban, rural, or “super rural” ZIP Code.

Congress has extended current add-on payment rates through December 31, 2022, and planned to review Medicare cost data in considering whether they should be made permanent. However, due to the upcoming ZIP Code reclassification which will occur following the 2020 Census, providers are faced with uncertainty regarding the future of these payments. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to delay the first two rounds of data collection, compounding this uncertainty.

Background on the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021

H.R. 2454, the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021, would end the band-aid approach and make permanent adjustments to the reimbursement methodology for services in urban, rural, and “super rural” areas by building the temporary add-ons into the base rate fee. Specifically, it would extend the current temporary Medicare ground ambulance increases of 2% urban, 3% rural, and the super rural bonus payments for five years and would ensure that rural zip codes continue to be classified as rural following the ZIP Code reclassification.

These payments are vital to the financial viability of the ambulance community and have been extended numerous times on a bipartisan basis, most recently for 5 years. This five-year extension would allow a new data cost collection system time to be put into place and collect meaningful data following the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“NRHA applauds Representative Terri Sewell for her leadership in working to preserve ground ambulance services in rural America. Throughout the pandemic ambulance services have provided critical first responder services in our most rural communities. Passing H.R. 2454, the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021, is critical to ensuring that these important services remain in their communities long after the public health emergency,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.

“The Alabama Rural Health Association lends its full support behind the ‘Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021’ (H.R. 2454).  As rural EMS transportation is one of the greatest challenges for quality access to care in rural Alabama, support is greatly needed to reinforce the existing emergency transportation system.  With additional funding and flexibility created in the system, states like Alabama will have the ability to provide improved emergency transportation in critically rural and underserved areas and allow patients to receive the care that they need in a timely manner.  We are thankful for Rep. Sewell’s introduction of this language, and we encourage support for H.R. 2454,” said Ryan Kelly, Administrator of the Alabama Rural Health Association. 

The legislation is also supported by the following organizations:

  • American Ambulance Association (AAA)
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
  • International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)
  • National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT)
  • National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC)

H.R. 2454 can be found here.

Thank you to Representatives Rep. Terri Sewell, Congressman Devin Nunes, Peter Welch, and Congressman Markwayne Mullin…

May 6, 2021
Press Release

 

CMS | Sequestration | Claims Hold Lifted

CMS Confirms Suspension of Medicare Sequester Through End of 2021; Announces Lifting of Claims Hold

On April 16, 2021, CMS published a notice on the MLNConnects webpage announcing the passage of the Act to Prevent Across-the-Board Direct Spending Cuts, and for Other Purposes. The law, enacted on April 14, 2021 extends the suspension of the Medicare “sequester” through December 31, 2021.

In anticipation of the legislation’s passage, CMS announced on March 30, 2021 that it had instructed its Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to hold Medicare Fee-For-Service claims with dates of service on or after April 1, 2021. With the passage of the bill, CMS further indicated that it has instructed its MACs to release any claims currently being held, and to reprocess any claims paid with the sequester applied. CMS indicated that no action is required on the part of health care providers and suppliers.

Medicare 2% Cut Freeze Extended

Yesterday, Presiden Biden signed into law legislation (H.R. 1868) to extend the current temporary freeze on the 2% Medicare sequestration cut. H.R. 1868 extends the deadline of the freeze from today until December 31. Contractors had been holding Medicare claims to avoid any issues but will again start processing claims. The AAA as well as other national EMS and fire organizations had pushed for the extension of the freeze.

CMS | Repayment of COVID-19 Accelerated & Advance Payments Began 3/30

Repayment of COVID-19 Accelerated and Advance Payments Began on March 30, 2021

CMS issued information about repayment of COVID-19 accelerated and advance payments. If you requested these payments, learn how and when we’ll recoup them:

  • Identify payments we recovered
  • Prepare your billing staff

More Information:

CMS | Sequestration Update | Temporary Claims Hold

From CMS on March 30, 2021

Temporary Claims Hold Pending Congressional Action to Extend 2% Sequester Reduction Suspension

In anticipation of possible Congressional action to extend the 2% sequester reduction suspension, we instructed the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to hold all claims with dates of service on or after April 1, 2021, for a short period without affecting providers’ cash flow. This will minimize the volume of claims the MACs must reprocess if Congress extends the suspension; the MACs will automatically reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied if necessary.

CMS COVID-19 Snapshot March 24

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released our monthly update of data that provides a snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on the Medicare population. The updated data show over 2.7 million COVID-19 cases among the Medicare population and nearly 700,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.  This update includes new data on COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates by race/ethnicity.

The updated snapshot covers the period from January 1 to December 26, 2020. It is based on Medicare Fee-for-Service claims and Medicare Advantage encounter data CMS received by January 22, 2021.

View the Updated Snapshot

CMS | Increased Medicare Payment for Life-Saving COVID-19 Vaccine

From CMS on March 15

Biden-Harris Administration Increases Medicare Payment for Life-Saving COVID-19 Vaccine

On March 15, CMS increased the Medicare payment amount for administering the COVID-19 vaccine. This new and higher payment rate will support important actions taken by providers that are designed to increase the number of vaccines they can furnish each day, including establishing new or growing existing vaccination sites, conducting patient outreach and education, and hiring additional staff. At a time when vaccine supply is growing, CMS is supporting provider efforts to expand capacity and ensure that all Americans can be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Effective for COVID-19 vaccines administered on or after March 15, 2021, the national average payment rate for physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, and many other immunizers will be $40 to administer each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This represents an increase from approximately $28 to $40 for the administration of single-dose vaccines and an increase from approximately $45 to $80 for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines requiring two doses. The exact payment rate for administration of each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will depend on the type of entity that furnishes the service and will be geographically adjusted based on where the service is furnished.

These updates to the Medicare payment rate for COVID-19 vaccine administration reflect new information about the costs involved in administering the vaccine for different types of providers and suppliers, and the additional resources necessary to ensure the vaccine is administered safely and appropriately.

CMS is updating the set of toolkits for providers, states, and insurers to help the health care system swiftly administer the vaccine with these new Medicare payment rates. These resources are designed to increase the number of providers that can administer the vaccine, ensure adequate payment for administering the vaccine to Medicare beneficiaries, and make it clear that no beneficiary, whether covered by private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, should pay cost-sharing for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines:

As a condition of receiving free COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, vaccine providers are prohibited from charging patients any amount for administration of the vaccine. To ensure broad and consistent coverage across programs and payers, the toolkits have specific information for several programs, including:

Medicare: Beneficiaries with Medicare pay nothing for COVID-19 vaccines and there is no applicable copayment, coinsurance, or deductible.

Medicare Advantage (MA): For calendar years 2020 and 2021, Medicare will pay providers directly for the COVID-19 vaccine (if they do not receive it for free) and its administration for beneficiaries enrolled in MA plans. MA plans are not responsible for paying providers to administer the vaccine to MA enrollees during this time. Like beneficiaries in Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage enrollees also pay no cost-sharing for COVID-19 vaccines.

Medicaid: State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program agencies must provide vaccine administration with no cost sharing for nearly all beneficiaries during the Public Health Emergency (PHE) and at least one year after it ends. Through the American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, the COVID vaccine administration will be fully federally funded. The law also provides an expansion of individuals eligible for vaccine administration coverage. There will be more information provided in upcoming updates to the Medicaid toolkit.

Private Plans: CMS, along with the Departments of Labor and Treasury, is requiring that most private health plans and issuers cover the COVID-19 vaccine and its administration, both in-network and out-of-network, with no cost sharing during the PHE. Current regulations provide that out-of-network rates must be reasonable, as compared to prevailing market rates, and reference the Medicare reimbursement rates as a potential guideline for insurance companies. In light of CMS’s increased Medicare payment rates, CMS will expect commercial carriers to continue to ensure that their rates are reasonable in comparison to prevailing market rates.

Uninsured: For individuals who are uninsured, providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals without insurance through the Provider Relief Fund, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

More Information:

 

ET3 | Model Medical Triage Line Notice of Funding Opportunity

From CMS on March 12, 2021

Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) Model Medical Triage Line – Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) Available

 

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) is releasing a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) Model. Through the NOFO, CMS will fund state and local governments, their designees, or other entities that operate or have authority over a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) to establish or expand Medical Triage Lines aimed at reducing inappropriate use of emergency ambulance services and increasing efficiency in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems.

The NOFO complements the ambulance payment component of the ET3 Model, which began implementation on January 1, 2021 and for which the final list of Participants was posted today. Applicants to the NOFO must share at least one ZIP Code with the ambulance providers and suppliers that are participants in the model. Under the ET3 Model, CMS provides greater flexibility to ambulance care teams to address emergency health care needs of Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) beneficiaries following a 911 call, by paying ambulances to transport beneficiaries to Alternative Destinations or to facilitate Treatment in Place with a Qualified Health Care Partner, either in-person or through telehealth.

The NOFO is available at grants.gov under Opportunity Number CMS-2F2-21-001.

For more information, please see the ET3 Model’s webpage. Stay up to date on the latest ET3 Model news and updates by subscribing to the ET3 Model listserv or contact us at ET3Model@cms.hhs.gov.

CMS | Updated Nursing Home Visitation Guidelines

From CMS on March 10, 2021

 CMS Updates Nursing Home Guidance with Revised Visitation Recommendations

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued updated guidance today for nursing homes to safely expand visitation options during the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency (PHE).

This latest guidance comes as more than three million doses of vaccines have been administered within nursing homes, thanks in part to the CDC’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization for emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the updated guidance, facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor, unless certain scenarios arise that would limit visitation for:

  • Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
  • Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or
  • Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.

The updated guidance also emphasizes that “compassionate care” visits should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate, or an outbreak. Compassionate care visits include visits for a resident whose health has sharply declined or is experiencing a significant change in circumstances.

CMS continues to recommend facilities, residents, and families adhere to the core principles of COVID-19 infection control, including maintaining physical distancing and conducting visits outdoors whenever possible. This continues to be the safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly if either party has not been fully vaccinated.

“CMS recognizes the psychological, emotional and physical toll that prolonged isolation and separation from family have taken on nursing home residents, and their families,” said Dr. Lee Fleisher, MD, CMS Chief Medical Officer and Director of CMS’ Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. “That is why, now that millions of vaccines have been administered to nursing home residents and staff, and the number of COVID cases in nursing homes has dropped significantly, CMS is updating its visitation guidance to bring more families together safely. This is an important step that we are taking, as we continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining infection prevention practices, given the continued risk of transmission of COVID-19.” 

High vaccination rates among nursing home residents, and the diligence of committed nursing home staff to adhere to infection control protocols, which are enforced by CMS, have helped significantly reduce COVID-19 positivity rates and the risk of transmission in nursing homes.

Although outbreaks increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission, as long as there is evidence that the outbreak is contained to a single unit or separate area of the facility, visitation can still occur.

For additional details on the updated nursing home visitation guidance released today, visit here: https://www.cms.gov/medicareprovider-enrollment-and-certificationsurveycertificationgeninfopolicy-and-memos-states-and/nursing-home-visitation-covid-19-revised

A Fact Sheet can be found here: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cms-updates-nursing-home-guidance-revised-visitation-recommendations

CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum Feb 25

From CMS on February 18, 2021

February 25 Open Door Forum

Thursday, February 25, 2021 | 14:00 ET

Dial: 1-888-455-1397 & Reference Conference Passcode: 8604468

The next CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum is scheduled for:

Date:  Thursday, February 25, 2021

Start Time:  2:00pm-3:00pm PM Eastern Time (ET);

Please dial-in at least 15 minutes before call start time.

Conference Leaders: Jill Darling, Susanne Seagrave

Agenda

**This Agenda is Subject to Change**

  1. Opening Remarks

Acting Chair- Susanne Seagrave, Acting Director, Division of Data Analysis and Market-Based Pricing (Center for Medicare)

Moderator – Jill Darling (Office of Communications)

  1. Announcements & Updates

III. Open Q&A

**DATE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE**

Next Ambulance Open Door Forum: TBA

ODF email: AMBULANCEODF@cms.hhs.gov

———————————————————————

This Open Door Forum is open to everyone, but if you are a member of the Press, you may listen in but please refrain from asking questions during the Q & A portion of the call. If you have inquiries, please contact CMS at Press@cms.hhs.gov. Thank you.

Open Door Participation Instructions:

This call will be Conference Call Only.

To participate by phone:

Dial: 1-888-455-1397 & Reference Conference Passcode: 8604468

Persons participating by phone do not need to RSVP. TTY Communications Relay Services are available for the Hearing Impaired.  For TTY services dial 7-1-1 or 1-800-855-2880. A Relay Communications Assistant will help.

Instant Replay: 1-866-372-3811; Conference Passcode: No Passcode needed

Instant Replay is an audio recording of this call that can be accessed by dialing 1-866-372-3811 and entering the Conference Passcode beginning 1 hours after the call has ended. The recording is available until February 27, 2021, 11:59PM ET.

For ODF schedule updates and E-Mailing List registration, visit our website at http://www.cms.gov/OpenDoorForums/.

Were you unable to attend the recent Ambulance ODF call? We encourage you to visit our CMS Podcasts and Transcript webpage where you can listen and view the most recent Ambulance ODF call. Please allow up to three weeks to get both the audio and transcript posted to: https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Outreach/OpenDoorForums/PodcastAndTranscripts.html.

CMS provides free auxiliary aids and services including information in accessible formats. Click here for more information. This will point partners to our CMS.gov version of the “Accessibility & Nondiscrimination notice” page. Thank you.

CMS | COVID-19 Vaccine Resources

As COVID-19 vaccines begin rolling out across the country CMS is taking action to protect the health and safety of our nation’s patients and providers and keeping you updated on the latest COVID-19 resources from HHS, CDC and CMS.

With information coming from many different sources, CMS has compiled resources and materials to help you share important and relevant information on the COVID- 19 vaccine with the people that you serve. You can find these and more resources on the COVID-19 Partner Resources Page and the HHS COVID Education Campaign page. We look forward to partnering with you to promote vaccine safety and encourage our beneficiaries to get vaccinated when they have the opportunity.

If you are a healthcare provider:

Both the CDC and CMS have useful resources for your practice. Look to CDC for the latest science, vaccine administration information and patient-focused resources.

You can find additional resources on the CDC Resources for Health Care Providers Page.

CMS released aCOVID-19 Provider Toolkit to ensure health care providers have the necessary tools to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The toolkit includes information on:

You can also review the set of COVID-19 FAQs, which has information specific to health care providers who bill Medicare for administering COVID-19 vaccines.

Here’s what else you should know:

  • Medicare covers the COVID-19 vaccine, so there will be no cost to your patients with Medicare.  Medicare will reimburse you for administering the vaccine.
  • State governments are handling the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Look for updates from your state and local officials as more doses of the vaccine become available for additional priority groups.
  • People without health insurance or whose insurance does not provide coverage of the vaccine can also get COVID-19 vaccine at no cost.  Providers administering the vaccine to people without health insurance or whose insurance does not provide coverage of the vaccine can request reimbursement for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine through the Provider Relief Fund.
  • Most professional associations have pages devoted to COVID-19 vaccination.  Your association may have advice tailored to your discipline, specialty and/or location.

How can you help educate your patients?

  • You are a trusted source…encourage your patients to get the vaccine when it is available to them.
  • Let them know the vaccine is no cost and will help keep them from getting COVID-19. Learn more about the benefits of the vaccine.
  • Let them know the vaccine is safe and that safety is a top priority for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Remind them to continue practicing the 3Ws (Wear a Mask, Watch your distance, Wash your hands).

Questions? Please e-mail us: Partnership@cms.hhs.gov

Fierce Healthcare | Agency veteran appointed as acting CMS administrator

From Fierce Healthcare on January 20

Agency veteran Liz Richter has been named the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The announcement Wednesday comes as President Joe Biden has yet to name a permanent administrator, who will require Senate confirmation.

Richter has served at CMS since 1990 and most recently served as the deputy center director for the Center for Medicare. She has also served as the director of the Hospital and Ambulatory Policy Group in the Center for Medicare Management.

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CMS | Updated Medicare COVID-19 Snapshot

From CMS on January 15

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released our monthly update of data that provides a snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on the Medicare population. The updated data show over 1.9 million COVID-19 cases among the Medicare population and over 493,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The updated snapshot covers the period from January 1 to November 21, 2020. It is based on Medicare Fee-for-Service claims and Medicare Advantage encounter data CMS received by December 18, 2020.

Read on CMS.gov