COVID-19 Washington Report Express Updates, April 23, 2020

Washington Report Express
House Approves Interim COVID-19 Relief Package for Small Businesses
The House today approved the $484 billion coronavirus relief bill that includes more than $300 billion in new funding for the depleted Paycheck Protection Program. In addition, the bill increases the Provider Relief Fund by $75 billion to help health care providers suffering financial hardships because of the pandemic. With Senate approval earlier this week, the bill now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign it on Friday.

Find answers to questions about the Paycheck Protection Program.
Recorded webinars and podcasts about aid for practices, including Small Business Administration loans grants, advance Medicare payments and more.
Financial Resources for COVID-19.
The Academy has added fact sheets for the SBA loan programs and other relief for providers.

HHS: Additional CARES Act Provider Relief Funds to Be Distributed
Medicare providers with low numbers of Medicare fee-for-service patients may see some additional financial help this week with another allocation of relief money from the CARES Act. The Department of Health and Human Services announced it is distributing another $20 billion to health care providers, including hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, who received little or no money in the first round of payments. The agency previously distributed $30 billion based on 2019 Medicare fee-for-service payments.

CMS Issues Guidelines for Reopening Facilities for Non-COVID-19 Care
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued recommendations on Sunday for the first phase of reopening physician offices and ambulatory surgery centers that provide nonemergent, non-COVID-19 health care. The guidelines are an important first step for health care providers considering reopening their practices and facilities, but it is contingent on approval from states and local public health officials. Clinically appropriate elective surgeries can resume on an outpatient basis if a state or region meets certain criteria.

CMS Updates Guidance to Medicare Advantage Plans to Encourage Waiving Prior Authorization Requirements
For weeks, the Academy has been pressing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to require Medicare Advantage plans to ease prior authorization restrictions for all urgent and emergency services at least temporarily during the current public health emergency. This week, CMS released an updated guidance to plans "addressing the flexibilities available related to utilization management and prior authorization during the COVID-19 public health emergency."

Academy-Led Regulatory Relief Group Extends Push for Prior Authorization Relief to the States
An Academy-led group of specialty societies took further action last week to secure relief from prior authorization. The 13-society Regulatory Relief Coalition pressed governors and insurance commissioners from all 50 states to waive all prior authorization requirements during the COVID-19 public health emergency declared by President Trump.

Academy Educates Physician Lawmaker on COVID-19 Hardships for Practices
Highlighting the economic challenges physicians face during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy and 10 other specialty groups last week urged Rep. Ami Bera, MD, D-Calif., to support increasing the pool of coronavirus relief to practices. We also discussed the need for additional flexibility in the Medicare Accelerated and Advanced Payment Program to enhance its utility to physician practices.

Join Your Colleagues: Ask Congress for More COVID-19 Relief
While Congress acted this week to replenish some of the emergency funds, we need your voice to ensure that our practices have long-term support to recover from their worst financial crisis. It is important for lawmakers to hear about the challenges you are still facing and what is needed to ensure that your practice recovers and remains available to care for ophthalmology patients after the COVID-19 pandemic. Tell your lawmakers to act.