Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of July 20
Posted on July 24, 2020
As the threat posed by COVID-19 rises across the country, the MHA continues to keep members apprised of developments affecting Michigan hospitals during the pandemic through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.
Tools Available to Advocate for Next COVID-19 Relief Package
The MHA participated in a Virtual Advocacy Day that the American Hospital Association (AHA) hosted July 20, featuring presentations from AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack and AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels. An update was shared on efforts to include provisions to support hospitals in the next COVID-19 relief package, which includes additional dollars for the emergency relief fund, forgiveness for accelerated payments, and liability protections for front-line medical providers and facilities.
Since Senate negotiations on the bill reportedly stalled July 23, it remains important for healthcare providers to advocate for these provisions. The AHA has issued an Advocacy Alert (password required) asking that members contact their senators to stress their importance. While Michigan’s U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters are healthcare champions, there is value in them hearing from their constituents on the importance of this funding. To aid in these efforts, the AHA has developed resources and a digital toolkit to help members engage with lawmakers virtually. Members with questions on federal advocacy topics may contact Laura Appel at the MHA.
HHS Extends Public Health Emergency
On July 23, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the COVID-19 public health emergency for another 90 days. The renewal, officially signed by HHS Secretary Alex Azar, ensures that waivers received from the HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will continue. Policies extended include the 20% Medicare inpatient add-on payment for COVID-19 patients, relaxed telehealth restrictions and other Section 1135 waivers. Members with questions should contact Laura Appel at the MHA.
HHS Announces Targeted CARES Act Funding, Clarifies Required Reporting
The HHS recently announced $10 billion in additional “targeted” hospital funding from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provider relief funds to assist hospitals with COVID-19 response efforts. The HHS asked hospitals to submit data on their COVID-19-positive inpatient admissions for the period Jan. 1 through June 10, 2020. Payments will be issued to hospitals with more than 161 COVID-19 admissions during this period, with a portion of Michigan hospitals set to receive additional funding from the allocation.
The HHS also shared details on reporting requirements for recipients of CARES Act provider relief funds. Recipients that received one or more payments exceeding $10,000 in the aggregate from the Provider Relief Fund, including the newly announced payments, are required to submit reports to the HHS on how the funds have been expended, using a portal that the HHS will open Oct. 1. Detailed instructions regarding these reports will be released by Aug. 17, and the Health Resources and Services Administration will host educational sessions for providers.
The MHA will continue to monitor hospital distributions from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund and update members as information becomes available. Members with questions about this funding are encouraged to contact Jason Jorkasky at the MHA.
Guidance Released on Wage Increase for Direct Care Worker Grants
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released further information and guidance regarding the $2 per hour wage increase for direct care workers via state grants that was signed into law through Senate Bill (SB) 690 July 1. The department’s frequently asked questions document contains information regarding eligibility of individuals and facilities, as well as the logistics for providing the increased funding at skilled nursing facilities.
In SB 690, the Legislature appropriated $120 million to increase the wages of direct care workers. The language of the bill provided that the increases are above the rates paid March 1 and apply to the period from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2020. Only “direct care workers” at skilled nursing facilities are eligible for the grants. These workers include registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, competency-evaluated nursing assistant or respiratory therapist. The MHA will continue to share additional information about the grants as it becomes available. Members with questions on this issue may contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.
State FY 2020 Budget Protects Healthcare Priorities
During the week of July 20, negotiations ended on the state fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget as the Legislature approved a plan addressing a deficit of nearly $2.2 billion caused by economic losses surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic (see related article). The MHA actively worked with lawmakers to ensure that the association’s budget priorities were held harmless from reductions, including the rural access pool and obstetrical stabilization fund, Medicaid rates and provider tax funded pools. In the coming months, the Legislature and administration will work on the state budget for FY 2021, which begins Oct. 1, and the MHA will continue to stress the importance of fully funding healthcare during those negotiations. Members with questions may contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.
State Senate Approves Liability Protection Bill
Legislation to limit legal liability for healthcare facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic passed the Senate July 23 after receiving approval from the full House late July 22. Senate Bill (SB) 899 would protect facilities from lawsuits related to pandemic response. Specifically, the legislation protects from lawsuits related to the provision of care to COVID-19 patients, rescheduling patient care because of governmental orders or shortages of supplies.
Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Township) introduced SB 899, and it passed the Senate May 7. The final version of the legislation as approved July 23 reflects the House substitute that was adopted in committee July 22. The legislation requires Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature before becoming law. The MHA will continue to monitor and keep members informed on the issue. Members with questions should contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.
National COVID-19 Testing Implementation Forum and Testing Supply Registry Announced
The HHS announced July 21 a new program to capture feedback between federal officials and the private sector on COVID-19 testing. The National Testing Implementation Forum will bring together representatives from key stakeholder groups to share information and provide input to federal leaders about SARS-CoV-2 testing and diagnostics. A key aim of the forum is to share perspectives on how the HHS can best address end-to-end testing supply chain issues across commercial, public health, academic and other sectors and define optimal testing in various settings (diagnostic, screening, surveillance, others). The group will also aim to increase public health laboratory capacity, implement a national surveillance strategy, seek new techniques such as sample pooling and identify barriers to a streamlined national laboratory testing reporting system.
The same day, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) announced the creation of a comprehensive, national COVID-19 diagnostic supply registry to help state and federal governments in their pandemic responses. As outlined in AdvaMed’s news release, the national registry is being launched in partnership with 13 commercial diagnostics manufacturers, nearly all of which produce supplies used in Michigan. The new registry will streamline communications and data sharing between diagnostic firms and the government, facilitate collaboration with public health stakeholders to optimize access to COVID-19 testing, and standardize reporting. Questions related to COVID-19 testing can be directed to Brittany Bogan at the MHA.
Grace Period Granted for Remote Pharmacy Supervision Step Down
The governor issued Executive Order (EO) 2020-152 July 14, removing some of the flexibility related to remote supervision of pharmacy technicians and staff that existed in EO 2020-124, which has since been rescinded. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) has issued a memo discussing the topic and a timeline to fully transition from remote to on-site supervision. LARA will give pharmacies until 11:59 p.m. Sept. 30, 2020, before enforcing supervision and other requirements. Members with questions about EO 2020-124, EO 2020-152 or the memo from LARA may contact Paige Fults at the MHA.
Multilingual Mask-up Materials Available
The state of Michigan has available for download No Mask, No Entry posters in various languages, including English, Spanish, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Burmese, French, American Sign Language, Swahili and Bangla. Questions on available resources can be sent to the MHA Communications department.
U.S.-Canadian Border Remains Closed, Healthcare Employees Exempted
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf recently announced that the United States and Canada have extended the mutual ban on nonessential travel between the two countries until Aug. 20; that ban had been set to expire July 21. Essential travel, including that of healthcare workers, may continue uninterrupted. The MHA will continue to monitor and work with state and federal governments to keep the border open for essential healthcare employees. Members with questions on this issue may contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.
Additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpage. Questions on COVID-19 and infectious disease response strategies may be directed to the MDHHS Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC). Members with MHA-specific questions should contact the following MHA staff members:
Posted in: Issues in Healthcare, Member News, Top Issues - Healthcare