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COVID-19 regulatory updates from the last week include a deadline extension for the COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund, and the Provider Relief Fund portal reopening for certain providers.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has extended the application deadline until Friday, Aug. 28, 2020 for the Provider Relief Fund Phase 2 General Distribution to Medicaid, Medicaid managed care, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and dental providers impacted by COVID-19. The goal for this opportunity was to reach the remaining providers participating in state Medicaid and CHIP programs that did not receive funding in the Phase 1 General Distribution, as well as certain dental providers. HHS has posted resources and hosted a number of webinars targeted at providers and provider organizations to answer questions and assist eligible providers with the application process.
HHS also plans to allow certain Medicare providers impacted by COVID-19 who experienced challenges in the Phase 1 Medicare General Distribution application period a second opportunity to receive funding. Starting the week of Aug. 10, HHS will allow Medicare providers who missed the opportunity to apply for additional provider relief funding from the $20 billion portion of the $50 billion Phase 1 General Distribution. Providers that do not submit comprehensive cost reports with CMS were asked to submit revenue information to a portal to receive the balance of their 2 percent payment of General Distribution funds. Some providers, including many Medicaid, CHIP, and dental providers with low Medicare revenues, did not complete an application by the deadline for this additional $20 billion round of funding. Providers will have until Aug. 28, 2020, to complete an application to be considered for the balance of their additional funding up to 2 percent of their annual patient revenues.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is expanding the deadline for use of the renewed Advance Beneficiary Notice of Non-coverage (ABN). At this time, the renewed ABN will be mandatory for use on Jan. 1, 2021. The ABN, Form CMS-R-131, is issued by health care providers (including independent laboratories, home health agencies, and hospices), physicians, practitioners, and suppliers to original Medicare Fee-for-Service beneficiaries in situations where Medicare payment is expected to be denied in order to transfer potential financial liability to the beneficiary in certain instances. The renewed form may be implemented prior to the mandatory deadline.
HHS and the Department of Defense (DOD) announced a $7.6 million contract with Hologic Inc. to expand production of custom sample collection and processing consumables for COVID-19 testing. Hologic already has two approved COVID-19 tests. With the additional funds from the contract, Hologic is slated to boost its test production from 4.8 million per month to 6.8 million per month, with the increased consumable volume expected to reach the market by January 2021.
HHS reserved the available advanced manufacturing capability and capacities of the Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) at the Texas A&M University System for use in manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines. With this task order, the U.S. government has reserved the CIADM’s capacity through December 2021 for U.S. government partners developing vaccines under Operation Warp Speed.
HHS, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the formation of the COVID-19 Insights Partnership, an initiative to coordinate and share health data as well as research and expertise to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Research and analysis conducted by the COVID-19 Insights Partnership will focus on vaccine and therapeutic development and outcomes, virology, and other critical scientific topics to understand COVID-19 better.