A Summary of the Stimulus Legislation

Late Wednesday night the Senate approved a massive $2 trillion stimulus and COVID-19 relief package.

Provisions of particular interest to physicians and their practices include the following:

  1. Creates a new loan product within the Small Business Administration for loans of up to $10 million to help cover payroll and overhead costs, with expanded loan forgiveness criteria. Physician practices with not more than 500 employees may qualify.
  2. $100 billion in direct financial support to hospitals, physician practices, and other health care providers under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. This support is for costs of treating COVID-19 patients as well as to ease the financial impact on those who lose revenue due reductions in other services as a result of the pandemic. Exact eligibility criteria and application process is not yet defined pending implementation.
  3. Suspension of the 2% Medicare sequester in May through December 2020.
  4. Limitations on liability for volunteer health care professionals during COVID-19 emergency response.
  5. A temporary waiver of the face-to-face visit requirement with home dialysis patients.
  6. Authority for the Secretary of HHS to waive telehealth coverage requirements for new patients during a national emergency. Previous legislation provided flexibility only for established patients seen within the past three years.
  7. Secretary will also allow for enhanced use of telehealth under Medicare for federally qualified health centers.

Also of interest, the “health extenders” package that was set to expire on May 22 has now been extended to November 30.

House passage is expected on Friday and the President is expected to sign the bill into law.

Tarrant County COVID-19 Activity 3/25/20

Data from Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

Source:http://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/public-health/disease-control—prevention/coronaviruas.html?linklocation=homecarousel&linkname=COVID-19

COVID-19 Drive Thru Testing Available for Health Care Workers

The Tarrant County Medical Society is pleased to announce that the City of Fort Worth Fire Department, in close consultation with Dr. Michael Williams, President, UNTHSC at Fort Worth and Dr. Keith Argenbright, Director, Moncrief Cancer Institute/UT Southwestern Medical Center have opened a COVID-19 testing center for 1st responders that is now available to front line health care workers. This screening resource is now available for physicians, nurses, medical assistants and other health professionals who are on the front lines fighting the COVID virus.  

If you are interested in accessing this testing, please call the Infections Disease Coordinator at the Joint Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the City of Fort Worth at 817-714-9709. This number is answered from 8 am to 5 pm daily. The ID coordinator will conduct an environmental and clinical assessment of the health care professional and determine if COVID testing is warranted. We understand that the clinical evaluation of COVID testing is complex and changes rapidly – you can be assured that the IC coordinator is up-to-date on the current recommendations. 

If testing is indicated, the ID coordinator will collect demographic and clinical information from the health care professional and give the provider the address of the testing facility and an appointment window. The ID coordinator will inform the professional that if the result is positive, they will receive the results by phone; if negative by text or e-mail. The health care professional will be given post-test instructions, including self-quarantine until the test results are available. We are telling them to expect 5 days for results, but are hoping for a quicker turn-around. 

We appreciate your cooperation in this effort to quickly and appropriately screen our critical health care providers. This is a new program and thus will be subject to modification as it is operationalized. 

Dr. Mark Shelton responds to ‘stay at home’ order and concern over hospitals reaching capacity

Watch Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Mark Shelton’s responses to WFAA, where he spoke about the importance of the recent stay at home order issued in Tarrant County. Originally aired on 3/24/20.

COVID-19 Testing Sites – Tarrant County

Below is information about the two COVID-19 testing sites currently available in Tarrant County:

Clinicas Mi Doctor – Seminary  La Gran Plaza

4200 South Freeway, Ste. 106

Fort Worth, TX 76115

817-566-0505

  • Currently, this is the only COVID-19 Testing Site for Clinicas Mi Doctor. No other Clinicas Mi Doctor locations will provide testing.
  • There is a drive-thru to check for COVID-19 symptoms at no-cost. 
  • Once symptoms have been verified, the individual will be given a number to call for their appointment to be tested. The number is 1-888-776-5252.
  • If the individual cannot pay, Free Testing will be provided.
  • If the individual does not have insurance but can self-pay, then the cost is $75.00.
  • If the individual has insurance, then Lab Corps will bill the insurance company.

City Hospital Emergency Care Center (Open 24 hours)

4551 Western Center Blvd.

Fort Worth, TX 76137

(817) 644-3340 

  • Pre-screenings for COVID-19 symptoms are provided at no-cost.
  • Once symptoms have been verified, the individual will be given a test at no-cost.
  • The test results take 5-7 days to return.
  • If the test is positive, the patient is called and told to self-quarantine.
  • The following fees will be billed to the patient:
  • Copay if insured or self-pay if not insured
  • Physician Fee
  • Facilities Fee
  • Assigned a billing level just like an ER in a hospital

Tarrant County COVID-19 Activity – 3/24/20

There have been a total of 71 coronavirus cases in Tarrant County. Currently, 67 of those are still active.

Source: http://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/public-health/disease-control—prevention/coronaviruas.html?linklocation=homecarousel&linkname=COVID-19

Dedicated Cellular Network Open to Physicians Responding to COVID-19

Physicians and other licensed health care professionals are now eligible to join FirstNet, the nation’s only public safety wireless broadband network.

FirstNet, built and maintained by AT&T with first responders and for responders, provides nationwide 4G LTE wireless voice and data. The FirstNet network features First Priority® that supports prioritized and efficient communications, as well as preemptive access to network resources for first responders during times of congestion. This helps ensure fast, efficient, and highly secure communications flow for those on the front lines responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Telehealth applications, which often require video and photos, are data intensive. The data prioritization on FirstNet helps to address that.

FirstNet was commissioned by Congress as a single, nationwide wireless broadband network in response to the communication failures that occurred during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. FirstNet is government authorized, inspected, and supervised, holding AT&T accountable to keeping first responders’ lines of communication open with dedicated mission critical solutions.

Physicians can join or switch to the network at a discounted rate, which includes unlimited data and no throttling. You can register on the FirstNet website, which includes more information on the network. You can also visit an AT&T store and show your credentials (such as a hospital badge or paystub). If you are with another carrier, early termination fees may apply from that carrier.

Remember, you can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

CMS Postpones 2019 MIPS Reporting Deadline to April 30

By Joey Berlin

Originally published on the Texas Medical Association website.

With a key deadline for clinicians in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) approaching fast amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is giving those clinicians a month of extra time to submit their data.

CMS announced Sunday it is moving the deadline for MIPS-eligible clinicians to submit their 2019 MIPS data to April 30, instead of March 31.

Even if that’s not enough time, not submitting your data by then won’t hurt your bottom line. CMS also announced that MIPS-eligible clinicians who haven’t submitted their 2019 data by the April 30 date would simply receive a “neutral payment adjustment” – that is, no payment bonus and no 7% penalty – in calendar year 2021. (MIPS bonuses or penalties for a given performance year are assessed two years later.)

MIPS is a key piece of the agency’s Quality Payment Program, which requires eligible clinicians to participate in the program either through MIPS or alternative payment models.

CMS announced the MIPS extension among a host of new measures under its “extreme and uncontrollable circumstances” policy in order to ease the burden on clinicians participating in a number of federal quality reporting programs.

“In granting these exceptions and extensions, CMS is supporting clinicians fighting coronavirus on the front lines,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a release. “The Trump administration is cutting bureaucratic red tape so the health care delivery system can direct its time and resources toward caring for patients.”

Any clinicians who have already submitted their 2019 MIPS data, or submit their data by the April 30 deadline, will be scored and receive a payment adjustment under the normal method, CMS said. April 30 is also the new deadline for clinicians to revise their submitted data, if needed, by logging in to the QPP portal. For guidance on submitting your data, download this CMS guide (PDF).

CMS also reports it is evaluating options for providing additional relief for the 2020 QPP performance year (which would affect 2022 payments). Texas Medicine Today will update physicians when CMS releases more information.

The list of new exceptions and extensions for the QPP and other federal quality reporting programs is available here.

For questions, contact the QPP Service Center at (866) 288-8292 or by email.

Remember, you can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.