June 24, 2020
This week: a warning, a waiver and a wish

The latest LTC headlines address COVID-19 from every angle

A rundown of recent revelations and reminders

Over the past week, operators received important industry-specific instructions and reminders related to the novel coronavirus. While some headlines sought to prevent potential exploitation of residents amidst COVID-19, others reinforced the great confidence and appreciation we have for our long-term care heroes.

Before we break down today’s top stories, take a look at the latest COVID-19 case data.” 


 

The warning

 
Seizure of stimulus checks will not be tolerated
Although CMS has yet to receive complaints, the agency released a notice reminding operators of residents’ rights. Facilities that forcefully confiscate economic stimulus payments (authorized under the CARES Act) will face serious consequences—specifically, potential termination from participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
 

“We believe it is important for residents and families to know their rights, and for nursing homes to understand the liability associated with this practice,” read the press release. The order comes as a direct response to Washington lawmakers who warned CMS of potential coercion happening in nursing homes.
 

The waiver

 
NYS relaxes its LTC coronavirus testing mandate
After weeks of controversy over cost and compliance, the State of New York has finally eased up on its twice-a-week COVID-19 testing requirement for long-term care staff. The update only applies to regions in the second phase of reopening and excludes the five boroughs and other hard-hit urban locales.

 
“While some called this mandate unnecessary, these test results have identified thousands of positive cases of those who may have otherwise spread the virus to vulnerable residents,” said Howard Zucker, NY State Health Commissioner. Still, the move to a oncea- week model demonstrates the incredible strides and sacrifices made by our frontline workers as they fight to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
 

The wish

 
Providers hope for extended telehealth coverage
Once the pandemic is a thing of the past, many wonder—will Medicare and Medicaid keep their supportive approach to virtual visits? Can patients continue to see their doctors ‘remotely’ under the programs? For now, the answer appears to be yes.
 

In response to the inquiry, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said, “People recognize the value of this, so it seems like it would not be a good thing to force our beneficiaries to go back to in-person visits.” Still, the idea of permanently ‘equalizing’ payments for virtual and office visits is not so simple.

 
The agency plans to revisit the matter at another time. For now, providers and patients are happy to enjoy looser restrictions and overall flexibility of coverage. Most Americans agree: the long-term viability of telehealth looks promising.