COVID-19 resources for DOs and students: CARES Act summary, CMS expansion and a telemedicine webinar

Learn about the latest tools, news and updates available to help you navigate the global pandemic.

As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread domestically and abroad, the AOA’s top priority remains supporting the needs of DOs and osteopathic medical students.

We have assembled a resource page to help physicians and medical students navigate the global health crisis—whether you are caring for patients as a frontline health care professional or supporting in other ways.

AOA staff members are continuously updating this page as new information becomes available. Here are some of the latest updates.

What the coronavirus relief plan means for physicians:

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Provisions of the act address several issues of importance for physicians and medical students, including financial aid, student loans, financial relief for individuals and small businesses, physician payment and access to care.

The AOA’s Policy Team identified the following provisions as those most relevant to physicians and medical students. Find a longer summary here.

Financial relief for small businesses and 501(c)(3) organizations:

The CARES Act includes a new $350 billion loan program that will be administered by the Small Business Administration that 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for, the Paycheck Protection Program. Small businesses and 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, including hospitals, health systems, and health care providers, are eligible to apply for the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program. The Small Business Administration is expected to issue guidance on this program, including instructions on how to apply for a loan, within the next 15 days, and funds are expected to be available on a first-come-first-serve basis. While information on the Paycheck Protection Program is not yet posted, information on other small business programs can be found on the Small Business Administration website.

Funding provisions for the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response:

The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response will receive $127 billion for medical response efforts, including $100 billion for a new program to provide grants to hospitals, public entities, not-for-profit entities, and Medicare and Medicaid enrolled suppliers and institutional providers to cover unreimbursed health care related expenses or lost revenues attributable to the public health emergency resulting from the coronavirus.

This $100 billion fund is intended to be used to respond to immediate needs. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been instructed to review applications and make payments on a rolling basis in order to move money into the health care system as quickly as possible. HHS is expected to release guidance on the application process in the near future.

Financial aid for current undergraduate and graduate students:

Students will be eligible for emergency financial aid grants from their institutions to meet unexpected and urgent needs relating to coronavirus, including expenses relating to food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and childcare.

Relief for federal student loan borrowers:

Borrowers do not need to make payments on student loans held by the federal government (Direct Loans and FFEL Loans held by the U.S. Department of Education) through September 30, 2020. Borrowers with commercially-held FFEL loans and Perkins Loans are not eligible, and private student loan borrowers are also not eligible. No interest will accrue on such loans for the same time period.

The suspension of payments on student loans only applies to all Direct Loans and FFEL loans held by the Department of Education. It does not extend to federally guaranteed but commercially held loans. More information is available here.

CMS accelerates advance payments for Medicare providers to combat COVID-19:

On March 28, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an expansion of its accelerated and advance payment program for Medicare-participating health care providers and suppliers to ensure they have the resources needed to combat COVID-19. This program expansion, which includes changes from the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is only for the duration of the public health emergency to minimize financial hardship caused by the disruption in claims submission or claims processing.

Accelerated/advance payments can be requested by hospitals, doctors, durable medical equipment suppliers and other Medicare Part A and Part B providers. According to CMS, most providers and suppliers will be able to request up to 100% of their Medicare reimbursement amount for a three-month period.

To qualify for advance/accelerated payments, providers and suppliers must meet the following requirements:

  1. Have billed Medicare for claims within 180 days immediately prior to the date of signature on the provider’s/supplier’s request form,
  2. Not be in bankruptcy,
  3. Not be under active medical review or program integrity investigation, and
  4. Not have any outstanding delinquent Medicare overpayments.

Medicare will start accepting and processing the accelerated/advance payment requests immediately, and anticipates that the payments will be issued within seven days from receipt of the request. After 120 days from the date the accelerated payment is received, an automatic recoupment process will begin, and providers and suppliers will have 210 days to repay the balance. Instead of paying newly submitted claims in full, Medicare payment amounts will be automatically reduced to repay the outstanding accelerated/advance payment balance.

Providers and suppliers with outstanding delinquent Medicare overpayments are also not allowed to ask for advance payment.

Providers and suppliers must contact the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) that serves their geographic area to complete an Accelerated/Advance Payment Request form via mail or email. CMS has established COVID-19 hotlines at each MAC that are operational Monday through Friday to assist with accelerated payment requests. To locate your designated MAC, refer to this document.

For more information about the Accelerated/Advance Payment Program, see the CMS fact sheet.

Webinar on HIPAA and telemedicine:

On April 6 at 7 p.m. CT, the American Osteopathic Information Association (AOIA) is hosting an hour-long webinar (and an additional 30 minutes for a Q&A) titled Navigating HIPAA and Telemedicine during COVID-19. Panelists Lee Hamil Little, JD, and Brian Tuttle, CPHIT, CPA, CHA, CBRA, CISSP, will discuss the do’s and don’ts of telemedicine in light of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights recently relaxing some of the HIPAA Security and Privacy regulations in response to COVID-19.

It is free for AOA members and $30 for non-members, and has been approved for 1.0 AOA Category 2B CME credits. Register here.

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