The Latest COVID-19 Updates
Planning a Return to Elective Procedures
Gov. Mike DeWine this week asked the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) to develop a plan to resume treating patients whose non-COVID-19 elective procedures were delayed or deferred due to the ongoing pandemic. The governor later added that he hopes to begin gradually reopening business overall in Ohio on May 1.
The Ohio Department of Health previously ordered that elective surgeries be postponed to expand hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients and to conserve the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is in short supply. The governor says that order has allowed Ohio hospitals time to prepare should a widespread virus outbreak hit Ohio, though concerns remain about adequate supplies of PPE.
The governor asked OHA to complete its plan within one week.
Update on Emergency Federal Funds
The American Medical Association (AMA) issued the following statement today:
Since last Friday when HHS announced it would begin disbursing the first $30 million of the emergency fund created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to physicians and other providers via direct payment, the AMA has received several questions about how to verify eligibility for payment and who to contact when a physician believes they are eligible but did not receive a payment.
HHS partnered with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) to deliver the stimulus payments, and physicians should contact UHG’s Provider Relations at 866-569-3522 about eligibility, whether a payment has been issued, and where it was sent. Note, if a physician or practice did not already set up direct deposit through CMS or UHG’s Optum Pay, they will receive a check at a later date. Practices that would like to set up direct deposit now can call the UHG Provider Relations number.
In addition, HHS has opened the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund Payment Attestation Portal. Physicians who have been allocated a payment from the initial $30 billion general distribution must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agree to the terms and conditions within 30 days of payment. The terms and conditions are listed here.
Most National Boards Revise MOC Requirements
Most of the major national Boards have announced changes to Maintenance of Certification (MOC) requirements, with the majority pushing 2020 deadlines to next year.
“Any physician who is currently certified and has a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) requirement due in 2020—including an assessment, point requirement or attestation—will now have until the end of 2021 to complete it. Physicians currently in their grace year will also be afforded an additional grace year in 2021.”
American Board of Family Practice announced that most 2020 deadlines for MOC, re-entry, etc. have been extended for one year.
American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS): Specific deadlines for the other Boards can be referenced through the ABMS website.
Pharmacy Board Updates Prescribing Rules
The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy has authorized prescribers to delegate personal furnishing of non-controlled drugs to nurses. This expanded resolution incorporates language from a previous resolution issued on March 18 that authorized prescribers to delegate personally furnished non-controlled drug samples to nurses. This update also authorizes prescribers to delegate the personal furnishing of all non-controlled drugs, as opposed to drug samples.
The Pharmacy Board also authorized licensees conducting sterile compounding to reuse certain personal protective equipment (PPE). The waiver was updated to align with recently released PPE conservation guidance issued by the FDA.
Finally, the Pharmacy Board issued updates and a frequently asked questions sheet about dispensing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two drugs that have been touted as effective treatments for COVID-19.
For the continuation of inpatient treatment for COVID-19 using chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for patients discharged from a hospital. The prescriber shall be required to notate on the prescription that the patient has been discharged from the hospital and the prescription shall be for no more than a seven-day supply – no refills authorized. (Originally Authorized 3/26/2020, Updated 4/14/2020)
For patients discharged from an emergency department, for a probable COVID-19 diagnosis based upon case classifications established by the Ohio Department of Health. The prescriber shall be required to notate on the prescription that the patient has been discharged from the emergency department with a probable COVID-19 diagnosis and the prescription shall be for no more than a seven-day supply – no refills authorized. (Authorized 4/14/2020)
AMA Urges for More Financial Help to Physicians
The American Medical Association (AMA) sent a letter to U.S. congressional leaders urging them to protect patient access to medical care by preserving the viability of physician practices across the country. Noting that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes significant programs and resources that benefit physicians and patient care, the AMA urged additional federal support for physician practices that are financially battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter, signed by the Ohio State Medical Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, calls on lawmakers to consider supplemental measures, including:
Adjustment of Medicare and Medicaid payment provisions
Telemedicine services coverage
Expansion of small business loan funding
Tuition relief for medical students contributing to patient care
Medical liability protections
Academy COVID-19 Survey Results
An American Academy of Ophthalmology survey of member practices found that 95-percent said they are seeing only a quarter of their patient volume during the pandemic. Respondents also expressed concerns that they could successfully use telemedicine to bill for their services. And practices that have closed said they anticipate remaining shuttered for 3-5 months.
This was the first of several surveys the Academy will conduct over the next few months. The surveys will be used to help the Academy shape its advocacy efforts as it seeks additional relief and new resources for physicians financially hampered by the pandemic.