The following is a summary of the major COVID-19-related developments in Pennsylvania as of 5:15 on March 25.
Today the Senate passed House Bill 1232, as amended, which includes up to $50 million of additional funding to be made available for the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. The legislation stipulates that funding shall only be used to buy medical equipment and supplies for health care entities to meet urgent patient and staff needs to address surge demand. It also requires available federal funding and any funding made available through the governor’s disaster proclamation to be used before these funds. The authority to transfer funds expires on September 30, 2020.
Senate leadership noted that this is the first phase in its crisis response and recognizes that additional funds will likely be needed. The House is expected to pass the bill as amended today. The bill will then be signed in both chambers and sent to the governor for consideration and he is expected to sign it. It would take effect immediately.
Today the governor added Lehigh and Northampton counties to his stay-at-home order.
Department of Health
Secretary Levine today issued an order requiring hospitals to make daily report of specified data regarding hospital facilities, beds, supplies, equipment, and staffing. Among the measures hospitals will be required to report daily are available beds, psychiatric beds, number of other beds in facilities, current emergency department capacity, number of COVID-19 patients, expected number of days remaining N-95 masks will last, expected number of days remaining until other personal protective equipment supplies will exhausted, supply of remaining NP specimen collection supplies in days, number of ventilators in facility and in use, and number of employees available for work. See the secretary’s order here.
Department of Human Services – Office of Medical Assistance Programs
- The Office of Medical Assistance Programs has issued billing guidance to CHIP managed care organizations on the subject of alternative screening sites related to COVID-19. Find that two-page document here.
- It issued another policy clarification to CHIP managed care organizations with directions to bypass the prior authorization requirements for chest CT scans for COVID-19 payments. See that policy clarification document here.
Another notice announces a new ICD-10 code for COVID-10 that takes effect on April 1. Find it here.
- The Office of Medical Assistance Programs has posted an FAQ on Medicaid program coverage of COVID-19 testing and related services. It includes information about what Pennsylvania Medicaid will pay for COVID-19 testing, the services it will cover, and more. Find it here.
Department of Human Services – Office of Long Term Living
- The Office of Long Term Living (OLTL) has published guidance on conducting pre-admission screening and resident reviews for applicants to and residents of Medicaid-certified nursing facilities. This includes an explanation of performing such screens by phone or video conference. See the guidance here.
- OLTL also has sent a memo to nursing home transition coordination agencies about a new, COVID-19-motivated nursing home transition tenant-based rental assistance process. Find that memo here.
- OLTL also communicated via its listserv that it is delaying the implementation deadline for electronic visit verification (EVV) until October 1, 2020.
Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs
- The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) has issued a document clarifying the state’s response to federal guidance on the disclosure of patients’ substance abuse disorder records during the telehealth process. See that policy clarification here.
- DDAP has issued a policy bulletin addressing telehealth services for gambling treatment. Find that bulletin here.
Department of State
The Pennsylvania Department of State, which is responsible for licensing many health care providers, has announced new guidelines and processes for reactivating the licenses of retired health care professionals such as doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and others. This new policy supplements previous announcements the department has made on this subject. Find this updated information here.
Pennsylvania Health Centers Awarded Federal Funds
The federal Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $100 million in grants to 1381 health centers across the country. Among them are 43 health centers in Pennsylvania that will share $12.9 million in federal funds. See a list of those grant recipients here.
Resources to Consult
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention