Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 was far and away the dominant topic of the month in healthcare. As the pandemic continues, more news and updates from CMS, HHS and Congress have begun to shed light on how healthcare policy will be impacted going forward.
The continuing COVID-19 crisis
- The next round of funding from CMS to hospitals for coronavirus aid (about $30 billion) will address all providers as well as “hot spots,” according to The Washington Post.
- After the curve flattens and billions of dollars in aid has been provided, will Congress revert to a broken healthcare system or will it set policy to continue reforms that the pandemic has yielded?
- CMS released guidelines for reopening hospitals for elective surgeries while continuing to treat COVID-19 patients; policies cover continued use of personal protective equipment, non-COVID-19 care zones and necessary workforce. CMS has given flexibility on key decisions to providers as the lack of elective treatments has caused financial impacts, but noted that the reopening will be conducted in phases to ensure patient safety and guarantee that hospitals can handle the additional volume.
- Coronavirus could put the brakes on a decades-long initiative to move toward value-based care, as hospitals and doctors look to recoup lost revenues in the short term instead of risking possibly more losses.
- CMS has suspended the COVID-19 Advanced Payment Plan, suggesting that it is no longer needed, but physician groups say CMS is cutting off a critical lifeline.
- COVID-19 is increasing the urgency of provider requests to give oncology practices pursuing alternative payment models more time before shifting to two-sided risk.
- HHS is offering providers a portal for reimbursement for treating uninsured patients testing positive for COVID-19. Providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates once they verify the patient it uninsured and agree not to balance bill the patient.
Value-based care updates
- While bundled payments benefit insurers and patients, do they offer the same for those providing care? Some research models show that financial uncertainties have made some healthcare providers hesitant about signing on for bundled payment plans.
- Oncology practices are facing particularly unique circumstances, as they need to continue to provide life-saving treatments to their patients in a time when the healthcare system’s focus is on fighting the pandemic. Due to lack of resources and the financial impacts of the pandemic, CMS is demonstrating flexibility to help cancer centers provide the care they need.