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Lindsey Copeland

Federal Policy Director

CMS Releases Interim Final Rule for Medicare Policy During the Coronavirus Emergency Period

On April 6, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—the agency that oversees the Medicare program—published an interim final rule (IFR) with comment period, Policy and Regulatory Revisions in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The IFR reinterprets and clarifies several Medicare rules and policies for the duration of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency period, often to increase access to telehealth services. The rule is retroactive to March 1, and comments on the rule are due June 1.

Cash Assistance Coming for Many Americans, but Hurdles Remain

Signed into law last week, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the third coronavirus-related legislative package to pass Congress. Among the $2 trillion bill’s health care and economic changes is a plan to send up to $1,200 in cash assistance to millions of Americans.

Medicare Rights Outlines Recommendations for Future Action Around Coronavirus

Older adults and people with disabilities are at high risk of infection and serious illness from coronavirus. While we appreciate the efforts of policymakers to date to respond to the outbreak, more must be done to anticipate and meet the unique needs of people with Medicare. This week, Medicare Rights sent letters to Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), outlining our priorities and recommendations for future action.

Congress Passes Additional Measures to Address Medicare Coverage and Costs Related to Coronavirus

This week, Congress passed legislation (H.R. 6201) that waives all Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing for coronavirus testing and the associated doctor’s office visit.

The legislation contains a number of other provisions that also advance critical health care and fiscal priorities, including enhanced federal Medicaid funding for states, support for nutrition services, unemployment aid, and paid sick leave. The package is the second coronavirus bill to pass Congress. Earlier this month, Congress provided $8.3 billion in emergency appropriations to improve public health preparedness and response.

Trump Administration Issues Important Guidance Around Telehealth and Nursing Home Waivers

Medicare generally only covers telehealth in limited situations and for certain beneficiaries. However, recent legislation allows the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to temporarily expand telehealth coverage and access, in part by waiving some of Medicare’s rules, such as originating site and geographic restrictions, during the coronavirus public health emergency. On March 17, HHS released guidance, including a fact sheet and FAQs, implementing this policy and appropriately applying it to all Medicare-approved telehealth services.

Trump Administration Officially Begins Enforcement of its “Public Charge” Immigration Rule

In January, the Supreme Court lifted a temporary injunction that had been blocking the Trump administration’s “public charge” immigration rule. That meant the policy could move forward in every state except Illinois, where a separate injunction was holding up the rule until Friday, when the Supreme Court struck it down as well. That decision cleared the way for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement the policy nationwide. DHS officially began enforcement on Monday, February 24.

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Medicaid Work Requirements in Arkansas

In another setback for the Trump administration’s plan for the Medicaid program, a federal appeals court ruled last week that Arkansas cannot impose onerous work and reporting requirements on Medicaid recipients as a condition of receiving coverage. In its decision, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the administration’s claim that work requirements promote a primary objective of Medicaid.