After four days of intense negotiation, the Senate unanimously passed the third coronavirus emergency package, H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the ‘‘CARES Act.” This is the largest aid package in American history. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) worked with Congress to ensure that this important legislation includes a number of provisions that will allow hospice providers to safely care for patients and family caregivers during the COVID-19 crisis:
- Face-to-face hospice telehealth provision. Previously, hospice physicians and nurse practitioners could not conduct recertification encounters using telehealth. Now, qualified providers can use telehealth technologies in order to fulfill the hospice face-to-face recertification requirement during the COVID-19 emergency period. NHPCO, leading a group of national stakeholders, advocated for this provision as the highest priority for the hospice and palliative care community.
- Suspending sequestration cuts. This crisis requires prompt economic assistance to health care providers on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 virus, this provision will help furnish needed care to affected patients. This provision applies to hospice and other Medicare providers. Legislation includes temporary suspension of the two percent sequestration cut to hospice, beginning on May 1, 2020 and ending on December 31, 2020.
The Appropriations portion of the legislation contains $330 billion in new funding to address the needs of the American people. The following provisions below were included in this portion of the legislation and could potentially benefit hospice and palliative care providers:
- $100 billion for a new program to provide direct aid to health care institutions. This fund can be used by health care institutions and Medicare enrolled providers that provide diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19. These funds would be dedicated to health care related expenses or lost revenues directly attributable to coronavirus. None of these funds may be used for costs that have been reimbursed or are eligible for reimbursement from other sources.
- $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant. This funding can be used to provide childcare assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus.
NHPCO applauds Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate leadership in recognizing the importance of ongoing and swift support to Americans as they face this national emergency.
Passage by the House of Representatives is expected, with the CARES Act reaching the President’s desk this week.
“Since this public health crisis became apparent, NHPCO has been advocating on behalf of the hospice and palliative care community for measures that would support getting person-centered care to people that need it – most of whom will be in their homes. This is what hospice and community-based palliative care providers do so well.” stated Edo Banach, President and CEO of NHPCO.
“Flexibilities are needed to meet these very challenging circumstances and we are heartened to see some measures that we have been advocating for were included in the stimulus legislation that the Senate passed today.” added Banach.
NHPCO looks forward to our continued collaboration with Congress and the Administration as we work together to address the evolving needs of a country facing a national emergency.
As the attention of the world remains focused on COVID-19, NHPCO offers relevant and timely resources for community-based hospice providers serving patients and families where they live at nhpco.org/coronavirus.