Halfway through the week already and time for your  NCMS Morning Rounds

  August 5, 2020

Hurricane Relief: Please reply to this email to let us know if your practice was impacted by Hurricane Isaias. The NCMS is here to help in a crisis. We provided approximately $500,000 in assistance to practices in eastern North Carolina to help rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. We want to help ensure you can continue caring for your community!

Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access

On Monday, President Trump issued an Executive Order on ‘Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access,’ focusing on ways to finance rural health care and proposing a permanent extension for some telehealth policies. Key provisions from the Executive Order include:

  • Within 30 days, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will launch a new payment model to give rural health care providers flexibilities from existing Medicare rules, establish predictable financial payments and encourage the movement into high-quality, value-based care.
    • Within 30 days, HHS, along with other appropriate departments and agencies, will “develop and implement a strategy to improve rural health by improving the physical and communications health care infrastructure available to rural Americans.”
    • Within 30 days, HHS will submit a report on existing and upcoming policy initiatives that aim to:
    o Increase rural access to health care by eliminating regulatory burdens that limit                     availability of providers;
    o Prevent disease and mortality by developing rural-specific efforts to drive                               outcomes;
    o Reduce mortality and morbidity;
    o Improve mental health in rural communities.
    • Within 60 days, HHS will review certain flexibilities implemented during the current public health emergency and propose extensions as appropriate. Specific flexibilities to be reviewed include:
    o the additional telehealth services offered to Medicare beneficiaries; and
    o the services, reporting, staffing and supervision flexibilities offered to Medicare                      providers in rural areas.

The Executive Order is consistent with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiatives to expand broadband access to rural providers, and the recent HEALS Act coronavirus legislation, which calls for an extension of telehealth flexibilities until the end of the public health emergency or December 2021.

A recent analysis by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) showed a weekly jump in virtual visits for CMS beneficiaries, from approximately 14,000 pre-public health emergency to almost 1.7 million in the last week of April. Additionally, a recent report by HHS shows that nearly half (43.5 percent) of Medicare fee-for-service primary care visits were provided through telehealth in April, compared with far less than one percent (0.1 percent) in February before the current pandemic. Importantly, the report finds that telehealth visits continued to be frequent even after in-person primary care visits resumed in May, indicating that the expansion of telehealth services is likely to be a more permanent feature of the health care delivery system.

While the report did not analyze specialist visits, other studies mentioned in the report have also shown dramatic increases in telehealth use during the pandemic among specialists such as psychiatry, gastroenterology and neurology to name a few. While in-person patient-provider interactions will remain necessary and preferred, this pandemic has accelerated openness to telehealth in ways previously unseen – from policymakers to providers and patients alike.

Read HHS’ report on telehealth use among Medicare beneficiaries here.

Provider Relief Fund Distribution Deadline Extended Again

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced an application deadline extension for the Provider Relief Fund Phase 2 general distribution to Medicaid, Medicaid managed care and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers. Those Medicare providers who experienced challenges in the Phase 1 Medicare General Distribution application period will also have a second opportunity to receive funding. The new deadline to apply is Friday, August 28. Read the announcement.

HHS originally extended the July 20 deadline to Aug. 3, but based on feedback from those eligible to apply for the program, HHS again extended the deadline. Learn more about the Relief Fund and how to apply here.

NCMS Employee Benefit Plan Serves You

Are you aware of one of your most significant benefits as an NCMS member — access to the NCMS Employee Benefit Plan (NCMS Plan)? This program was created exclusively for Society members and is available through the Curi Agency, LLC.

The NCMS Plan is known for superior customer service, health promotion programming and flexibility, including the following features:
• Wellness programs for clinicians and their teams
• Special eligibility classes for retirees, surviving spouses, and domestic partners
• Option to offer two plans regardless of practice size
• Option to offer three plans for practices with more than 50 enrolled employees
• Guaranteed coverage for all qualifying practices
• No surcharge for practices
• Practices are not excluded based on size.

For more information, call Curi today at (800) 822-6561, and let them know you are a NCMS Member, or visit www.ncmsplan.com.

In the News

Debate Begins for Who’s First In Line for COVID Vaccine, The Associated Press, 8-2-20

Learning Opportunity

Join us this Friday, Aug. 7 at 1 p.m. for this week’s Power Hour when we welcome a panel of experts to discuss access to health care during COVID-19 for LGBTQ+ patients. Get a variety of perspectives on this topic from our panelists including: Carly Kelley, MD, an endocrinologist and co-director of Duke’s Adult Gender Medicine Clinic; Holly Christopher Lewis, MD, PhD, general surgery resident at Duke University Medical Center; Jugta Kahai, MD, a pediatrician with Columbus Regional Health Care System and Dane R. Whicker, PhD, Director of Gender and Sexual Diversity Initiatives as Duke’s School of Medicine. Register here for this Zoom session.


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