Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of Sept. 28
Posted on October 02, 2020
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended Michigan’s state of emergency through Oct. 27 due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus continues to burden the globe, the MHA keeps members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting Michigan hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.
Phase 3 Funding Available for Providers Starting Oct. 5
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration, announced Oct. 1 that $20 billion in new funding is available for providers fighting COVID-19.
Under this Phase 3 General Distribution allocation, providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments are invited to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus. An expanded group of behavioral health providers will also be eligible for relief payments. Providers can apply for funds from Oct. 5 through Nov. 6 and are encouraged to apply early. Details on eligibility criteria and payment methodology are available in the HHS announcement.
The HHS plans to host webinars to assist providers with the application process, and the MHA will share updates with members as they become available. Updated information can also be obtained by contacting the HHS call center at (877) 696-6775 and by monitoring the Provider Relief Fund website.
Long-term Care Requirements for COVID-19 Revised
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued Medicaid policy bulletin MSA 20-66 Sept. 30 announcing the Care and Recovery Centers (CRCs) policy for treating COVID-19 patients and residents who require nursing facility care. This policy was developed from the recommendations submitted to the state by the COVID-19 Preparedness Nursing Home Task Force and the Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT) following their work over the summer.
CRCs will be care units dedicated exclusively to caring for and isolating COVID-19-affected residents. The CRC policy temporarily grants some Medicaid-certified nursing facilities the flexibility to operate CRCs during times of a public health emergency, as approved by the MDHHS. Full details on the inclusion and exclusion criteria to operate as a CRC are outlined in the bulletin. The public comment portion of the policy promulgation process is being conducted concurrently with the implementation of the final bulletin; comments on this proposed policy are due Nov. 4.
In addition, the governor Sept. 30 signed Executive Order (EO) 2020-191, which maintains protections for residents and staff of long-term care facilities, taking into consideration the recommendations from the nursing home task force. EO 2020-191 adds to the CRC policy by requiring enhanced communication and transparency and expanding notification requirements for positive cases to include legal guardians, health proxies, and current and prospective residents and staff. Facilities must also contact their local health department to report confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff or residents. This order rescinds EO 2020-179, lifting the previous prohibition on communal dining and instead requiring both communal dining and group activities be conducted consistent with guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and MDHHS.
Additional updates related to long-term care reporting requirements and infection control guidance are expected as the state continues reviewing the task force and CHRT recommendations. The MHA hosted a webinar Sept. 30 to review those recommendations, and members can access a recording and slide deck from the webinar online.
Planning for Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine
The MDHHS is developing a COVID-19 vaccine distribution/partnership plan that will be submitted to the federal government by Oct. 16. The department has confirmed that the MHA and hospitals will be key partners in the vaccination effort and will send COVID-19 vaccine enrollment forms to hospitals prior to Oct. 16. Any facility that wishes to receive COVID-19 vaccines when they are available must complete the enrollment form. The MDHHS will continue to lead COVID-19 vaccine efforts and will coordinate with MHA and the state’s emergency preparedness regions and structures on disseminating information.
The MHA encourages hospitals to continue to prepare for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the event that healthcare workers are among the first to receive the vaccine, hospitals should prepare their processes and procedures to accomplish this. This preparation should consider the likelihood of national and possibly state requirements, potentially through the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, for how COVID-19 vaccines are documented technologically.
Hospitals should also consider whether they have the type of storage necessary to receive and protect COVID-19 vaccines. Some types of the vaccine in development require specific cold or ultra-cold storage (as low as -112 Fahrenheit) to preserve the vaccine. The MHA will discuss these needs in its regular calls with hospital supply chain managers as appropriate.
In addition, providers should have discussions with patients who are at high risk of having a severe case of COVID-19 due to comorbidities or other factors, urging them to get the vaccine when it is available.
For additional information on influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, contact Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.
Proposed Policy Limiting Out-of-State Licensed Health Professionals Open for Comment
The MDHHS is now soliciting comments on a proposed policy that would discontinue the option for out-of-state licensed health professionals and nursing students to practice in Michigan at Medicaid-enrolled hospice agencies. The proposed policy has an effective date that is backdated to July 13, 2020.
Although this is a narrow provision, the MHA is concerned this policy could later be expanded to other kinds of healthcare facilities. Out-of-state clinicians are instrumental in maintaining the number of staff needed to serve COVID-19 patients, and the association believes the existing flexibility should remain in effect for all healthcare facilities as organizations prepare for a possible second COVID-19 surge during the cold weather months. The MHA encourages members to submit comment letters to Michelle Tyus at the MDHHS by the Nov. 4 deadline.
Age-Friendly Health Systems Action Community Launches Second Cohort
Knowing that older adults are at higher risk for morbidity and mortality related to COVID-19, the MHA Keystone Center recently announced its plans to launch a second cohort of the Age-Friendly Health Systems Action Community in early spring 2021. MHA members that are interested in and have the capacity to join the next cohort are asked to complete a brief survey by Oct. 16.
Additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpage. Questions on COVID-19 and infectious disease response strategies may be directed to the MDHHS Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC). Members with MHA-specific questions should contact the following MHA staff members:
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