Progress is being made on both the economic and vaccine fronts in the battle against COVID-19. The MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.
Urge Congress to Provide COVID-19 Relief for Hospitals
The American Hospital Association (AHA) issued an action alert Feb. 23 on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief legislation that the House passed early Feb. 27. Additional action is expected in the Senate, which will likely make changes to the House legislation as it tries to pass the package under reconciliation.
The next few weeks will be critical to ensuring that Congress includes important provisions in the legislation to support hospitals and health systems and their heroic front-line teams. The AHA has asked hospitals to contact their senators and representatives and ask them to include hospitals and other healthcare providers in the legislation. The votes in both the U.S. House and Senate will be close, and Michigan members of Congress can influence the final content of the legislation. Members are urged to ask their House member and Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters to include:
- Significant funding for COVID-19 vaccination outreach, planning, administration and distribution efforts.
- More funding for the Provider Relief Fund. Given allocations made to date and COVID-19 relief legislation directing use of the funds that was passed in December, only $4.4 billion will be available for disbursement to hospitals, health systems and other healthcare providers. See the AHA fact sheet for more details.
- Forgiveness for Medicare accelerated payments for hospitals.
- An extension of the moratorium on the Medicare sequester cuts.
Members with questions about the AHA action alert may contact Laura Appel at the MHA.
Additional efforts have been initiated to ask Congress to provide critical resources for hospitals and health systems as they battle COVID-19. The AHA is a founding member of the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care, which has launched a multimedia campaign including advertisements on television, radio and social media.
The cost of providing care for millions of Americans with COVID-19 has significantly strained the finances of the nation’s hospitals and health systems. Supplies and modifications to keep staff and patients safe, hiring staff to care for the increased number of patients and to relieve those who fell ill have taken a toll on healthcare resources. The campaign asks Congress to provide support for fighting the pandemic and vaccinating Americans against the coronavirus.
The coalition is also activating its 2.4-million-member community to contact their members of Congress, asking them to prioritize patients by funding hospitals and health systems in the next COVID-19 relief package of legislation.
For more information on the campaign, visit the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care website.
Vaccine Delivery to Increase
Participants in the Feb. 22 regional COVID-19 vaccination call with representatives from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), hospitals and county health departments were told the state expected to receive 99,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 98,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine during the week. That is an increase of approximately 20,000 doses from what Michigan had been receiving. The state expects the allocation to remain steady over the coming weeks and will continue to be split, with 60% of the allocation to county health departments and 40% to health systems and hospitals.
The MDHHS distributed on Feb. 25 a three-week forecast for the number of first doses facilities can expect to receive, which will allow more informed planning efforts. The document does not contain information about second doses, and there is a potential for changes to occur. Members are urged to continue to use emails they receive from the MDHHS and/or vaccine manufacturers to confirm weekly allocations of first and second doses.
FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Feb. 27, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) planned to meet Feb. 28 and March 1 to make its final recommendation and set prioritization for the vaccine. The MHA issued a media statement noting that the addition of the new vaccine is a significant step toward ending the pandemic.
The association expects that the state will distribute the first allocations of this vaccine during the first week of March. The MDHHS will offer a webinar for provider education on the new vaccine, and the MHA will share webinar details when they are available. Hospitals should continue to monitor the MDHHS provider materials on its Provider Guidance website as it makes updates to include the new vaccine.
Race Data Now on State COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard
The MDHHS is now posting data on the race of those being vaccinated at both the state and county levels. As of Feb. 23, race data had been collected from roughly 56% of vaccine recipients, with current information reflected on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard website under the “State Level Metrics” tab. The state has made it a top priority to have no discrepancy in access to the vaccine across races and ethnicities. Data indicates that race had not been noted for more than 40% of those receiving vaccines as of Feb. 23.
The MHA urges hospitals and health systems to collect race and ethnicity of all vaccine recipients and include this in the information being transferred from electronic health records (EHRs) to the state.
Providers reporting vaccinations directly into the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR), rather than transferring data from the hospital’s EHR system, can enter race and ethnicity data into a dedicated field in MCIR. The MDHHS has created instructions for doing so and for viewing race and ethnicity data in MCIR.
Apply by March 1 for Pilot Program Addressing Vaccine Barriers for Vulnerable Patients 60+
Michigan providers that are federally enrolled to administer COVID-19 vaccines are encouraged to apply to a pilot program announced Feb. 23 by the MDHHS and the Protect Michigan Commission. The program aims to remove barriers to vaccine access for Michiganders ages 60 and older who live in communities with a high Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) and high COVID-19 mortality rates. Applicants accepted into the community outreach pilot project can request up to 2,500 doses.
Applicants will help to identify the barriers in their communities and the specific strategies they will take to address those barriers, including, but not limited to:
- Access related to sensory, cognitive, emotional or physical disabilities.
- Vaccine hesitancy.
- Other barriers experienced by underserved and minority populations.
Letters of application must be emailed by 5 p.m. March 1. An external panel will select awardees by March 8, with the intent to have vaccine doses to the chosen providers no later than March 10. The vaccine doses must be administered within two weeks of receipt. Questions about the application should be submitted to the MDHHS.
Hospital Lab Representatives Receive State Updates
During a telephone conference with hospital laboratory representatives Feb. 22, the state indicated it has numerous CareStart rapid (10-minute) antigen tests available that use a nasopharyngeal swab test. Hospitals that would like to receive some of these test supplies should complete the online request form.
During the call, questions were also raised about the use of testing for student athletes and school-related personnel. The state provides webpages with testing guidance focused on both the general school audience and on school-aged sports. The guidance is voluntary for school districts except for the sport of wrestling, which requires testing because it does not include masking.
In response to questions about the location of COVID-19 variant strains in Michigan, the state Bureau of Laboratories (BOL) recommended that chief medical officers, hospital epidemiologists, lab directors and others consult the information available on the Nextstrain website. The Michigan BOL is not providing sequencing results to hospitals or regions. The BOL confirmed that the COVID-19 variants B1351 and P.1 had not yet been found in Michigan and that the state ranks highly in terms of sequencing variants. To connect with lab information from state government or to share information on lab issues, contact Laura Appel at the MHA.
CMS Extends Guidance Limiting Hospital Surveys
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently extended until March 22 its guidance limiting the hospital survey process during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Among other provisions, the guidance limits on-site surveys to immediate jeopardy complaint allegations.
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).