Levin Asks DOL To Expand Telehealth for ERISA Plans

House Education and Labor Vice Chair Andy Levin (D-Mich.) is urging Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to take additional action to expand access to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Levin states that more guidance may be necessary to ensure access to telehealth for individuals covered by self-funded group health plans subject to ERISA. He asks what additional steps the Department of Labor is considering with respect to expanding coverage and payment for all medically necessary services that can be delivered via telehealth, providing reimbursement for telehealth services at fair rates (including services delivered via audio-only telephone call), temporarily suspending requirements concerning pre-existing patient-provider relationships and originating sites and eliminating cost-sharing for telehealth services.

Senators Look to Strengthen Health Care Cybersecurity

A bipartisan group of senators have written to Chris Krebs, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command General Paul Nakasone to express concerns about cyberattacks against hospitals. The health care sector has faced increased attacks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) ask the administration to make cyber threat information public and provide technical cybersecurity assistance to states and health care stakeholders.

DeLauro Asks VA to Stop Use of Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

House Appropriations Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is urging Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to stop the use of hydroxychloroquine in veterans diagnosed with COVID-19. DeLauro’s recommendation follows recently released guidelines from the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) establishing that no drug or therapeutic is safe and effective to treat the coronavirus. During a briefing earlier this month before the panel, Wilkie indicated that the VA has made efforts to purchase large amounts of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.

CBO Releases New Projections of Federal Deficit

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its preliminary projections of several economic variables through the end of calendar year (CY) 2021. CBO estimates that the deficit will reach $3.7 trillion by the end of the year. Gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to decline by about 12 percent during the second quarter, during which time the unemployment rate is expected to average close to 14 percent. While the nation is currently experiencing a historic decrease in economic activity, CBO believes recovery will begin as social distancing measures are relaxed.

Romney, Sinema Push for COVID Tracking System

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Nev.) are pressing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield to quickly develop a real-time national COVID-19 tracking system in response to the pandemic. They express serious concerns that federal public health officials are “behind the curve in assessing public health threat levels, because they lack immediate visibility into population health data.” They argue that the tracking system should include aggregated case information, rates of hospitalization from the disease, patient treatment regimens, rates of intensive care unit admissions, and appropriate demographic information, in addition to privacy protections for individuals.

E&C Dems Inquire About WHO Funding, Medical Supply Distribution

House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Oversight Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) have written to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russell Vought requesting an explanation for the President’s decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organization (WHO). The lawmakers characterize the choice as “dangerous and irresponsible” and argue that there is “no justification” for the decision. They ask for information to help assess the potential public health impact of the move. The trio of lawmakers are also requesting a response from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Alex Azar and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor about the administration’s efforts to acquire and distribute medical supplies to states and about how allocation decisions are being made.

FDAs Vetting of Serological Tests Called into Question

The House Oversight Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee released a memo on Friday revealing that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not assessed the reliability of most of the coronavirus antibody tests on the market. Only seven of the 101 test kits on the market had been reviewed by the appropriate U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) interagency group as of April 17. Chair Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) argues that by allowing inaccurate and potentially fraudulent tests to remain available the administration is putting the public’s health at risk. The FDA has asked test manufacturers to attest that their tests were validated but does not require any such proof. The committee also points out that the agency has not requested any information from manufacturers to confirm compliance with FDA marketing policy.

New Data on Impact of COVID-19 on Outpatient Visits

A new analysis from Harvard University and health care technology company Phreesia shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the provision of outpatient care in the U.S. The data reveal that for 50,000 providers and Phreesia clients, ambulatory care visits have decreased by nearly 60 percent since mid-March. Reductions were greatest in the New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions and among school-age children and older adults. The analysis also indicates that increases in telehealth visits have not been great enough to offset the loss of in-person visits.

Hart Health Strategies COVID-19 Resources

Hart Health Strategies Inc. continues to update the following resources related to the coronavirus pandemic. Please remember to clear your cache to ensure you download the most recent documents.

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