COVID-19 Updates for November 16, 2020

Situation Report | November 16, 2020


The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has updated its “FAQ About COVID-19 for Health Care Providers.”

Veterans Affairs Issues COVID-19 Response Report

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has published a “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Response Report” on its efforts to address the pandemic from early January through June 30.  

The report looks at VA’s COVID-19 response, including the department’s planning and preparation ahead of the pandemic, the initial crisis response, key COVID-19 policies and directives, interactions and interdependencies with federal and state agencies, and adaptations to health care operations.

It also highlights challenges and issues that VA needed to address in order to effectively respond to the pandemic, such as exchanging supplies, personal protective equipment, and health care personnel deployment.   

CMS Permits Coverage of COVID-19 Antibody Treatments

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare beneficiaries can receive coverage of monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 with no cost-sharing during the public health emergency (PHE). CMS’s coverage of monoclonal antibody infusions applies to bamlanivimab, which received an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on November 9.

CMS anticipates that this monoclonal antibody product will initially be given to health care providers at no charge. Medicare will not pay for the monoclonal antibody products that providers receive free but this policy provides for reimbursement for the infusion of the product.   

When health care providers begin to purchase monoclonal antibody products, Medicare anticipates setting the payment rate in the same way it set the payment rates for COVID-19 vaccines, such as based on 95 percent of the average wholesale price for COVID-19 vaccines in many provider settings. CMS will issue billing and coding instructions for health care providers in the coming days.

CMS anticipates this action will allow for a broad range of providers and suppliers to administer this treatment in accordance with the EUA and bill Medicare for doing so, including: freestanding and hospital-based infusion centers, home health agencies, nursing homes, and entities with whom nursing homes contract.

As extensively reported, CMS has recently finalized a change in the home infusion therapy benefit, which goes into effect on January 1, 2021. This service will exist separate from the home health benefit and is restricted to authorized home infusion therapy suppliers who meet certain criteria. HCA will seek to determine whether this change applies to the provision of antibody infusion services as well.

HHS Partnership with Pharmacies on COVID-19 Vaccination

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the U.S. government’s partnerships with large chain pharmacies and networks that represent independent pharmacies and regional chains for providing future COVID-19 vaccines. The program covers approximately 60 percent of pharmacies throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  

CDC Updates Analysis on Masks’ Role in Protecting Wearers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published updated analysis on the role of mask use in protecting the wearer. The guidance continues to emphasize the value of masks in terms of “source control” — i.e., that masks limit the volume of droplets expelled into the environment — rather than as protection for the wearer. However, the updated analysis indicates that masks can provide protection for the wearer as well, including the ability to filter “fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns.”