May 30th COVID-19 Update
New updates pertaining to COVID-19 continue to be announced by both the state and federal government on a regular basis. The latest developments for providers of long-term/post-acute care (LTPAC) and senior services are reviewed below.
As a reminder, LeadingAge NY continues to convene weekly webinars on Mondays at 11 a.m. to address emerging questions on COVID-19. A recording of our most recent webinar, held on Tues., May 30th due to Memorial Day, is available here, and a list of the items shared by LeadingAge NY staff in the webinar chat can be accessed here. If you have questions for next week’s update or would like the access information, please contact Jeff Diamond.
State Vaccination Mandate Will No Longer Be Enforced
On May 24th, the Department of Health (DOH) issued this Dear Administrator Letter (DAL) outlining the intent to recommend the repeal of the State health care personnel (HCP) COVID-19 vaccination mandate previously in effect for nursing homes, adult care facilities (ACFs), home care, hospice, and adult day health care (ADHC) providers. DOH has indicated that they will no longer enforce the mandate effective May 24th. Click here for more information.
State Issues Last General COVID-19 Vaccination Guidance to Providers
On May 23rd, the State issued updated guidance for COVID-19 vaccination providers, acknowledging the authorization and recommendation of the single bivalent vaccine, linking to updated clinical considerations, providing updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immunization schedules regarding patient population and health status, and providing updates on vaccine storage. Click here for more information.
Governor Hochul Extends Workforce Flexibilities Until June 8th
Governor Hochul has renewed Executive Order (EO) 4, which establishes flexibilities to address health care workforce shortages. This renewal is only for a few weeks, through June 8th. It is not the typical monthly renewal, which may mean that it will be allowed to expire in June. EO 4.21, issued on May 22nd, is available here.
In addition, the State has posted two documents in reference to the pending expiration of the EO. One is to facilitate licensure applications for out-of-state registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The other provides the licensure requirements for out-of-state RNs and LPNs and other professional roles. Those documents are available here and here.
LeadingAge NY will continue its advocacy for continuation of the EO, as well as legislation to make these flexibilities permanent.
COVID Tracker Adds Test Result Data
Members may want to be aware that the COVID-19 Data Tracker produced by the CDC has expanded to include laboratory COVID-19 test results. With the ending of the Public Health Emergency (PHE), the CDC has retired composite measures of COVID-19 prevalence (i.e., Transmission Rates and County Levels), with hospitalization data being the primary data for tracking community incidence. Those data are supplemented by wastewater monitoring, emergency room visit, and mortality information. However, hospitalization rates remain the only data available consistently on the county level.
Recently, the CDC has added the percentage of positive COVID-19 nucleic antigen amplification tests (NAATs) reported over the past week. Those are available by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) region. New York State is in Region 2, which also includes New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The most recent test positivity rate in Region 2 is 4.3 percent based on about 1,200 tests, a rate that is slightly higher than the two- and four-week rates that the COVID Tracker also provides. The COVID Data Tracker page with the new information is available here.
Nursing Home and Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Updates
CDC to Outline NHSN Reporting Changes
While the requirement for nursing homes to report weekly COVID-19 data through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) is not going away, the CDC will be implementing a number of revisions to the Long Term Care Facility (LTCF) COVID-19 Module for June 2023. The Therapeutics pathway is expected to be eliminated, along with several questions from the remaining Surveillance Module pathways. The CDC is inviting nursing homes to attend a training session to learn about how data entry forms will change and receive instructions for accurate reporting.
The first opportunity will be on Thurs., June 1st at 2 p.m. The same information will be repeated on Wed., June 7th at 1 p.m. and on Thurs., June 8th and Tues., June 13th at 2 p.m. Each session will include a question and answer session. Registration is required, with links to do so available here.
CMS Updates Guidance for Medicare Therapy Services Delivered Via Telehealth
On May 18th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) clarified that outpatient therapists can continue to bill Medicare Part B for telehealth services across a range of facilities, including home health and skilled nursing, as they did during the COVID-19 PHE. Please see CMS’s Frequently Asked Questions: CMS Waivers, Flexibilities, and the End of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency document for pertinent provisions.
Through the end of Calendar Year (CY) 2023, physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), speech language pathology (SLP) services, Diabetes Self-Management Training (DSMT), and Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) providers should continue to bill for these services when furnished remotely in the same way they had been during the PHE. Some confusion does remain, as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 extended these and other telehealth services through Dec. 31, 2024.