What We're Reading: Surprise Medical Billing Banned; Americans Fear Lifting Restrictions; Nursing Homes Must File CDC Reports

April 20, 2020
AJMC Staff
AJMC Staff

In the eligibility terms and conditions published by HHS for practices seeking emergency funding, surprise medical billing is banned for patients with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); more Americans are worried the United States will lift restrictions on the pandemic too soon than they are about the economic shutdown; nursing homes are now required to report cases of COVID-19 to the CDC.

HHS Appears to Ban Surprise Billing Amid Pandemic

As federal officials offer emergency funding to hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ practices amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the terms and conditions of this financial support by HHS indicate these organizations cannot spring surprise medical bills on patients with the virus. Reported in Kaiser Health News, the guidance may have more widespread implications. An HHS spokesperson stated on Friday, “The intent of the terms and conditions was to bar balance billing for actual or presumptive COVID-19,” and that the terms and conditions reflect this pursuit. Meanwhile, industry advocates worry about potential lawsuits focused on the practice of balance-billing.

Americans Fear Lifting Coronavirus Restrictions Too Soon

In a joint survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, nearly 6 in 10 participants (58%) indicated they were concerned that the United States would lift restrictions on COVID-19 too soon compared with approximately 3 in 10 (32%) who stated they worreid more about the economic impact of the pandemic. Additionally, the poll delved into the anxiety and worry being caused by the direct impact of the virus on Americans, as 33% said they were “very worried” and 40% said they were “somewhat worried” that a family member would be infected. These statistics are up from 15% and 38%, respectively, from a March 20 poll.

Nursing Homes Required to Report COVID-19 Cases

CMS Administrator Seema Verma said yesterday that US elder care facilities now have to report any cases of COVID-19 directly to the CDC, a move that will lead to greater involvment by the agency, which has yet to formally track the number of cases in nursing homes. Reported by Politico, the importance of relaying information in a timely manner is vital for at-risk elderly patients in nursing homes, which Verma notes will become a larger part of the current surveillance being conducted nationwide. "This will support CDC's efforts to have surveillance around the country and to support efforts around contact tracing in communities where the virus spread began in long -term care facilities,” said Verma.