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COVID-19 Updates November 2021

Published on 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

It has been a while since we have published an article solely focused on COVID-19 issues. However, November has been a busy month related to COVID-19 vaccines, Medicare Contractor COVID-19 specific audits, telehealth, and a shift in treatment payment from Medicare Fee-for-Service to Medicare Advantage Plans for their enrollees. As we have reiterated so often since the beginning of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), MMP is thankful to all front-line workers who have and continue to provide care to patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and emotional support to their families.

October 29, 2021: FDA Authorizes COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use for Children

The FDA announced (link) emergency use authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccines for children 5 to 11 years of age. The announcement includes key points for parents and caregivers. For example, “Safety: The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children ages 5 through 11 who received the vaccine and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study.”

CMS including the following information related to vaccinations for children in the Thursday, November 4th edition of MLN Connects (link):

CMS now covers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for children ages 5 – 11. Health care providers and other entities administering COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Must provide vaccines regardless of the patient’s health coverage
  • Cannot charge patients for the vaccine or administering it, including deductibles and coinsurance

More Information:

  • CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Requirements and Support (link)
  • CMS COVID-19 Provider Toolkit (link)
  • CMS Press Release (link)
October 29, 2021: Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (Noridian) Posts New Project: Audio Only Telehealth Services During the PHE

The CMS released this Final Rule and notes in a related Fact Sheet (link) this final rule “would accelerate the shift from paying for Medicare home health services based on volume to a system that pays for value.” CMS finalized making permanent current blanket waivers related to home health aide supervision and the use of telecommunications in conducting assessment visits that are currently in place due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The CMS does note that “while we are finalizing the limited use of telecommunications technology when performing the 14-day supervisory visit requirement when a patient is receiving skilled services, we expect that in most instances, the HHAs would plan to conduct the 14-day supervisory assessment during an on-site, in person visit, and that the HHA would use interactive telecommunications systems option only for unplanned occurrences that would otherwise interrupt scheduled in-person visits.”

November 4, 2021: MA Plans to Begin Payment for COVID-19 Vaccine and Monoclonal Antibody Products

CMS announced (link) that effective for dates of service on or after January 1, 2022, Original Medicare will no longer being paying claims for COVID-19 vaccination and monoclonal antibody products for beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan. Providers will need to submit claims to the MA Plan. More information is available on the following CMS webpages:

  • Medicare Billing for COVID-19 Vaccine Shot Administration (link)
  • Monoclonal Antibody COVID-19 Infusion (link)
November 4, 2021: Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (Noridian) Project 01-043 DRG COVID 20% Add-On Payment Review Results Posted

The SMRC posted review results of claims related to the add-on payment for COVID-19 (link). Claims reviewed were for dates of service from April 1, 2020, through August 30, 2020, and the denial rate was 1%. Noteworthy is the fact that as of September 1, 2020, CMS requires that claims eligible for the 20 percent increase in the MS-DRG weighting factor have a positive COVID-19 lab test documented in the record. While the SMRC review results were low, I believe that this may remain a review focus by the SMRC or another Medicare review contractor for claims on or after September 1, 2020.

November 5, 2021: Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Omnibus COVID-19 health Care Staff Vaccination Interim Final Rule with Comment Period

November 5, 2021, The effective date for this Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC) (link) is November 5, 2021. Along with the IFC, CMS has published the following related resources:

  • CMS Press Release: (link)
  • CMS Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Interim Final Rule: (link)
  • Slides and Video from National Stakeholder Call are available on the CMS Current Emergencies COVID-19 webpage: (link)
Article Author: Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS
Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS, is the Manager of Clinical Analytics at Medical Management Plus, Inc. Beth has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare including eleven years in Case Management at a large multi-facility health system. In her current position, Beth is a principle writer for MMP’s Wednesday@One weekly e-newsletter, an active member of our HIPAA Compliance Committee, MMP’s Education Department Program Director and co-developer of MMP’s proprietary Compliance Protection Assessment Tool.

This material was compiled to share information.  MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice. Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.