Daily COVID-19 Email Update - March 23, 2020

A Message from Dr. Rebecca Wartman, NCOS Third Party Liaison

FROM NC DHHS: Often does not capture reporting from location health departments 
Last updated 3:00 p.m., March 23, 2020, to make a correction on county-level data. A case previously counted as a resident of Richmond County has been corrected as a resident of Montgomery County. 

  • NC Cases*: 297
  • NC Deaths: 0
  • NC Completed Tests**: 8,438
  • US Cases***: 15,219
  • US Deaths***: 201

* This number reflects positive results from all tests, including the NC State Laboratory of Public Health and all hospital and commercial labs. 

From AOA First Look March 23, 2020: 

CDC Introduces Online Bot Named "Clara" Designed To Help People Who Are Concerned They May Have Symptoms Of Coronavirus Infection 
CNN (3/22, Cullinane) reports the CDC's website now offers a "Coronavirus Self-checker" bot named "Clara" designed to help people who think they may have symptoms of coronavirus infection. The agency "says its bot is to help users make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care and 'is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease or other conditions, including COVID-19.'" TIME (3/22, Mansoor) also covers the story.

Medicare Toolkit for Telehealth Under 1135 Waiver for COVID-19 Emergency 

CMS continues to monitor the developing COVID-19 situation and assess options to bring relief to clinicians. To keep up with the important work the task force is doing in response to COVID-19 click here. For complete and updated information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website
You can find the telehealth toolkit for general practitioners by clicking here.

COVID-19 Provider Enrollment Relief FAQs 

Yesterday, CMS released frequently asked questions on Medicare provider enrollment relief related to COVID-19 including the toll-free hotlines available to provide expedited enrollment and answer questions related to COVID-19 enrollment requirements. A copy of the FAQs can be found here

CMS Quality Reporting Deadline Extension

Today, CMS announced it is granting exceptions from reporting requirements and extensions for clinicians and providers participating in Medicare quality reporting programs with respect to upcoming measure reporting and data submission for those programs. The action comes as part of the Trump Administration's response to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

CMS is implementing additional extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy exceptions and extensions for upcoming measure reporting and data submission deadlines for several CMS programs. For those programs with data submission deadlines in April and May 2020, submission of those data will be optional, based on the facility's choice to report. 

CMS recognizes that quality measure data collection and reporting for services furnished during this time period may not be reflective of their true level of performance on measures such as cost, readmission and patient experience during this time of emergency and seeks to hold organizations harmless for not submitting data during this period. 

In addition, no data reflecting services provided January 1, 2020 - June 30, 2020 will be used in CMS' calculations for the Medicare quality reporting and value-based purchasing programs in order to reduce providers' data collection and reporting burden as they are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

MIPS eligible clinicians who have not submitted any MIPS data by April 30, 2020 do not need to take any additional action to qualify for the automatic extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy. These clinicians will be automatically identified and receive a neutral payment adjustment for the 2021 MIPS payment year. All four MIPS performance categories for these clinicians will be weighted at zero percent, resulting in a score equal to the performance threshold, and a neutral MIPS payment adjustment for the 2021 MIPS payment year. However, if a MIPS eligible clinician submits data on two or more MIPS performance categories, they will be scored and receive a 2021 MIPS payment adjustment based on their 2019 MIPS final score. 

CMS will continue to monitor the developing COVID-19 situation and assess options to bring additional relief to clinicians and their staff so they can focus on caring for patients.

You can find a copy of the press release here

Please reference the 2019 QPP Data Submission User Guide. CMS also has up to date information about its programs and response to COVID-19 on the Current Emergencies page. 

For Quality Payment Program questions you can contact 1-866-288-8292, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM-8:00 PM ET or by e-mail at: [email protected]

Provider Programs:

  • Quality Payment Program - Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)

  • Medicare Shared Savings Program Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)

2019 Data Submission

  • Deadline extended from March 31, 2020 to April 30, 2020
  • MIPS eligible clinicians who have not submitted any MIPS data by April 30, 2020 will qualify for the automatic extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy and will receive a neutral payment adjustment for the 2021 MIPS payment year.

2020 Data Submission

  • CMS is evaluating options for providing relief around participation and data submission for 2020.

DEA Information - March 23, 2020

On March 16, 2020, the DEA published a COVID-19 Information Page on the Diversion Control Divisions website. This page contains important guidance concerning COVID-19 and the national drug supply, electronic prescribing of controlled substances, telemedicine, medicated assisted treatment, and other important federal and state information. This site will be updated frequently as new information and guidance is issued. Please check back frequently for further information. 

Please continue to direct all policy questions concerning COVID-19 to the Policy email box at [email protected].

DEA Call Center:
Effective March 23, 2020, the DEA Call Center has temporarily suspended phone operations due to COVD-19 health epidemic. Assistance will only be available through email at [email protected]. The DEA has a large number of personnel answering these emails as quickly as possible. 

NOTICE from NC Board of Optometry - March 23, 2020

Please be aware that the Board has posted another update on their website regarding COVID-19 and continues to monitor the situation. You can review this document, any updates, and all previous communications on NCBO website here.

NC COVID-19 Information: dial 2-1-1 or 888-892-1162 

White House Task Force Announcement on Non-Essential/Elective Procedures 

On March 18, at the White House Task Force Press Briefing, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that all elective surgeries, non-essential medical, surgical, and dental procedures be delayed during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

You can find a copy of the press release here

You can find a copy of the guidance here.

Additional Resources

Disaster Loan Assistance

AOAExcel Resources

Statement from the 
North Carolina State Board of Examiners in Optometry

AOA's COVID-19 Resource Page

AOA's COVID-19 and Medicare Telehealth Services Webinar