March 31, 2020

Your Gastroenterology
COVID-19 Update

  • Accelerated Medicare Payments

  • DEA Allows Prescribing Via Telehealth

  • New CMS Policies Aid Healthcare

  • Update on State Orders

Monday was National Doctors’ Day and there probably has been no more appropriate time in recent memory for everyone to show their appreciation and gratitude to a physician. Thank you for your continued service helping your community and our country through the COVID-19 pandemic. And while you are helping patients, please remember to keep you and your families safe.


Accelerated, Advanced Medicare Payments Available

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that providers can access accelerated or advanced payments for Medicare services under the new federal economic stimulus package. This measure applies to all hospitals, doctors, durable equipment suppliers, and other Medicare Part A and Part B providers and suppliers.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is intended to help physicians and medical practices suffering significant financial hardships due to the pandemic. Ohio is currently under a state of emergency and an order from the governor forbidding non-essential medical surgeries and procedures that require personal protection equipment (PPE). That order has forced many physicians to reduce office hours and furlough staff.

To qualify for the accelerated and advanced payments, the provider or supplier must:

  • Have billed Medicare in the last 180 days;
  • Not be in bankruptcy;
  • Not under medical review or integrity investigation;
  • Have no outstanding delinquent Medicare overpayments.

CMS has developed a detailed fact sheet covering eligibility, enrollment and other details.

Enrollment must be done directly with our region’s Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC)—CGS Administrators. CGS is accepting requests now.

CGS has also established an Accelerated Payment Hotline:

  • Call 1-855-769-9920, Monday-Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (EST).
  • The hotline will allow physicians to initiate provisional temporary Medicare billing privileges and address questions regarding provider enrollment flexibilities and accelerated payments. 


U.S. DEA Allowing Controlled Substance Via Telehealth

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced new telemedicine guidance for prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances to ensure necessary patient therapies remain accessible. As part of this effort, DEA has partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to ensure authorized practitioners may admit and treat new patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) during the public health emergency.

The DEA notes that under normal circumstances, it would not consider the initiation of treatment with a controlled substance based on a mere phone call to be appropriate given that doing so creates a high risk of diversion. However, citing the current pandemic, the DEA is allowing the prescribing of drugs, such as, buprenorphine to new patients via telephone calls without first performing an in-person or telemedicine evaluation.


CMS Announces New Policies

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented a number of new, temporary policies to help physicians and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Medicare coverage for telephone services, significant additions to the list of covered telehealth services, and greater clarity on the use of remote patient monitoring for acute conditions like the coronavirus.

The list of multi-faceted measures also includes a modification of the MIPS Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances policy to allow clinicians who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to submit an application and request re-weighting of the MIPS performance categories for the 2019 performance year. The accelerated and advanced payments are also included in this package.

Read about the temporary measures >

And the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) has created a FREE webinar to help providers learn to more efficiently utilize telehealth.


Update on State Orders

The Stay-At-Home order put in place on March 23 is set to expire this coming Monday, April 6.

However, Gov. Mike DeWine is almost certain to announce later this week that this order will be extended and the order could become more restrictive. Adjustments could be made to what is considered essential work and activities as the state continues to make efforts to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 in Ohio.

Also, on Monday, the governor announced that all Ohio K-12 schools will remain closed to students through May 1. Administrators and staff will still be able to access school facilities and school-based activities—such as food services or health programs, which are still permitted.

Relatedly, President Trump has announced that the national social distancing guidelines will remain in place thru April 30. The President has added that a national ‘Stay-At-Home’ order is not likely.


Your voice matters. Please continue to share your feedback on how this pandemic is impacting your ability to practice medicine and send any questions you might have to OGS Director Reginald FieldsAlso, please visit the OGS website for updates.

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