Coronavirus Daily Update: APA Urges States, Insurers to Remove Telehealth Roadblocks

During this critical time, Behavioral Health Business remains committed to bringing providers essential news related to the operation of behavioral health facilities. Additionally, we recognize the seriousness of COVID-19. We’ll continue to highlight key developments related to the pandemic here.

What you need to know from Wednesday (March 25)

— Congress and the Trump administration struck a deal on a $2 trillion economic stabilization package early Wednesday morning. Senate passed the bill Wednesday night. The House is expected to approve the legislation by Friday.

March 24

— The American Psychological Association is urging states and insurers to remove roadblocks that make it harder for mental health providers to offer necessary telehealth services in light of COVID-19.


March 23

— The Senate failed for a second time to pass a nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package that would support American families and businesses.

— The World Health Organization said the pandemic is accelerating.

— CMS approved Medicaid Section 1135 waivers for another 11 states in response to COVID-19.


March 20-22

— The Trump administration released new tools Sunday to help relieve Medicaid and CHIP programs in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

— CMS is giving clinicians and providers in Medicare quality reporting programs some flexibility when it comes to measure reporting and data submission. The agency announced Sunday it will grant exceptions and extensions for such clinicians and providers in such programs. That includes the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting Program.

A growing number of states and cities have ordered residents to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. In most cases, people may still leave to exercise, go to the store and perform other absolutely necessary tasks. A number of other states have also implemented restrictions.

— Governors from various states have voiced concerns about health care workers’ access to personal protective equipment (PPE), sometime causing friction with the Trump administration.

News broke Friday that a patient and worker at a psychiatric hospital in Washington state have tested positive for COVID-19.

— The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) released updated guidelines for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), which it says are especially important in light of COVID-19.

March 19

SAMHSA released new guidance on 42 CFR Part 2, a rule that restricts what information addiction treatment providers can share with other health care workers. In light of COVID-19, behavioral health providers have some wiggle room with 42 CFR Part 2. They can share information without patient consent if it means helping patients get telehealth services in the case of a medical emergency.

— CMS approved Washington state’s 1135 Medicaid waiver request.

Residents in California have been ordered to stay at home for a month (except when absolutely necessary or to spend time outside) to slow the spread of COVID-19.

— Acadia Healthcare announced it has temporarily suspended the sale of its UK business due to the coronavirus.

March 18

The Senate passed a COVID-19 relief package, which President Trump signed into law.

— Researchers shared an in-depth report showing that hospitals can be easily overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. In response, Recovery Centers of America (RCA) pitched a pick-up program in four states in an effort to help hospitals free up beds. RCA would transfer people with SUD from hospitals to its facilities.

Stocks took another plunge Wednesday, prompting another 15-minute trading pause and wiping out the Dow’s gains since January 2017.

— CMS published updated COVID-19 frequently asked questions for state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) agencies.

March 17

— The Drug Enforcement Administrations (DEA) says licensed clinicians can prescribe drugs to patients following virtual visits, even if they’ve never connected in person. Providers only need to connect via audio and video before they’re allowed to prescribe medication.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) said it won’t go after health care providers for HIPAA violations associated with using everyday technology to serve patients remotely during the COVID-19 public health emergency. That means it will be easier for behavioral health providers to deliver telehealth services, allowing them to use tablets and cellphones to do so.

— CMS released Medicaid telehealth guidance for states.

— The Trump Administration expanded Medicare telehealth coverage for seniors and encouraged private insurance companies to do the same. The administration announced it would temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services across the country.

— CMS approved Florida’s 1135 Medicaid waiver, making it the first state to be granted such a waiver. As such, certain providers in Florida who are paid by Medicaid will face fewer administrative burdens and be granted additional flexibilities.

March 16

Stocks plunged yet again. The Dow dropped nearly 3,000 points and trading paused for 15 minutes.

— President Donald Trump recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that no gatherings of 50 or more people in the next several weeks.

— SAMHSA has relaxed regulations to make it easier for certain patients to take home MAT medication like buprenorphine and methadone. They can now take home 28 days worth of medication at a time.

— Over the weekend, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an 1135 waiver to relax certain rules and Conditions of Participation (CoPs) for certain Medicare and Medicaid health care providers.

–Also over the weekend, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued an executive order that allows behavioral health providers to restrict entrance or treatment to people who might pose a health or safety threat in light of COVID-19. It also amended state law to allow behavioral health providers to disclose ordinarily confidential information in order to report COVID-19 cases.