Here’s what we’re watching in Washington: C
MS Announces Medicare At-Home Test Coverage is Coming
On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare will cover free at-home COVID-19 tests beginning in “early spring.” Once the coverage begins, Medicare enrollees would be eligible for up to 8 over-the-counter (OTC) tests per month with no cost sharing through eligible pharmacies and other participating entities. The coverage would apply to all people with Medicare Part B, including those enrolled in Medicare Advantage. See these Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
Last month, Justice in Aging and Medicare Rights Center led a letter from more than 70 advocacy organizations urging Medicare coverage of OTC tests and other COVID Services. We look forward to working with CMS to ensure this coverage is implemented as quickly and smoothly as possible. And we will continue to advocate for the Administration to provide additional immediate COVID services and resources to people with Medicare and Medicaid, especially those in marginalized communities.
Nursing Facility Must Provide Rapid COVID Tests if Requiring Visitors Be Tested
This week, CMS revised its Nursing Home Visitation Frequently Asked Questions guidance to strengthen visiting rights. At the end of the guidance, FAQ #16 states that a visitor can be required to take a COVID test only if the facility can provide a rapid antigen test. In other words, if a facility can’t provide a rapid antigen test, the visit must be allowed (as long as the visitor does not report COVID symptoms or meet quarantine criteria).
In addition, FAQ #12 states that a visitor cannot be turned away based on the visitor’s COVID vaccination status, unless the visitor has COVID symptoms or meets quarantine criteria.
New Guidance for Health Care Providers on Civil Rights Protections for People with Disabilities
On Friday, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights issued new guidance to health care providers on civil rights protections for people with disabilities during the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. The guidance clarifies in FAQs that when resources are scarce, individuals with disabilities must not be prevented from receiving needed health care as this violates federal civil rights laws. The FAQs remind health care providers of their obligations under federal law and provide examples of applicability, including to state Crisis Standard of Care plans, procedures, and related standards for triaging scarce resources that hospitals are required to follow. The guidance specifically states that civil rights laws prohibit entities from using long-term life expectancy as eligibility criteria.
Read the FAQs for Healthcare Providers during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Federal Civil Rights Protections for Individuals with Disabilities under Section 504 and Section 1557. J