The Rundown by inforMD | Week of 4.13.2020

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CMS to Increase Payments for Some COVID-19 Testing

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will “nearly double” payments for “high-throughput lab tests.” These lab tests “rapidly diagnose large numbers of COVID-19 cases.” This measure is intended to expand CMS’ ability “to test more vulnerable populations, like nursing home patients, quickly and provide results faster.” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said labs aren’t conducting the tests, which are “more complicated and expensive to process,” Modern Healthcare reported. The reimbursement aims to incentivize labs to perform the tests by offsetting some of those added costs.

>> Read More: CMS News Alert – April 16, 2020

CMS to Enable Providers to Practice at “Top of License”

CMS has “temporarily suspended a number of rules so that hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities can boost their frontline medical staffs [sic] as they fight to save lives” during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Allowing clinicians to practice to the full scope of their licenses is critical to address staffing needs during the public health emergency,” read a statement from the agency. The changes would permit providers to “directly care for patients at rural hospitals, across state lines if necessary, via phone, radio, or online communication, without having to be physically present.” Under the new direction, nurse practitioners at skilled nursing facilities can “perform some medical exams that doctors normally conduct,” Medscape reported. The guidance also includes provisions for occupational therapists and home health agencies.

>> Read More: Trump Administration Acts to Ensure U.S. Healthcare Facilities Can Maximize Frontline Workforces to Confront COVID-19 Crisis

Study: Effects of Lockdown on Mental Health

A recent study published in Psychiatry Research sheds light on the negative impact lockdown has on mental health. The study evaluated “369 adults in 64 cities in China that varied in their rates of confirmed coronavirus cases on their health conditions, distress and life satisfaction.” Researchers found that adults who did not work — including the 25 percent stopped work due to the outbreak — reported worse mental and physical health, distress, and life satisfaction. “Policymakers who are considering introducing restrictive measures to contain COVID-19 may benefit from understanding such health and wellbeing implications,” the study noted.

>> Read More: Unprecedented Disruption of Lives and Work: Health, Distress and Life Satisfaction of Working Adults in China One Month into the COVID-19 Outbreak

Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Risk of Cognitive Impairment

New data suggests that the Mediterranean diet, which is “high in vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil,” may have a “protective effect on cognition.” The study, which was published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, analyzed 7,756 participants and found that “closer Mediterranean diet adherence was associated with lower risk of cognitive impairment but not slower decline in cognitive function.”

>> Read More: Fish, Veggie-Rich Diet Tied to Less Cognitive Impairment Risk

CMS Expands Coverage for COVID-19 Services

CMS and the Departments of Labor and the Treasury have issued a new guidance to ensure that “diagnostic testing and certain other related services, including antibody testing” for COVID-19 are covered “at no cost” for “Americans with private health insurance.” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said, “It is critical that Americans have peace of mind knowing that cost won’t be a barrier to testing during this national public health emergency.” The announcement requires “group health plans and group and individual health insurance to cover both diagnostic testing and certain related items and services provided during a medical visit with no cost sharing.”

>> Read More: Trump Administration Announces Expanded Coverage for Essential Diagnostic Services Amid COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

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