Following President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on March 13, 2020, CMS approved the first Section 1135 waiver related to Medicaid on Monday.  The State of Florida received permission to eliminate the limits on instances of care furnished and how many participants receive care from an out-of-state provider for the duration of the 1135 waiver.  The waiver also provides Florida with additional flexibility to enroll providers not presently enrolled in Medicare or with another State Medicaid Agency and waives certain prior authorization requirements.

A Declaration issued by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar was published in the Federal Register on March 17 to provide liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures taken against COVID-19.  The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act authorizes the HHS Secretary to ‘issue a Declaration to provide liability immunity to certain individuals and entities against any claim of loss caused by, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from the manufacture, distribution, administration, or use of medical countermeasures, except for claims involving ‘willful misconduct’.”

On Monday March 16, leaders from the G-7 nations released a joint statement providing that “[w]e are committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response through closer cooperation and enhanced coordination of our efforts.  While current challenges may require national emergency measures, we remain committed to the stability of the global economy.”

As Congress and the Trump administration examine additional policies to fight the coronavirus, the American Hospital Association sent a letter to Secretary Azar asking for “additional actions to temporarily suspend certain requirements in order for health care providers to better respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.”   In a letter on Sunday, the American Hospital Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Federation of American Hospitals asked Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to suspend the Medicare sequester that reduces payments by 2 percent.  The hospitals stated that suspending the sequester “would replace an arbitrary cut with the flexibility desperately needed to respond to the evolving demands of this pandemic, and would help assure our patients, especially seniors, of Congress’s commitment to their needs.”

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, which contains “scholarly literature about COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and the Coronavirus group.” The dataset is available here.  The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday announced that arguments for late March and early April would be postponed.  In a press release, the Court stated that “[i]n keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments…” The Court did not announce when oral arguments would begin again.

The Health Law Pulse will continue to provide updates as more is known about this public health crisis.