On Sunday, March 8, 2020, the known cases of coronavirus in the United States surpassed 500.  Cases have been identified in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia.   Worldwide there are 109,835 confirmed cases, resulting in 3,803 deaths.  Eight states have declared states of emergency: Washington, Florida, California, New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, and Oregon.  The CDC has recommended travelers defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.

The $8.3 billion spending package signed by President Trump on March 5, 2020 included the “Telehealth Services During Certain Emergency Periods Act of 2020”, which waived certain Medicare restrictions on payment for telemedicine during emergency periods and will expand the ability for Medicare beneficiaries to use telemedicine during the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 6, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released a frequently asked questions that contains important insights for stakeholders about Medicare coverage relating to COVID-19.    This came a day after CMS released a second Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (“HCPCS”) code for CDC laboratories to use to bill COVID-19 diagnostic tests.  CMS had previously developed the code U0001 in order to bill for tests and track new cases of the virus.  U0002 may be used for laboratories to bill for non-CDC laboratory tests.  CMS announced that the Medicare claims processing system will accept these codes beginning April 1, 2020 for dates of service on or after February 4, 2020.  CMS also released fact sheets about coverage for COVID-19 services in the individual and small group markets, Medicaid and CHIP, and Medicare.

On Sunday morning, United States Surgeon General said during an interview that “some parts of the country have contained” the coronavirus and that the country “is shifting into a mitigation phase.” In a separate interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, offered insight into the populations most at risk, stating that the “[a]verage age of death for people from coronavirus is 80” and the “[a]verage age of people who need medical attention is age 60.”

As cases of the coronavirus in Italy significantly expanded, the Vatican announced that museums would be closed until April 3.  In response to the increase in Italians diagnosed with the coronavirus, Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte announced the closure of schools, gyms, museums, and other venues across the country.

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