CMS/IRS Notices, Guidance on COVID-19

March 20, 2020

Over the past 48 hours, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a series of notices and guidance concerning various aspects of responding to COVID-19. The documents include:

In yesterday’s guidance on key protective masks for healthcare workers, CMS said that it has sent a memorandum to State Survey Agencies, which are responsible for inspecting nursing homes and other healthcare facilities serving Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The memo clarifies the application of CMS policies in light of recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance expanding the types of facemasks healthcare workers may use in situations involving COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. CMS says “these are proactive steps to take as part of the White House Task Force’s efforts to ensure a maximum supply of facemasks and respirators are available to enable healthcare providers to safely treat patients without exposing themselves or others to COVID-19.”

The memo states that “Based on local and regional situational analysis of PPE supplies, facemasks are an acceptable temporary alternative when the supply chain of respirators cannot meet the demand. During this time, available respirators should be prioritized for procedures that are likely to generate respiratory aerosols, which would pose the highest exposure risk to Health Care Providers.”

In addition, CMS says the FDA approved a CDC request for an emergency use authorization (EUA) to allow healthcare workers to use certain industrial respirators during the COVID-19 outbreak in healthcare settings.

See CMS’ special webpage for the entire list of CMS notices and guidance on COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service today posted a notice, advising that high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) can pay for COVID-19-related testing and treatment, without jeopardizing their status. This also means that an individual with an HDHP that covers these costs may continue to contribute to a health savings account (HSA). The IRS notice applies only to HSA-eligible HDHPs. Employees and other taxpayers in any other type of health plan with specific questions about their own plan and what it covers should contact their plan.