Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19
There are several, including Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield, United, and others. A recent list of these can be found here: https://www.ahip.org/health-insurance-providers-respond-to-coronavirus-covid-19/
Yes, telemedicine now can be used under the conditions outlined in Title 21, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 802(54)(D).
While a prescription for a controlled substance issued by means of the Internet (including telemedicine) must generally be predicated on an in-person medical evaluation (21 U.S.C. 829(e)), the Controlled Substances Act contains certain exceptions to this requirement. One such exception occurs when the Secretary of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency under 42 U.S.C. 247d (section 319 of the Public Health Service Act), as set forth in 21 U.S.C. 802(54)(D). Secretary Azar declared such a public health emergency with regard to COVID-19 on January 31, 2020. (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/01/31/secretary-azar-declares-public-health-emergency-us-2019-novel-coronavirus.html). For as long as the Secretary's designation of a public health emergency remains in effect, DEA-registered practitioners may issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients for whom they have not conducted an in-person medical evaluation, provided all of the following conditions are met:
- The prescription is issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of his/her professional practice
- The telemedicine communication is conducted using an audio-visual, real-time, two-way interactive communication system.
- The practitioner is acting in accordance with applicable Federal and State law.
Provided the practitioner satisfies the above requirements, the practitioner may issue the prescription using any of the methods of prescribing currently available and in the manner set forth in the DEA regulations. Thus, the practitioner may issue a prescription either electronically (for schedules II-V) or by calling in an emergency schedule II prescription to the pharmacy, or by calling in a schedule III-V prescription to the pharmacy.
Important note: If the prescribing practitioner has previously conducted an in-person medical evaluation of the patient, the practitioner may issue a prescription for a controlled substance after having communicated with the patient via telemedicine, or any other means, regardless of whether a public health emergency has been declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, so long as the prescription is issued for a legitimate medical purpose and the practitioner is acting in the usual course of his/her professional practice. In addition, for the prescription to be valid, the practitioner must comply with any applicable State laws
In most states, consent requires that the patient be advised of three things: 1) the nature of the procedure; 2) the substantial risks and hazards of the procedure; and 3) the reasonable alternatives to the procedure (including, when appropriate, the option of doing nothing).
We can look at this for telehealth. Explain what will be happening, the risks of using the communication platform (e.g., skype) and alternatives (e.g., coming into the office at a later date). The verbal consent can happen with the patient is on FaceTime with the provider. However, it would be expected that the patient had already agreed to use FaceTime to speak with the provider.
Yes, it is included under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020.
States laws still apply; however, it is important to note federal law permits significant flexibility for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. For example, federal law allows states to pay benefits where:
- An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
- An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member
According to the CDC, COVID-19 is a new disease and we are learning more about it every day. Older adults are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older, creating a higher level of concern. Because of this, organizations should perform a risk assessment to determine if your employees that are 65-75 years old are at greater risk in your facilities and come up with a strategy to reduce those risks (e.g., barriers, social distancing, remote work, reduced schedule, etc.).
We recommend focusing on explaining the risks of exposure from COVID-19, or if it is due to staffing needs, cite that as well. It is our understanding of doing so during a pandemic does not put the practice at risk for discrimination.
Our recommendation from a compliance perspective in-line with CDC guidelines would be until they are no longer have a fever (if they did) or no longer experiencing respiratory symptoms.
Rather than require, we would recommend citing alternatives such as patient portal, email, mail, etc. and state that it is due to the heightened concerns over COVID-19. It is important to prevent unnecessary exposure because the records can be provided in another format.