Special Alert: NAAOP Update: COVID-19 and Beyond
In these trying times, NAAOP provides this update of its activities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consult the NAAOP website or contact us directly if you have questions or suggestions. As this threat continues, we ask all NAAOP members and friends to adhere to state and local directives, practice social distancing, and stay as safe as possible.
CARES Act Enacted and Small Business Relief: The third law addressing COVID-19 was enacted on Friday, March 27th. The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act contains massive employment and economic relief, in addition to resources to combat the virus. The bill contains a $349 billion program intended to help small businesses and nonprofits weather the financial storm. A summary of the health care provisions in the legislation is here and a summary of the small business loan program and other economic provisions is here. We encourage all NAAOP members to explore this important program in order to maintain cash flow and retention of staff.
Advance Medicare Payments Available: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on Saturday, March 28 an expansion of its accelerated and advance payment program for Medicare-participating health care providers and suppliers, to ensure they have the resources needed during the COVID-19 national emergency. Accelerated and advance Medicare payments provide emergency funding and address cash flow issues based on historical payments when there is disruption in claims submission and/or claims processing. The payments can be requested by hospitals; doctors; durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS) suppliers; and others. Advance payments do not have to start being paid back for 120 days but must be repaid within 210 days.
To qualify for accelerated or advance payments, the provider or supplier must:
Have billed Medicare for claims within 180 days immediately prior to the date of signature on the provider’s/ supplier’s request form,
Not be in bankruptcy,
Not be under active medical review or program integrity investigation, and
Not have any outstanding delinquent Medicare overpayments.
Medicare will start accepting and processing the Accelerated/Advanced Payment Requests immediately. CMS anticipates that the payments will be issued within seven days of the provider’s request. These are essentially no-interest loans that we hope O&P businesses will take advantage of to help maintain cash flow and their staff at this difficult time. An informational fact sheet on the accelerated/advance payment process and how to submit a request can be found here: www.cms.gov/files/document/Accelerated-and-Advanced-Payments-Fact-Sheet.pdf
NAAOP’s Statement on Orthotists and Prosthetists as Essential Providers: NAAOP issued a statement to all state Governors arguing that orthotists and prosthetists are essential health care providers that need to remain accessible to patients. Based on member feedback, NAAOP reissued the statement to encourage all O&P practices to triage patients and provide care to those most in need while limiting exposure to the virus of patients and O&P personnel. NAAOP believes O&P manufacturers and suppliers are critical to the timely delivery of patient care and should similarly be treated as essential.
COVID-19 and Business Insurance: In an effort to serve as a resource to our members, NAAOP distributed an analysis prepared by the business insurance law firm, Miller Friel, examining ways that covered businesses could assert a claim for business losses due to COVID-19. Most O&P practices are insured through Cailor Fleming and, unfortunately, these policies typically contain a virus exclusion, which makes coverage for COVID-19 losses unlikely. O&P practice owners should examine their specific business insurance policy to confirm whether it contains a virus exclusion in the language and act accordingly.
Request for Prior Authorization Delay: NAAOP has communicated our concern to CMS on the need to postpone implementation of prior authorization for six lower limb prosthetic codes beginning May 11th in four states: California, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania. NAAOP believes this is no time to impose new documentation requirements on physicians, therapists, and others on the health care team that could have the effect of delaying (or even denying) patient care. Health care providers should be focused on combating the virus, not on new documentation requirements. NAAOP seeks a 6-month to one-year postponement of the prior authorization program.
OTS Competitive Bidding: The financial impact of COVID-19 will have ripple effects across all business sectors for at least the next several quarters, and the O&P profession is no exception. For this reason, NAAOP is considering asking CMS to delay competitive bidding of off-the-shelf orthotics, scheduled to begin on January 1, 2021, for at least one year. NAAOP leadership seeks comments from its membership on this potential policy stance.
NAAOP 2020 Fellowship Program: The NAAOP Fellowship Selection Committee and Board of Directors announced the 2020 summer fellows earlier this month. Out of six highly qualified candidates, Nikki Grace-Strader and Lucas DeLuca were selected as the 2020 NAAOP Fellows:
Nikki Grace-Strader: Nikki is a born advocate from Illinois and has an above-knee prosthesis through osseointegration. Nikki’s compelling personal story and journey through health care and rehabilitation will serve her well as she advocates for O&P patient care in Washington, DC.
Lucas DeLuca: Lucas has used an above-knee prosthesis since age 2. He has a wide variety of experiences that will serve him well as an NAAOP fellow, including a Master’s degree in Disability Studies. Currently based in California, Lucas hopes to move to Washington, DC permanently to focus full-time on policy and advocacy.
2020 NAAOP Fellowship Postponed: Unfortunately, due to the risks and uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, NAAOP was forced to postpone the Fellowship program until the summer of 2021. If available at that time, these same two fellows will remain in the program and are enthusiastic about participating at that time.
NAAOP will continue to keep our members and friends informed as developments on COVID-19 continue. Please consult our website at www.naaop.org for more information.