Small Business Administration (SBA)

Small Business Administration (SBA)

COVID-19 Week in Review

COVID-19 Week in Review


Week of August 7, 2020

Considerations in the Search for Transparent Face Coverings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Because of COVID-19 and broad mandates to wear face coverings, there are numerous local, state, and national conversations regarding communication access for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) in school, hospital, and public settings. Although there was an initial shortage and concerns about meeting global demands, we have witnessed, in a short period, rapid production of various types of masks and shields intended for use by either the public or health workers, including masks with clear (transparent) windows and face shields. 

The major problem is that typical masks (cloth or medical) present an obvious visual barrier to those who depend on nonverbal communication cues on the face (e.g., mouth, lips, teeth, tongue, and cheeks) (Gardino et al 2008; Atcherson et al, 2017; Atcherson and Finley, 2019; Elby et al., 2020; Baltimore and Atcherson, 2020). Learn more…

Coding and Reimbursement: Telehealth

In the era of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to use different methods of clinical service provision to protect our patients’ health while still addressing their hearing, tinnitus, and vestibular health-care needs. 

As audiology clinics increase their use of telehealth as a method for patient care, audiologists must understand how such changes also impact coding and billing. This article will discuss considerations and provide examples of billing and coding for telehealth services for audiologists. Learn more…


Advocacy Updates and Resources

Study Shows that a Quarter of Medicare Beneficiaries are Unable to Access Telehealth Visits

Two studies published in the JAMA Journal of Internal Medicine shows a quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries are unable to access telehealth services due to a lack of access to either high-speed internet services or a cellphone with a wireless data plan.

Council of State Governments (CSG) Posts Compilation of COVID-19 Data Prediction Models

CSG has compiled COVID-19 data prediction models from MIT, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Imperial College of London and Northwestern University.


Previous Updates

Week of June 19, 2020

Newborn Hearing Screenings and Follow-Up: Essential During a Pandemic?

Learn more about the implications of the COVID-19 response on children who were born during the time when in-person health-care services were limited, focusing specifically on newborn hearing screening (NBHS) and follow-up services for infants identified with potential hearing loss.

Dietary Supplements Used for COVID-19 Treatment

Along with other professionals, audiologists must also be vigilant in their patient care—especially during their case history review—to counsel their patients about the extremely limited safety and efficacy information about dietary supplements as it pertains to COVID-19.

Telehealth

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020 
Tele-audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET


Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

eAudiology On-Demand FREE Web Seminar (free through June 30)
Supporting Patients at a Distance: Telehealth Now and in the Future (0.1 AAA/Tier 1 CEUs)

The COVID-19 health-care crisis has intensified interest in the provision of audiology services via telehealth. State licensing boards, Medicaid programs, and private payers have varying approaches to the issue. This webinar covers a brief overview of the overall regulatory landscape in these settings.

New Resource Detailing State Actions on Telehealth

The Center for Connected Health Policy has released a resource detailing the actions taken by states with regard to telehealth as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This state-by-state document outlines the changes made to occupational licensing, state Medicaid programs, state insurance regulations, as well as directives from state Governors.

Other Resources

New Legislation to Assist Small Businesses Hardest Hit by COVID-19

Democratic members of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee announced plans to introduce legislation, the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Act, that would provide new funding to businesses with 100 employees or less including sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals. 

Council of State Governments (CSG) Outlines State Policy Changes to Occupational Licensing

CSG has created a document outlining the changes each state has made with regard to occupational licensing. These changes are intended to respond to workforce shortages or address attainment or maintenance of licensure.

 

Week of July 31, 2020

It's Not Too Late to Register!

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Register Now! Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET

  • Academy members: $99
  • Student: Free, thanks to the generous support from Starkey

Advocacy Update

AHA, AMA, and ANA Urge Public to Wear Masks

The American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) released a public service announcement (PSA) today (July 31) urging the American public to take three simple steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash hands frequently. 

CMS Releases New Hospital Codes for COVID-19 Drug Therapies

CMS announced on July 30 that, starting August 1, new treatment codes will allow Medicare and other insurers to track the use of Gilead’s remdesivir and convalescent plasma for treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

New Resources from CMS

CMS has released the Medicare COVID-19 Data Snapshot Fact Sheet that provides information about people with Medicare who are diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Turnaround Time for COVID-19 Testing Decreases

The Trump Administration reports that COVID-19 testing turnaround has improved with 56 percent of test results returned within three days.

State Use of Funds From CARES Act

The online interactive graphic on state Coronovirus Relief Funds is searchable by state and category, such as health, small business relief education, and more.

U.S. Cases Up Amidst Record-Breaking Economic News

Bloomberg News reports that the US cases of COVID-19 increased 1.9 percent in one day on Thursday to reach 4.47 million cases.

Coding and Reimbursement: Telehealth

In the era of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to use different methods of clinical service provision to protect our patients’ health while still addressing their hearing, tinnitus, and vestibular health-care needs. 

As audiology clinics increase their use of telehealth as a method for patient care, audiologists must understand how such changes also impact coding and billing. This article will discuss considerations and provide examples of billing and coding for telehealth services for audiologists. Learn more… 

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Register Now! Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET

  • Academy members: $99
  • Student: Free, thanks to the generous support from Starkey

Advocacy Update

HHS Officially Renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On July 23, HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, announced the official renewal of the COVID-19 public health emergency for another 90 days. Many health-care professionals had expressed concern about the expiration of the initial emergency determination that was set to expire on July 25. The issuance of a public health emergency ensures the continuation of a myriad of regulatory waivers, particularly those pertaining to telepractice.

State-by-State Guide to Face Mask Requirements

AARP has created a guide to state face mask requirements. Now more than 30 states have implemented some type of requirement.

Week of July 17, 2020

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Register Now! Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET

Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus.

Presentations include:

  • Prioritizing Tele-Audiology for COVID-19 and Beyond
  • Tele-Audiology in the VA
  • Telehealth Support by Audiology Services with Hybrid Online and
  • Face-to-Face Care
  • IDA Telecare Tools
  • It’s Not the Technology, It’s What You Do with the Technology
  • Hearing Aid Fittings: Finding New Ways to Work with Patients
  • Uptake of Remote Hearing Aid Support Services
  • Practical Solutions for Assessment and Intervention in Tele-Audiology 

Academy member registration is only $99…Student registration is free, thanks to the generous support from Starkey.


Advocacy Update

Infographic Highlights Growth of Telehealth By Private Insurers During COVID

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has released a new infographic demonstrating the explosive growth of telehealth by private insurers during the COVID health-care crisis.

State Actions to Close COVID-Related Budget Shortfalls

The Council of State Governments has created a new database to track both budget-cutting and revenue-producing actions of state governments, as they attempt to recover and rebuild in the wake of devastating financial effects caused by the COVID crisis.

Week of July 10, 2020

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Register Now! Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET

Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

Student registration is free, thanks to the generous support provided by Starkey.

Advocacy Update

Council of State Governments (CSG) Issues Update on Status/Delays of State Legislative Sessions in Response to COVID

Governors in all 50 states delivered a letter to the administration requesting the renewal of the COVID 19 public health emergency, set to expire on July 25. The issuance of a federal public health emergency would ensure continued funding for the uninsured and ensure that federal and state regulatory flexibilities remain available.

Bipartisan Group of Senators Encourage Administration to Make Telehealth Expansion and Flexibilities Permanent

Over 35 senators signed on to a letter to HHS asking that the agency work and dialogue with Congress in terms of any future changes to the availability of telehealth services in Medicare. In addition, the bipartisan group of senators encouraged the administration to work with Congress to ensure that the current expansion of telehealth remain in place even after the COVID crisis subsides.

Summary of Public Heath Criteria in State Re-Opening Plans

This chart compiled by the National Governors Association outlines the public health criteria being utilized in each state’s re-opening plan.

Week of June 26, 2020

Academy Signs On to Multi-Stakeholder Letter Urging Recent Telehealth Changes Remain Permanent

The Academy signed on to a multi-stakeholder letter to House and Senate leadership urging action to avoid the telehealth “cliff” at the end of the public health emergency and make permanent expanded access to telehealth services in Medicare. In addition, the letter urges Congress to ensure that HHS has the authority to add new providers to the list of eligible telehealth providers as well as to add new services as needed.

Treatment and Management Resources and Information 

Advocacy Update

Council of State Governments (CSG) Issues Update on Status/Delays of State Legislative Sessions in Response to COVID

Many state legislatures have had to alter their regularly scheduled sessions in response to the COVID-19 health-care crisis. This resource provided by the Council of State Governments provides updates on where each state stands with regard to scheduling and planned changes.

Week of June 19, 2020

Newborn Hearing Screenings and Follow-Up: Essential During a Pandemic?

Learn more about the implications of the COVID-19 response on children who were born during the time when in-person health-care services were limited, focusing specifically on newborn hearing screening (NBHS) and follow-up services for infants identified with potential hearing loss.

Dietary Supplements Used for COVID-19 Treatment

Along with other professionals, audiologists must also be vigilant in their patient care—especially during their case history review—to counsel their patients about the extremely limited safety and efficacy information about dietary supplements as it pertains to COVID-19.

Telehealth

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020 
Tele-audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET


Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

eAudiology On-Demand FREE Web Seminar (free through June 30)
Supporting Patients at a Distance: Telehealth Now and in the Future (0.1 AAA/Tier 1 CEUs)

The COVID-19 health-care crisis has intensified interest in the provision of audiology services via telehealth. State licensing boards, Medicaid programs, and private payers have varying approaches to the issue. This webinar covers a brief overview of the overall regulatory landscape in these settings.

New Resource Detailing State Actions on Telehealth

The Center for Connected Health Policy has released a resource detailing the actions taken by states with regard to telehealth as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This state-by-state document outlines the changes made to occupational licensing, state Medicaid programs, state insurance regulations, as well as directives from state Governors.

Other Resources

New Legislation to Assist Small Businesses Hardest Hit by COVID-19

Democratic members of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee announced plans to introduce legislation, the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Act, that would provide new funding to businesses with 100 employees or less including sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals. 

Council of State Governments (CSG) Outlines State Policy Changes to Occupational Licensing

CSG has created a document outlining the changes each state has made with regard to occupational licensing. These changes are intended to respond to workforce shortages or address attainment or maintenance of licensure.

Week of June 12, 2020

National Audiology Associations Team Up to Request Removal of the Medicare Physician Order Requirement

The Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), the American Academy of Audiology (the Academy), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) sent a joint letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) requesting the removal of the Medicare physician order requirement.

Telehealth

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020 
Tele-audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET


Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

eAudiology On-Demand FREE Web Seminar (free through June 30)
Supporting Patients at a Distance: Telehealth Now and in the Future (0.1 AAA/Tier 1 CEUs)

The COVID-19 health-care crisis has intensified interest in the provision of audiology services via telehealth. State licensing boards, Medicaid programs, and private payers have varying approaches to the issue. This webinar covers a brief overview of the overall regulatory landscape in these settings.

Other Resources

Week of June 5, 2020

President’s Message: Health-Care Changes and Tele-Audiology—Our Focus on the Future


A crisis often shines a light on what is essential, and it has been clear that audiologists’ services in communication and balance are essential. A crisis provides a time to show patients and policymakers that audiologists are experts in this area.

The Academy needs to focus on the changes that are happening in health care related to this crisis and formalize them and move them into the future to support audiologists’ ability to have accessible and appropriate care for patients.

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020 
Tele-audiology: Theory to Practice
August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET


Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

Advocacy

Other Resources

 

Week of May 29, 2020

Our Essential Role in Communication: Resources That Can Help

It is an important time to continue to highlight our essential role in communication and hearing health care. With this in mind, we have developed information pieces and resources you can use with your patients and/or share with your communities, colleagues, and other health-care providers as you see fit. 

Safety and Treatment Resources

New Resources

National Governor’s Association (NGA) Summary of State Actions on Business Re-Openings (Updated May 27, 2020)
This resource from the National Governor’s Association provides the most up-to-date information on actions states have taken to reopen those business sectors previously restricted, deemed non-essential and/or required to close.

New Poll Finds Medicare Advantage Members Have Favorable Impression of Telehealth
A new survey sponsored by the Better Medicare Alliance finds that Medicare Advantage patients had favorable experiences with services provided via telehealth.

CDC Interim Guidance to Businesses and Employers on Mitigating COVID-19 Risk
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance to businesses and employers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NIH Seeks Industry Input to Design Digital Contact Tracing Tool

The National Institutes of Health is seeking recommendations from companies on how to build a phone app or other digital tool to collect data and provide coronavirus information to the public while maintaining adequate privacy protections. The office issued a request for information to explore whether industry partners could develop a contact tracing tool that would also monitor the health of people who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, link people to trials for therapeutics or preventative medicines, assess if individuals are ready to return to work, and calculate risks of infection.

Week of May 15, 2020

Our Essential Role in Communication: Resources That Can Help

With May as Better Hearing Month, this is an important time to continue to highlight our essential role in communication and hearing health care. With this in mind, we have developed informational pieces and resources you can use with your patients and/or share with your communities, colleagues, and other health-care providers as you see fit.

Best Practices Guidelines for Safely Conducting Hearing Testing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This best practices document offers guidelines that are applicable to busy hearing conservation practices that use multiple test stations within an audiometric booth, as well as those using single-person booths. The document was prepared by NHCA, with participation of the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation and several knowledgeable occupational medicine specialists, to minimize the risk of SARS CoV-2 infection through person-to-person spread within occupational health clinics, company in-house testing, and mobile test environments.

New Resources

New Resource Compiles Results of Recent Patient and Provider Telehealth Surveys 

The Alliance for Connected Care has created a resource that compiles the results of seven recent surveys of patients, providers, and consumers on their experiences with and perceptions of telehealth. 

Interactive Map Provides Information on COVID-19-Related State Legislation 

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has created a resource that compiles all of the COVID-19-related legislation introduced to date. At least 38 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico have introduced legislation to support state action related to COVID-19. Several resolutions adjourn legislative sessions or adopt temporary rules to allow governing bodies to meet or vote electronically. 

CMS Provides Comprehensive COVID-19 Toolkit for Providers and Patients 

CMS has created a comprehensive COVID-19 toolkit for providers and patients. This online resource provides one-stop access to all of the materials that HHS/CMS has created on the topic to date.

Take Action

Encourage Your Elected Officials to Support Inclusion of Medicare Audiology Provisions in Future COVID-19 Legislation
On March 30, CMS announced that it would allow certain allied health-care care services to be paid for as Medicare telehealth services. However, audiologists and audiology services were not included in this list.

Email your representatives today on the Academy's Legislative Action Center.

Week of May 8, 2020

Re-Opening in a Post-COVID World

Re-opening your audiology practice after the COVID-19 pandemic can be both exciting and stressful for you and your patients. Being able to offer audiological services in a safe manner will be a step in the right direction to achieving our “new normal,” will reinstate some form of revenue for your practice, and most importantly, will bring much-needed service back to your patients who rely on their hearing to stay in touch with their family and friends, now more than ever.

Audiological Management of COVID-19 Survivors Treated with Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin

Audiologists have known about the ototoxicity of quinine (and its derivatives) and antibiotics (macrolide and aminoglycoside) for decades. But we have never seen the combined use of two drugs, each with known ototoxic potential, being used as an intervention strategy for the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

Telehealth Information

National Governors Association Memo to Governors: “Strategies for Telehealth”

To date, all 50 states have taken action to increase access to services via telehealth. This memo to all state governors highlights some of the innovative approaches that have been employed including eliminating cost sharing requirements for telehealth services, waiving professional licensure requirements and mandating payment parity for services delivered via telehealth. 

Introduced Federal Legislation: COVID-19 Telehealth Bills

The Alliance for Connected Care has compiled a list of federal telehealth legislation that has been introduced to date in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Articles and Items of Interest

New Resources

FEMA Factsheet on PPE Preservation Best Practices

This guidance summarizes best practices for national implementation to sustain PPE while protecting workers during the pandemic response.  This fact sheet also amplifies CDC strategy on conventional, contingency and crisis capacity strategy for optimizing PPE. 

Obtaining PPE from Amazon: Latest News and Update

The Academy has heard from a number of members who have reported that Amazon Business does not recognize them as health-care providers for the purposes of purchasing supplies in bulk. The Academy spoke with an Amazon representative who indicated that the types of health-care providers recognized for the purposes of an Amazon business account in general varies from state to state and is based on state regulations. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, health-care practitioners in receipt of any valid state issued health-care license are eligible to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE). On the Amazon Business website, select the “COVID-19 Supplies on Amazon Business” tab. That will then take you through the process to set up a free Amazon business account and will request the individual’s NPI number.

MultiState COVID-19 State Reopening Guide

States have shifted the focus of their COVID-19 response from managing the public health crisis to the economic recovery phase. States have started allowing certain businesses to open, and most have announced plans for a phased reopening of the economy. Since each state’s degree of “openness” is determined by many factors, and because each state handled pandemic response differently, MultiState has developed a guide to condense these factors into one easy-to-understand “openness score” that allows you to compare states to one another. 

Week of May 1, 2020

President's Message: COVID-19—Planning for In-Person Care

Our goal is targeted, safe reintroduction of in-person care. None of us have any experience with this, none of us have had to shut down in a matter of days and then figure out how to re-open gradually. We have to stay in business, and we have to do it in a world that presents challenges that none of us have ever faced.

CMS Expands List of Medicare Eligible Telehealth Providers to Include Audiologists

On April 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final regulation that states that, all professionals who are able to bill Medicare for their professional services will be considered eligible telehealth providers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Though not named specifically in the CMS Fact Sheet or Press Release, it is our interpretation of the regulation that audiologists are considered eligible providers of telehealth services.


Telehealth Education and Information

Tele-audiology in a Pandemic and Beyond: Flexibility and Suitability in Audiology Practice ( Audiology Today, Jul/Aug 2020 Pre-Press)

Professional Liability and Tele-audiology Services ( Hearing Review, April 23, 2020)


New Resources

COVID-19: Moving Toward Full Audiology Services

Next COVID-19 Relief Package Likely to Provide Relief for States and Localities

Large Company CEOs Advocate for Consistent Guidelines for Returning to Work

Treasury Department Releases Updated FAQ (4-29) for Paycheck Protection Program 

COVID-19: Considerations for Treatment Using Quinine Derivatives and Other Ototoxic Compounds

Hydroxychloroquine was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use to treat adults and adolescents with COVID-19.

Research supporting use of these agents for treatment of COVID-19 is currently limited to a few small samples with contradictory findings. In addition, optimal dosing strategies remain unknown. The FDA has released a fact sheet to help understand the findings. 

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are synthetic derivatives of quinine. Quinine and its derivatives have a long history as anti-malarial and for treatment of autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Review the historical commentary.

Read more…


New Resources

Administration Launches New Toolkit to Help States Navigate COVID-19 Health Workforce Challenges  

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) released a new toolkit to help state and local healthcare decision makers maximize workforce flexibilities when confronting 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in their communities.  

Academy Requests Congress Suspend Expected Medicare Cuts Associated with Increase in E/M Code Reimbursement 

The Academy along with multiple physician and allied health groups signed on to a letter to congressional leaders requesting that they take action to suspend expected cuts to Medicare reimbursement in 2021. 

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) To Receive An Additional Influx of Cash


Telehealth Education and Information

New HHS Website on Telehealth for Providers and Patients

Free Access
eAudiology Webinar: Supporting Patients at a Distance—Telehealth Now and in the Future (0.1 CEUs/Tier 1) 
May 1, 3:00 pm ET

Free Access
Seminars in Hearing Humanitarian Issue (May 2020)

Seminars in Hearing Article: eHealth Technologies Enable more Accessible Hearing Care (April 2020)

Week of April 17, 2020

eAudiology Telehealth Webinar—Register Today

Supporting Patients at a Distance: Telehealth Now and in the Future
May 1, 3:00 pm ET

The COVID-19 health-care crisis has intensified interest in the provision of audiology services via telehealth. State licensing boards, Medicaid programs, private payers, and Medicare have varying approaches to the telehealth and this webinar will provide an overview of these settings. Learn more about the Academy’s efforts to secure inclusion of audiologists in telehealth provisions under Medicare, an outline of the Academy Coding and Reimbursement Committee’s guidance on telehealth and reimbursement options, and member experiences in transitioning audiology practices to telehealth.  


COVID-19-Related State Executive Orders/Telehealth
The Council of State Governments has created a resource that provides access to all state executive orders issued to date on a wide range of topics. You can search this document by state to or by classification/subject area. Of particular note, under the classification tab, you may scroll down and access all of the state telehealth-related executive orders issued to date. 

Guidance for Businesses from Each State Chamber of Commerce
Many state chambers of commerce have created webpages dedicated to the COVID-19 impact and response and specific guidance for in-state businesses. The Council of State Chambers of Commerce has compiled links to all of the dedicated COVID-19 webpages from each of the individual state chambers of commerce. 


Take Action

Encourage Your Elected Officials to Support Inclusion of Medicare Audiology Provisions in Future COVID-19 Legislation
On March 30, CMS announced that it would allow certain allied health-care care services to be paid for as Medicare telehealth services. However, audiologists and audiology services were not included in this list.

Email your representatives today on the Academy's Legislative Action Center.

Week of April 10, 2020

Encourage Your Legislator to Support Inclusion of Medicare Audiology Provisions in Future COVID-19 Legislation

Congress is now working on crafting another COVID-19 relief package to follow up on the CARES Act passed last week. Congress and the Administration have taken many steps to expand the health-care workforce and remove barriers to providing services via telehealth.

However, to date, the current barriers in Medicare regarding access to audiologists and the provision of services via telehealth have not been addressed.

Please visit the Academy Legislative Action Center to access a template letter to contact your legislators about this critical issue.


The CARES Act Provider Relief Fund Begins Disbursements


Today, April 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began distributing the initial $30 billion in COVID-19 relief funding to providers as part of the distribution of the $100 billion fund provided as part of the CARES Act.
 
This initial distribution of funds will go to hospitals and providers currently enrolled in Medicare and take effect immediately. Facilities and providers are allotted a portion of the $30 billion based on their share of 2019 Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursements. Therefore, those facilities and providers that billed significant amounts of Medicare FFS in 2019 are the priority in this first phase.
 
These are payments, not loans, and will not need to be repaid. Fund recipients will be prohibited from balancing billing COVID-19 patients for related services. Additional details from HHS can be found here.
 
A second phase of targeted distributions to providers is expected to follow soon and will focus on providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers, and providers of services with lower shares of Medicare FFS reimbursement or who predominantly serve the Medicaid population.


Academy Speaks Directly with CMS Staff Regarding Medicare Audiology Services and Telehealth

On April 8, Academy staff participated in a CMS Special Open Door Forum to address CMS’ actions to increase access to telehealth in Medicare during the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS gave an update on their actions to date and then took a limited amount of questions from the call participants. The Academy was able to pose the following question directly to CMS staff:

"To date, CMS has removed many existing barriers to the provision of services via telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries but not all. Specifically, the Agency has not yet removed the restriction on the provision of audiology services via telehealth. Given the fact that untreated hearing loss is an isolating factor in and of itself—which is compounded by the lockdowns in many senior living facilities,—will the Agency consider taking action to allow audiology services to be provided via telehealth?”

CMS staff responded that they are taking a broad look at using their waiver authority to further expand Medicare beneficiary access to needed services. CMS requested that the Academy provide follow-up information on the types of audiology services that could be provided via telehealth. Academy staff indicated that they would follow up via e-mail and also pointed out that the Veterans Administration has been providing tele-audiology services for quite some time.  


Academy and AAA Foundation Boards: We Are Here for You…We Hear You

The Boards of the American Academy of Audiology and the American Academy of Audiology Foundation recognize that our membership is dealing with myriad challenges as a result of the coronavirus.

We know that audiologists across the country are doing their best to serve their patients, support their families, and follow state and federal recommendations to “flatten the curve”…and they may be feeling worried, anxious, or uncertain. Watch the video message.


Resources

  • The Center for Connected Health Policy has created a resource that provides links to all state-related actions on telehealth that have been issued in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Information is provided on Executive Orders, changes to Medicaid/Medicaid managed care, specific legislation passed, and any guidance given by the state to private health plans.
  • The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has created a helpful guide for small businesses outlining the various loan options available to them at this time, including associated tax consequences as well as contact information for small businesses to seek advice. 
  • States and localities continue to take additional measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including requiring residents to  stay home and for non-essential businesses to close physical locations and require 100 percent of their workforce to telecommute. What businesses, then, are considered “essential”? This differs depending on state or locality. View the resource created by Multistate Associates.

COVID-19 Updates—Week of April 3, 2020

Academy Telehealth Update and Guide

Audiologists are beginning to employ creative solutions to assist their patients while mitigating the risk of further transmission of the virus.

Some former face-to-face visits are now being handled via telephone, video, and/or remote connection to hearing aid devices. Many audiologists are wondering if these remote services can be billed and reimbursed. This guide will help you understand options that are available to audiologists at the present time.

Treasury Department Releases Application Form and Fact Sheet for Forgivable Small Businesses Loans

Small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply starting on April, 3, 2020. The application form can be found here.  

For more details about the program, access the accompanying fact sheet from the Treasury Department.

 

Advocacy Updates

Statements from Academy Leadership

CEU-Eligible Online Education

The Academy is committed to ensuring audiologists have access to virtual CEU-eligible educational resources during this challenging time. 

On-demand seminars and live webinars are now available on eAudiology.org, and live webinars are scheduled throughout April. New webinars will be added each month. 

Brought to you by the AAA Foundation’s Educational Fund. Thank you to those who donated their AAA 2020 + HearTECH Expo Conference refunds toward this educational fund.

Treasury Department Releases Application Form and Fact Sheet for Forgivable Small Businesses Loans

The newly enacted Paycheck Protection Program included in the most recent COVID-19 relief package authorizes $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to cover payroll, rent/mortgage and utilities.

President Signs “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” that Includes Small Business Assistance (CARES)

The recently enacted “CARES” Act includes the “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) for small businesses. The PPP is designed to provide short-term cash flow assistance to small businesses to help these businesses and their employees deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 

COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Resources

HHS Extends Application Deadline for Financial Relief Medicaid Providers until August 28, 2020

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has extended the application deadline for Medicaid providers for Phase 2 financial relief distribution until August 28, 2020. HHS also plans to reopen the portal for certain Medicaid providers to receive funding under Phase 1 provisions for those unable to complete applications previously. Both groups will have until Friday, August 28, 2020 to apply. More information can be found on the HHS website.

Considerations in the Search for Transparent Face Coverings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Because of COVID-19 and broad mandates to wear face coverings, there are numerous local, state, and national conversations regarding communication access for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) in school, hospital, and public settings. Although there was an initial shortage and concerns about meeting global demands, we have witnessed, in a short period, rapid production of various types of masks and shields intended for use by either the public or health workers, including masks with clear (transparent) windows and face shields.

AHA, AMA, and ANA Urge Public to Wear Masks

The American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) released a public service announcement (PSA) today (July 31) urging the American public to take three simple steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash hands frequently. 

Coding and Reimbursement: Telehealth

In the era of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to use different methods of clinical service provision to protect our patients’ health while still addressing their hearing, tinnitus, and vestibular health-care needs. 

As audiology clinics increase their use of telehealth as a method for patient care, audiologists must understand how such changes also impact coding and billing. This article will discuss considerations and provide examples of billing and coding for telehealth services for audiologists.

President’s Message: Health-Care Changes and Tele-Audiology—Our Focus on the Future

National Audiology Associations Team Up to Request Removal of the Medicare Physician Order Requirement

 

 

COVID-19 Week in Review

See a recap of this week's news and resources. A new Academy update will be posted each Friday.


Practice Management Resources


Telehealth Resources

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice
August 6, 10:00 am-5:00 pm ET

Telehealth and Medicare/Medicaid

Below is a resource list with information on the provision of telehealth services. The Academy will post additional information as it comes available.

Toolkits and Resource Centers


Treatment and Management Considerations

 

Ototoxicity, Medications, and Supplements


Government Resources


Public Awareness and Educational Resources


Communication Access Resources 

Mental Health


Resources for Students