Probably like everyone else, we are being inundated with information relevant to the COVID-19 virus. The FLAA Board has tried to cull from the information some points specifically relevant to Audiology practices now and when we return to work.
Telehealth. AAA has developed an excellent Telehealth Guidance and Update for audiologists. It is linked to this email.
“Accelerated and Advance Medicare payments provide emergency funding and address cash flow issues …In this situation, CMS is expanding the program for all Medicare providers throughout the country during the public health emergency related to COVID-19. The payments can be requested by … Medicare Part A and Part B providers and suppliers.” An accelerated/advance payment is a payment intended to provide necessary funds when there is a disruption in claims submission and/or claims processing. Most providers and suppliers will be able to request up to 100% of the Medicare payment amount for a three-month period. Guide for submission: Complete and submit a request form. Accelerated/Advance Payment Request forms vary by contractor and can be found on each individual MAC’s website. Complete an Accelerated/Advance Payment Request form and submit it to your servicing MAC via mail or email. CMS has established COVID-19 hotlines at each MAC that are operational Monday – Friday to assist you with accelerated payment requests. You can contact the MAC that services your geographic area. To locate your designated MAC, refer to: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Contracting/Medicare-AdministrativeContractors/Downloads/MACs-by-State-June-2019.pdf .
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion economic relief package, was passed and signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020. The CARES Act will provide economic stimulus to individuals, businesses and hospitals in response to COVID-19-related federal and state government actions. Among Provisions of The Act:
-Paycheck Protection to help small businesses like Audiology Practices pay for expenses
-Loans for businesses with 500 or fewer employees through the Small Business Administration.
-Tax relief to be explained by your accountant.
COVID 19 does not just impact seniors. They tend to be most vulnerable due to chronic conditions and other co-morbidities but it appears to target all age-groups, especially ages 20+. As we know from experience with other viruses, audiologic conditions can present, e.g., vestibular, tinnitus, hearing loss, etc. It is imperative that audiologists provide a full scope of diagnostic and rehabilitative services beyond the pure tone audiogram and product sales. It’s time to “step up to the plate” and demonstrate the value of audiologic services.
Deferred Care. This is care that will not be realized in the short-term but may be realized after the COVID-19 crisis improves. For example, an individual may choose to visit an audiologist later in the year because offices are currently closed. Similarly, routine check-ups and preventive procedures may be postponed due to fear of exposure to the virus. This is going to mean that Audiology practice could be quite busy in the Fall 2020 and beyond. Audiologists should begin today planning to meet the needs of current and future patients.
Many Audiology services and treatments (e.g., hearing aids) are paid with disposable income and not covered by 3rd parties. With the decline in the stock market, layoffs, and general economic instability, audiologists may find patients more reluctant to make large investments in technology. However, they still may require a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, especially in view of the audiologic complications from COVID 19. Time and patient management strategies should be carefully planned to maximize patient outcomes. Following best practices is a part of Value-based Care (See Attached).
On behalf of the FLAA Board of Directors,
Barry A. Freeman, Ph.D.