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AHCA and NCAL release guidelines for PTs, OTs, and SLPs in long-term care facilities; Aetna expands telehealth and e-visit coverage; APTA to host e-visit Facebook Live event, and more.

AHCA and NCAL release guidelines for PTs, OTs, and SLPs in long-term care facilities; Aetna expands telehealth and e-visit coverage; APTA to host e-visit Facebook Live event, and more.

Practice Guidance

March 19: Guidelines Issued on the Role of PTs, OTs, and SLPs in Long-Term Care Facilities During Pandemic
The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living released a joint document focused on changes to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Recommended changes to be considered by LTC facilities include discontinuation of group and concurrent therapy, delivery of therapy in resident rooms rather than therapy gyms, and the use of social distancing "as practicable." AHCA and NCAL also advise against therapists moving between buildings if COVID-19 is discovered in one building.

The statement is part of a broad coronavirus education effort for LTC facilities created by AHCA that's centered on an extensive and frequently updated webpage containing more detailed AHCA recommendations as well as links to resources from CMS, the CDC, and other organizations.

March 19: Aetna Expands Telehealth and Remote Visit Coverage, Allows PTs to Bill for E-Visits
Major commercial insurer Aetna announced that it would require no co-pay on telemedicine visits for any reason for 90 days—and would allow PTs to bill for e-visits consistent with the recent e-visit waiver policy announced by CMS. Collaborative efforts between APTA and Aetna led to the change and inclusion of PTs. All Aetna policy changes are retroactive to March 9.

The Aetna e-visit approach is slightly different expanded from the CMS system, in that it allows PTs to bill for either codes associated with evaluation and management (98970, 98971, 98972) or as well as for assessment and management (G2061, G062, and G2063). CMS only allows PTs to bill for the G codes. Providers should check with Aetna's provider page for updates and changes.

March 19: E-Visit Facebook Live Event to be Held March 20 at 2 pm
Join APTA regulatory affairs experts on Friday, March 20 at 2 pm ET, for a Facebook Live townhall and Q&A session on the e-visit waivers for PTs recently announced by CMS. The event is open to members and nonmembers, but seats are limited. The Facebook Live event will repeat information shared in an APTA webinar set for March 19 at 8 p.m. ET. Recordings of both events will be available afterwards.

March 18: WHO Begins Massive Open Online COVID Courses
The World Health Organization has developed OpenWHO Massive Online Open Courses for COVID-19 to provide real-time training for health professionals, decision-makers and the public. The courses will be offered in several languages.

From CMS

March 18: CMS Publishes Revised Guidance on Fee-for-Service Response That Includes E-Visit Waiver Information
CMS has revised its recent MLN Matters publication on its blanket waivers (1135 waivers) of various requirements to include more information on telehealth-related changes—and specifically for the physical therapy profession, waivers that would allow PTs to conduct digital communications with patients by way of "e-visits." Revised and additional language is indicated in red.

March 17: CMS Says That Elective and Non-Essential Surgeries Should be Delayed
The agency issued a statement pressing for facilities to carefully evaluate risk factors for the spread of COVID-19, and postpone—or consider postponing—a number of different types of surgeries. Carpal tunnel release, colonoscopy, cataract, and endoscopies are among the procedures CMS believes should be postponed; hip and knee replacements, elective spine surgeries, and procedures related to low-risk cancers are listed as surgeries that hospitals should "consider postponing."

From the CDC

March 15: CDC Offers "Get Your Practice Ready" Resources
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 offerings now include a set of printable resources designed to be posted at clinics and other facilities to help providers and patients understand the symptoms of COVID-19, the steps that should be taken to minimize the risk of spreading the virus, and ways to manage respiratory symptoms at home. The materials include a sign providers can post outdoors.

In The Media

March 19: Scientists Say "Flattening the Curve" is Possible, but the Fight May Continue for Months
Health researchers point out that reducing the rate of coronavirus infection will help steer the world away from a calamitous "peak," but doing so will mean that duration of the outbreak will be longer.

March 18: White House Invokes Defense Production Act
President Trump has invoked the World War II-era act to ramp up production of much-needed medical equipment such as N95 masks and ventilators.

Visit APTA's Coronavirus webpage for more information and updates.

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