Important COVID-19 Updates for ACG Members and GI Practices

From ACG Legislative and Public Policy Council Chair, Whitfield L. Knapple, MD, FACG

ACG is monitoring the latest information from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and other public health agencies. It is important that ACG members and GI practices have a resource for the latest updates on COVID-19. ACG will continue to provide these updates and strive to be your professional home for your  patients and practices.

HHS: More COVID-19 Tests Available

The federal government said by the end of the week, U.S. laboratories would have enough materials to perform close to 1 million tests. Please note that, according to Politico, some public health experts say that figure is misleading because it is far larger than the number of samples that can be processed in labs in the coming weeks (around 5,000 tests each day).

CMS Develops 2 New Billing Code for COVID-19 Lab Tests

ACG members and GI practices who need to test patients for COVID-19 may use two recently developed billing codes. The Medicare claims processing system will be able to accept codes on April 1, 2020 (for services on or after February 4, 2020).

CMS recently developed the first HCPCS code (U0001) for providers and laboratories to bill for tests and track new cases of the virus. This code is used specifically for CDC-testing laboratories. The second HCPCS billing code (U0002), announced on Thursday, allows facilities and laboratories to bill Medicare and commercial insurers for non-CDC laboratory tests. On February 29, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new policy for certain laboratories to develop their own COVID-19 tests. This second HCPCS code (U0002) should be used for tests developed by these additional laboratories when submitting claims to Medicare or health insurers.

For More Information:

  • Click here to read the latest COVID-19 guidance from CMS
  • Memo: Critical steps for health care facilities to prepare
  • Memo: Information for CLIA-certified laboratories on how to test

What is CMS Telling Medicare Beneficiaries?

On Tuesday, March 3rd, CMS released the following message to Medicare beneficiaries:

You may be hearing about the coronavirus (officially called 2019-novel coronavirus or COVID-19) in the news. While there isn’t a vaccine yet, Medicare is still here to help. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers a test to see if you have coronavirus. This test is covered when your doctor or other health care provider orders it, if you got the test on or after February 4, 2020.

You usually pay nothing for Medicare-covered clinical diagnostic laboratory tests. Note: Your provider will need to wait until after April 1, 2020 to be able to submit a claim to Medicare for this test.”

What about commercial insurers?

On Thursday, March 5th, the health insurance trade association, the America’s Health Insurance Plans, pledged that its member plans will cover doctor-ordered testing for COVID-19.

CDC Updates: CDC Develops Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The CDC recently released FAQs for healthcare professionals and ACG members. Please click here to read.

The CDC continues to update other information on COVID-19 for healthcare professionals. Please click here to stay informed.

The CDC also updated the agency’s guidance for evaluating and reporting “persons under investigation” (PUI) for COVID-19.

Congress Passes Emergency Funding for COVID-19

On Thursday, Congress passed a bill that provides for $8.3 billion in emergency funding to address the forthcoming influx of COVID-19 cases. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law at the time of this writing. Among the major provisions:

  • $826 million to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to drive the development of coronavirus vaccines, treatments, and tests.
  • $61 million to the FDA to speed up review of these new therapies and respond to possible drug and device shortages.
  • $950 million in state and local grants, with half of the money due within 30 days. States will receive a minimum of $4 million.
  • $3.1 billion to purchase medical supplies for state and local health departments to beef up the Strategic National Stockpile.
  • $100 million to community health centers.
  • Telehealth: The bill temporarily exempts current Medicare telehealth restrictions related to the “originating site” and approved telehealth devices. Of note, however, the patient must have been treated by you or your practice at least one time over the last 3 years.

COVID-19 Update & Recommendations for Gastroenterologists” by Mark B. Pochapin, MD, FACG, ACG President and David A. Greenwald, MD, FACG, ACG President-Elect

COVID-19: GI and Liver symptoms:

  • Diarrhea (2-33%) and possibly may be a source of transmission
  • Leukopenia (9-25%)
  • Leukocytosis (25-30%)
  • ALT/AST elevations (up to 37%)
  • Elevated bilirubin (10%). The elevations in liver tests appear to be associated with the most severe COVID-19 infections with mild acute self-limited elevations of liver tests being noted in those with mild COVID-19 infections.

Click here to read entire article by Drs. Pochapin and Greenwald.

ACG Joins Patient Advocate Groups on Capitol Hill

From ACG Vice President and DDNC President, Samir Shah, MD, FACG

On Monday, ACG joined the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC), patients, providers, and other organizations on Capitol Hill to advocate for several important issues facing GI, including increasing access to colorectal cancer screening, reducing step therapy requirements, as well as prior authorizations. ACG appreciates the efforts of the DDNC and thanks them for the continued opportunity to participate in important advocacy days, bringing together patients and medical specialty societies, all speaking with one voice.

Remember to Contact Your ACG Governor

Remember to contact your ACG Governor on important state and local issues impacting you and your practice.

The ACG Board of Governors is one of the most unique aspects of the American College of Gastroenterology. Governors are ACG Fellows that are elected from the membership of a particular state or region. There are currently 77 Governors across seven different regions in the U.S. and abroad. The Board of Governors acts as a two-way conduit between College leadership and the membership at-large. This helps the College make certain it is meeting the evolving needs of the membership.