Tuesday News: Heartbreaking

NC'S COVID 19 STATS ON NURSING HOMES RELEASED, NUMBERS ARE HORRIFYING: Under pressure from advocacy groups and media organizations, North Carolina health officials have released details for the first time Monday on the locations of dozens of nursing homes and other group living facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks across the state. The move marks a significant policy reversal for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which for weeks has maintained that identifying facilities with outbreaks would reveal confidential health information for particular patients. As of Monday, DHHS reported more than 2,500 cases of COVID-19 and more than 150 deaths from the disease in so-called congregate living settings, which include nursing homes, prisons and residential care facilities. Infections in those settings account for more than one-quarter of the state's total cases, and more than half of all deaths. DHHS data on the outbreaks shows The Citadel, a nursing home in Salisbury, N.C., has the largest number of COVID-19 cases so far at 144. The facility has also seen 10 deaths from the disease.

DETAILS BEING WORKED OUT FOR TEMPORARY MEDICAID EXPANSION IN NC FOR COVID 19: The draft bill would allocate $40 million to be used for Medicaid costs, including support for long-term care, primary care and other providers dealing with disrupted revenue. It also pays for the costs of COVID-19 testing and treatment. The money would also cover costs due to increased Medicaid enrollment. The bill would require the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to provide a 5% increase in fee-for-service rates paid to certain providers by the Division of Health Benefits. The department would also be required to provide Medicaid coverage to cover COVID-19 testing to the uninsured. The draft bill would also allow for DHHS to offer temporary, targeted Medicaid coverage to people with income up to 200% of the federal poverty level, but only for the prevention, testing and treatment of COVID-19. The idea may have a harder time winning approval in the Senate, which has resisted Medicaid expansion in the past.

NC LAB TO PAY MILLIONS IN LAWSUIT SETTLEMENT OVER UNNECESSARY TESTS: A North Carolina-based clinical laboratory services company has agreed to pay approximately $43 million to resolve allegations that it billed for medically unnecessary lab tests, the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday. The settlement involving Genova Diagnostics Inc. of Asheville resolves allegations that Genova improperly submitted claims to Medicare, TRICARE, and the federal employee health program for its lab test profiles because the tests were not medically necessary, the department said in a news release. The department also said Genova was accused of engaging in improper billing techniques, and of paying compensation to three vendors that violated a law prohibiting physician self-referral. Under the settlement, Genova has agreed to pay approximately $17 million, through the surrender of claim funds held in suspension by Medicare and TRICARE, plus up to an additional $26 million if certain financial contingencies occur within the next five years.

NC IN TOP TEN STATES THAT ARE FAILING IN SOCIAL DISTANCING: Zhang’s team developed a social distancing index which scores states and counties on a scale from 0 to 100 based on factors including the percentage of people staying home, the number of trips on average people make, how many miles people travel, and travel outside the state or county. A 10 point reduction in the index is equivalent to 10% fewer people staying home, Zhang said. Nationwide, the index decreased from 52 to 44. Every state except for Rhode Island saw a decrease in social distancing, according to Zhang. The ten states with the largest drop in their social distancing index as of April 24 were: Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana, Vermont, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas and Arkansas. Thomas Walle, CEO of Norwegian company Unacast which collects and analyzes location data from various sources, has also been using smartphone data to track how well Americans are complying with stay-at-home orders. He said his social distancing scoreboard shows a similar drop in distance traveled around Easter and then a spike in both distance traveled and the number of devices in the same location in recent days. “This is an early indication that we need to follow in the days and weeks to come of people having a fatigue,” Walle said. “You can definitely see that there’s starting to be a little trend here that people are more outside and less at home.”

TRUMP'S ANTAGONISM TOWARD BLUE STATES COULD LEAD TO FINANCIAL CRISIS: Trump has pushed the idea that a federal aid package would largely benefit fiscally irresponsible states run by Democrats. It’s the latest attempt by the president to cast a partisan frame around a crisis that has ravaged much of the country with little regard for political affiliation. “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump wrote Monday on Twitter. “I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?” A bipartisan letter from the National Governors Association to congressional leaders made clear that the loss of revenue and financial hardship caused by the coronavirus is happening in states of all political stripes. “Congress must appropriate an additional $500 billion, specifically for states and territories, in direct federal aid that allows for replacement of lost revenue,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) wrote in the April 21 letter, which was signed on behalf of the nation’s governors. “These continuing losses will force states and territories not only to make drastic cuts to the programs we depend on to provide economic security, educational opportunities, and public safety, but the national economic recovery will be dramatically hampered.”