Audit of Health Resources and Services Administration's COVID-19 Supplemental Grant Funding for Health Centers
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded nearly $2 billion in supplemental grant funding to 1,387 health centers nationwide in fiscal year (FY) 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The funding was intended to support the health centers' activities related to the detection, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19, including maintaining or increasing health center capacity and staffing levels during the pandemic, and expanding COVID-19 testing. The performance period for each of these one-time supplemental grant awards, which HRSA began awarding in March 2020, is 12 months. Health centers were permitted to charge to their awards pre-award costs in order to support expenses related to the COVID-19 public health emergency dating back to January 20, 2020. We will determine whether health centers used their HRSA COVID-19 supplemental grant funding in accordance with Federal requirements and grant terms.
Yearend Review of Opioid Use in Medicare Part D in 2020
Identifying patients who are at-risk of overdose or abuse is key to addressing this crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this need even more pressing. The National Institutes of Health recently warned that individuals with opioiduse disorder could be particularly hard hit by COVID-19, which is a respiratory virus that attacks the lungs. Respiratory disease is known to increase mortality risks among people taking opioids. This data brief would provide information on opioid utilization among beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D in 2020.
Awardee Challenges in Implementing COVID_19 Vaccination Program
CDC Immunization and Vaccines for Children Cooperative Agreement awardees, which are typically State and large metropolitan area public health departments, plan for and oversee the vaccine distribution and administration process. Stakeholders have acknowledged challenges early in Phase 1 distribution and dispensing, and note that these challenges will likely span all three phases identified in the CDC's COVID-19 Vaccine Playbook. We will interview all awardees to identify the reported challenges they are facing while distributing and dispensing vaccines. We will also ask awardees about effective strategies to mitigate those challenges, new challenges they anticipate, and how HHS can best support them in distributing and dispensing COVID-19 vaccines. In doing so, this review will provide HHS with timely and actionable information to address challenges associated with the COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Health Resources and Services Administration's Monitoring of High-Risk COVID-19 Grantees
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is the primary Federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable. HRSA should identify and mitigate risks related to awarding grants to health centers to minimize the potential misuse or loss of Federal funds. In spring 2020, HRSA awarded through three programs nearly $2 billion to approximately 1,380 health centers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To expedite distribution of this funding, HRSA did not require that health centers apply for grants. Instead, it made funds immediately available to health centers. Health centers had 30 days from the award release date to submit the information that is usually submitted, reviewed, and approved during the grant application process prior to a grantee receiving funding. We will determine whether HRSA had an effective process for identifying and monitoring high-risk health centers that received COVID-19 grants.
Audits of Medicare Part B Telehealth Services During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
Telehealth is playing an important role during the public health emergency (PHE), and CMS is exploring how telehealth services can be expanded beyond the PHE to provide care for Medicare beneficiaries. Because of telehealth's changing role, we will conduct a series of audits of Medicare Part B telehealth services in two phases. Phase one audits will focus on making an early assessment of whether services such as evaluation and management, opioid use order, end-stage renal disease, and psychotherapy (Work Plan number W-00-21-35801) meet Medicare requirements. Phase two audits will include additional audits of Medicare Part B telehealth services related to distant and originating site locations, virtual check-in services, electronic visits, remote patient monitoring, use of telehealth technology, and annual wellness visits to determine whether Medicare requirements are met.
Audit of Home Health Services Provided as Telehealth During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to take proactive steps to support the response to COVID-19 through the use of section 1135 waivers. By means of this authority, CMS waived certain requirements in order to expand Medicare telehealth benefits to health care professionals who were previously ineligible, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and others. CMS also amended regulations to allow home health agencies to use telecommunications systems in conjunction with in-person visits. We will evaluate home health services provided by agencies during the COVID-19 public health emergency to determine which types of skilled services were furnished via telehealth, and whether those services were administered and billed in accordance with Medicare requirements. We will report as overpayments any services that were improperly billed.
Audit of Delinquent Noncustodial Parents' Tax Refund and Economic Impact Payment Intercepts
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides qualifying individuals with a recovery rebate (economic impact payment) of up to $1,200 (or $2,400 if married and filing jointly), plus up to $500 for each qualifying child. Congress added a number of exemptions concerning the economic impact payments within the CARES Act; however, it did not exempt child support debt. According to estimates, up to 10.5 million noncustodial parents are delinquent in their payment of child support and could have their economic impact payments intercepted. Based on the significant impact that the CARES Act will have on the collection of delinquent child support due to the intercept of economic impact payments, we determined that the focus of our audit would be to determine whether selected State(s) have policies and procedures in place to ensure that State child support programs collected and distributed delinquent child support under the Federal Tax Refund Offset program.
Race and Ethnicity Data for Medicare Beneficiaries
Accurate, complete, and appropriately detailed race and ethnicity data for Medicare beneficiaries are critical to identifying and mitigating health disparities. As racial and ethnic disparities have emerged among those impacted by COVID-19, the availability and quality of data on race and ethnicity has garnered greater attention and scrutiny. This study will describe the extent to which Medicare's race and ethnicity data for beneficiaries are complete and accurate. We will compare these data to data from other sources. We will also determine the extent to which the Medicare beneficiary race and ethnicity data align with Federal data standards.
Medicaid and ACA Enrollment Processes during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Economic and health impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have left States facing increases in new applications for health insurance through the Medicaid and ACA Marketplace programs. Responding to the pandemic, including meeting the new enrollment and oversight demands, has taxed State health care systems. This evaluation will assess efforts by the States and CMS to effectively enroll residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Medicaid and ACA Marketplace plans. By identifying effective practices or any breakdowns in enrollment and oversight systems, this review would help improve the efficiency of State health insurance enrollment processes under both emergency and more typical conditions.
Medicare Telehealth Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Program Integrity Risks
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS implemented a number of waivers and flexibilities that allowed Medicare beneficiaries to access a wider range of telehealth services without having to travel to a health care facility. This review will be based on Medicare Parts B and C data and will identify program integrity risks associated with Medicare telehealth services during the pandemic. We will analyze providers' billing patterns for telehealth services. We will also describe key characteristics of providers that may pose a program integrity risk to the Medicare program.