The Trump administration is weighing how it might use a natural disaster program to reimburse hospitals and physicians for treating uninsured coronavirus patients.
Dr. Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said during a congressional hearing Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal, that discussions at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are focusing on use of the National Disaster Medical System reimbursement program.
Concerns have reportedly arisen over the costs of treating some of the 27 million uninsured Americans.
The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) program typically reimburses hospitals 110 percent of Medicare rates for treating patients who are victims of hurricanes, for example, and may have been evacuated from adversely affected regions. The program was used in 2017 during Hurricane Irma to provide care to about 85 patients, and during the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri.
The NDMS, according to its website, consists of “a coordinated partnership among the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense.”
Patients eligible to receive care coverage under NDMS must be “transported via Federal assets, processed through a [Federal Coordinating Center] FCC, and referred to facilities or practitioners for Definitive Medical Care.”
Also covered in some circumstances under NDMS are authorized emergency response and disaster relief workers, who suffer injuries or illnesses, and who respond to a public health emergency.
NDMS states that “only providers who currently participate in either Medicare or Medicaid are eligible for reimbursement.”
“All providers who participate in Medicare will be reimbursed based upon their Medicare rates,” the program says. “Any provider who does not participate in Medicare but does actively participate in Medicaid will be reimbursed based upon their Medicaid rates.”
According to the Journal, more than 1,900 hospitals in the United States participate in NDMS.
The United States currently has more than 100 cases of individuals with the novel coronavirus. Washington State has reported six deaths attributed to the virus.
The Hill reported Tuesday that, worldwide, the coronavirus has killed more than 3,100 people, most of them in mainland China. Currently, however, there are more than 90,000 cases globally, with infections confirmed in more than 70 countries and territories.