APA Updates
APA Urges CMS to Waive Telepsychiatric Video Requirements

In a letter sent last week, APA again urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow psychiatrists to provide psychiatric services to Medicare and Medicaid patients via the telephone without requiring a video component and to reimburse those services the same as an in-person visit.

APA initially wrote a  letter to CMS on March 20, requesting that the agency waive the requirement that telemedicine for patients with mental and substance use diagnoses include a video component when that option is not available. In the letter sent on April 2, APA expressed the urgency of the situation for APA members and their patients.

For more information, check out the APA website .
Federal Updates
CMS Approves Pennsylvania Request for Medicaid Section 1135 Emergency Waivers During COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 27, CMS approved an additional five state Medicaid waiver requests under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act, bringing the total number of approved Section 1135 waivers for states to thirty-four.  Pennsylvania was one of those new waivers. The waivers offer states new flexibilities to focus their resources on combatting the outbreak and providing the best possible care to their Medicaid beneficiaries. All Section 1135 approval letters will be posted  here  as they are issued.
Pennsylvania COVID-19 Updates
PAMED and Medical Specialty Colleagues Stand Together to Respond to PA Supreme Court: Letters and Details Enclosed

On April 2, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a reply to the Coalition’s letter of March 30, 2020 regarding its request for the Court to issue a temporary stay of all pre-trial matters such as discovery and depositions regarding healthcare practitioners and providers. In its letter, sent from the Supreme Court’s counsel, Teresa Sicken Sachs, the Court indicated that it would not be commenting on, nor responding to, further written requests. The Court addressed the following:

  • It has received numerous written requests from various organizations. Hence, it will not be issuing further comments or responses.
  • The Court will continue to monitor information from the PA Department of Health and the federal government.
  • Attorney should continue to follow the Court’s existing orders.
  • Specifically, as to the Coalition’s request, and as specified in the Court’s previous order, President Judges’ of the Court of Common Pleas have the discretion to determine which non-essential court functions (which include depositions and discovery) may continue in those respective courts.
  • Non-essential court functions (such as discovery and depositions) are functions that may be continued using advanced telecommunications technology. Therefore, attorneys are authorized to continue discovery and depositions using audio-video technology (such as Zoom, Skype, etc.). Suits against healthcare practitioners and providers may continue and they may be deposed via audio-video technology.
  • New cases may continue to be filed as always. If a statute of limitations is about to end, a plaintiff’s attorney may toll the statute of limitations by e-filing a notice (called a recipe for a writ of summons) indicating that a lawsuit will be commenced soon. By filing this notice, the statute of limitations will be tolled/delayed.
  • Even if a President Judge does not issue a countywide order suspending non-essential court functions, individual attorneys representing healthcare practitioners or providers always have the ability to file a motion with the court seeking a continuance of any proceeding (such as a scheduled deposition) in their respective cases.
NOTE: PaPS signed onto the original letter. The original document along with PAMED’s memo from their president is enclosed for your review. Thanks to PAMED to leading this effort.
OMHSAS Partners with DDAP to Provide Webinar Training

The PA Department of Human Services’ Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) has partnered with the PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) to provide online training on ambulatory withdrawal management due to concerns of alcohol withdrawal with the state liquor store closures.

The webinar will be held on Monday, April 13 at 12 PM. Click here for the flyer.
Pennsylvania Statewide Support & Referral Helpline for COVID-19

The PA Department of Human Services (DHS) recently announced the launch of a statewide Support & Referral Helpline, staffed by skilled and compassionate staff who will be available 24/7 to assist Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions due to the COVID-19 emergency, and refer them to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs.

The toll-free, round-the-clock support line is officially operational. The number to call is 855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

To create and staff the support line, DHS has partnered with the Center for Community Resources (CCR), an experienced regional crisis and call center provider based in Butler County and licensed to provide crisis services.

Many other resources also remain available to Pennsylvanians in need of support, including:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio: 888-628-9454
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “PA” to 741-741
  • Veteran Crisis Line: 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990
  • Get Help Now Hotline (for substance use disorders): 800-662-4357
  • Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Helpline: 888-772-7227
  • National Domestic Violence Helpline: 800-799-7233

Visit the PA Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus web page for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. Additional resources for citizens and DHS providers related to COVID-19 are available here .