Last month, the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law – the largest aid package in American history, providing substantial relief funding for hospitals and providers responding to COVID-19, as well as support and resources for patients and consumers that have been impacted by the pandemic.
In order to further explain the support and programs under the CARES Act, my office has put together a resource guide, with descriptions of the different funds and helpful explanations of the programs Congress has authorized in the wake of this global pandemic:
The Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF): $100 billion in direct funding for hospitals and other providers to prepare for, respond to, and prevent the spread of COVID-19. More information about who is eligible and how the money can be used is available here.
On April 7, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the first $30 billion would be distributed based on prior year Medicare claims, with money going to every hospital regardless of COVID-19 need. A second round of funding will be distributed based on need and other factors. I am working closely with my colleagues in New York and other areas with high rates of COVID-19 infection to ensure the next round of funding goes to the hospitals that need it most.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The CARES Act takes several critical steps to speed up the process for getting PPE to providers. It provides nearly $20 billion for purchasing and distributing PPE and makes PPE purchases eligible for funding under the $100 billion PHSSEF.
Even with this funding, I am appalled by the slow pace at which PPE, ventilators, and other critical supplies have been distributed to hospitals and providers in New York. I am working with my colleagues to further employ the DPA and ramp up production of these critically needed supplies and equipment, to make distribution more transparent and efficient, and to rebuild our stockpile.
Coverage and Affordability of COVID-19 Testing and Treatment: The CARES Act requires no out-of-pocket costs or prior authorization for COVID-19 for everyone including the uninsured and no out-of-pocket cost for the vaccine for Medicare beneficiaries and those on private insurance.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) required states to cover COVID-19 treatment and vaccines for Medicaid beneficiaries as a condition of receiving increased Medicaid funding. I am working to make that coverage permanent.
New York State has also declared that COVID-19 testing is free to all eligible New Yorkers as ordered by a health care provider or by calling the NYS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065
Expanded Coverage of Telehealth: The CARES Act dramatically expanded telehealth benefits for Medicare providers and waives many existing restrictions. More information for providers about Medicare telehealth coverage is available here.
The CARES Act will also allow Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) to bill for telehealth services and more information is available on the HRSA website.
Medicare beneficiaries and other patients should contact their health care providers to determine what telehealth options are available.
In New York State, private health insurance companies and Medicaid treat telehealth the same way they treat in-person services. The State Department of Financial Services released updated telehealth guidance for insurance companies and providers during COVID-19, and the state released new guidance for Medicaid providers.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have COVID-19 symptoms. How can I get tested?
If you have life-threatening symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately. If your symptoms are not life-threatening, the first step in accessing a test is to determine whether or not you need to get tested, and the NY Department of Health has an online screening tool to help. If you believe you need to get tested, call your primary care physician or another health care provider to determine when and where you can get tested.
Testing is free to all eligible New Yorkers as ordered by a health care provider or by calling the NYS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065. If you need help getting non-emergency medical care, call 311. You can get care in NYC regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.
Please note that New York City has largely limited testing to those requiring hospitalization, although your medical provider will be able to offer the latest guidance on testing availability. Testing must be ordered by a health professional, and my office cannot obtain testing for individuals.
I am a provider and my hospital is running out of PPE. How can I get more? If your hospital is a member of The Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), you can contact them about distribution of PPE by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (212) 259-2919. If your hospital is not a GNYHA Member, or you work for a non-hospital provider, you can contact the City’s Office of Emergency Management to request supplies at email@example.com.
My company is producing, or wants to produce, PPE during the crisis. How can I get my products to New York State? The state and city both have websites for people able to sell or donate PPE.
New York State has set up a website for manufacturers ready and able to help supply PPE.
New York City has options for both sales and donations. If you are interesting in selling PPE or other equipment directly to the city please visit here. If you can donate PPE or other equipment to the city, please visit here.
What mental health support services are available? Identifying strategies to cope with stress will make you, the people you care about, and our community stronger. Federal, state, and city resources are available to support you and your loved ones.
The CDC has released a guide for managing stress and coping. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has created a guide with tips for social distancing, quarantine, and isolation during an infectious disease outbreak. SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline offers crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text "TalkWithUs" to 66746.
New York State’s Office of Mental Health has set up a hotline to speak with mental health professionals who have volunteered to provide free services. Call 1-844-863-9314 to schedule an appointment. NYC Well has free, confidential mental health support and substance use services. Speak to a counselor via phone, text, or chat in more than 200 languages, 24/7/365. NYC COVID Worker Care Network is providing free support from a volunteer mental, emotional, or spiritual care professional for essential workers during COVID-19.
I am a retired healthcare worker and want to help. What options do I have? New York State is collecting names and qualifications of retired healthcare workers, or those trained as healthcare workers but currently pursuing another career, to build a reserve workforce. You can complete this survey.
Once the reserve workforce is up and running, the New York State Department of Health will post information on its website for hospitals and other providers looking for staff.
What is happening with vaccine development? Through the CARES Act and FFCRA, Congress provided $4 billion to the National Institutes of Health and $27 million to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop vaccines. Additionally, many commercial vaccine manufacturers are also ramping up development of vaccine candidates. About 40 vaccines are in development now. When a vaccine enters the clinical trial phase, it is usually takes about 12 months to test a vaccine and make sure it is ready for broad use.
My 18 months of COBRA Coverage ends soon. Will it be extended because of COVID-19? Right now, there is nothing in place to extend COBRA coverage during the pandemic. That said, you may qualify for a special enrollment period through the Affordable Care Act for up to 60 days after you lose coverage. You can use this screener to determine if you qualify. If you do qualify, visit New York State of Health to enroll.
Similarly, if you lost your health insurance when you lost your job, you may also qualify for a Special Enrollment Period for up to 60 days. You should follow the same steps above to determine if you qualify.
I am a non-immigrant visa holder, and I contracted COVID-19. Will I be able to enroll in health insurance? You may be able to enroll in private health insurance through New York State of Health. Nonimmigrant visa holders are eligible to use the marketplace and may qualify for premium subsidies to lower costs.
My small medical practice has been forced to close because of COVID-19. Is there any help available to me? The CARES Act included a massive investment in small businesses, and your practice may qualify for low- or no-interest loans or grants to cover payroll, rent, and other costs. For more information, please see my Small Business Resource Guide. These programs have proven tremendously popular and as a result, have experienced especially high demand.