Massachusetts government agencies have issued recent guidance and updates concerning the COVID-19 emergency. A summary is provided below.

Allowing Health Care Personnel with Potential Exposure to COVID-19 to Continue to Work

On March 19, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued the following Guidance for Health Care Personnel with Potential Exposure to Patients with COVID-19.

Healthcare facilities must take the following procedures in order that health care personnel (HCP) who have had exposure to COVID-19, but are asymptomatic, may continue to work. Under the guidance, exposed HCP may continue working if:

  • All options to improve staffing detailed in your facility or organization’s emergency management plan have been exhausted;
  • The occupational health services program has been consulted;
  • The health care facility has stopped all non-essential, elective invasive procedures, if applicable; and
  • The health care facility has postponed any non-essential outpatient appointments, if applicable.

If those conditions are met and the facility allows such HCP to continue to work, the facility must:

  • Ensure HCP report temperature and absence of symptoms prior to starting work each day;
  • Ensure HCP wear a facemask for the entire time that they are at work for the 14 days after the exposure event;
  • Direct that if HCP develop even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they must cease patient care activities and notify their supervisor or occupational health services prior to leaving work;
  • Prohibit HCP with even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19 from working while they are symptomatic and, in accordance with DPH guidelines, test for COVID-19. HCP must remain out of work while awaiting COVID-19 test results;
  • Using clinical judgment avoid having HCP care for high risk patients, including immunocompromised patients, for the 14 days after the exposure event; and
  • Consider having HCP work shorter shifts (i.e., 8 hours) as there is early evidence that shorter shifts may be protective.

Commercial Coverage of Telehealth Services

The Division of Insurance issued Telehealth Bulletin: Emergency Measures to Address and Stop the Spread of COVID-19.  This supplements, and in some respects supersedes, the March 6 bulletin to commercial payors regarding COVID-19 coverage responsibilities. This Bulletin provides more guidance for commercial payors, providers and patients regarding telehealth services, and follows on the Governor’s earlier order that commercial payors must cover telehealth to no less extent than MassHealth. See our previous discussion of that order here.

Update to MassHealth Hospital-Determined Presumptive Eligibility (HPE) Application Process

MassHealth issued Eligibility Operations Memo 20-06: Updates to the Hospital-Determined Presumptive Eligibility (HPE) Application Process, which supersedes Eligibility Operations Memo 14-01 published in June 2014, and summarizes MassHealth’s Hospital-Determined Presumptive Eligibility (HPE) process, now addressing patients with diagnosis or a presumptive diagnosis of COVID-19.

Other Support for Health Care Providers

In a press conference on March 20, Governor Baker announced further support for health care providers through an injection of funds to MassHealth for critical, acute care and safety-net health care providers, as well as for certain health care providers required to help ensure that MassHealth members receiving care in the community or nursing facilities do not need to go to the hospital. Also announced was an initiative by MassBio to collect donations of resources and supplies for healthcare institutions.