COVID-19 Resource Page

March 2020

Impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable populations

In these very uncertain times, we appreciate that our stakeholders are doing all they can to keep their communities safe and to increase protections for vulnerable populations.

Your work is especially important since the COVID-19 pandemic will both reveal and widen inequalities across the US and internationally. It will disproportionately burden those already experiencing socioeconomic barriers, especially. We’ve complied a selection of recent articles highlighting the potential impacts on resource-poor individuals and communities. Further down, we have begun to aggregate information on a range of ways that health care systems can act to mitigate these adverse impacts.

Please don’t hesitate to send us ideas about how to make this new resource more useful for you. We know you all are doing rapid cycle learning in this area, too.

Social needs surveillance in the United States

  • Focus-19 reports on the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2-1-1 helpline call data are being analyzed hourly to identify rising needs in communities across the U.S.

Recent news about COVID and health equity

What can health care systems do? : Resources for clinicians and patients

Some communities are mobilizing their health care delivery systems to share vital information with patients that may mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on populations with fewer social and financial resources. Consider asking your legal partners about what is available in your area--and then share that information with your patients and colleagues. Some kinds of information that could be relevant are included below.

Insurance Coverage and Codes for COVID-related Health Care Services

  • Medicare will cover coronavirus testing with no co-pay, as well as medically necessary hospitalization, and other visits related to COVID-19. Testing is covered when a doctor or other health care provider orders it, if patient got the test on or after February 4, 2020. Medicare Advantage plans are permitted to waive co-pays (check with your plan). Hospitalization will be covered if patient cannot be discharged due to quarantine. For additional guidance on coverage, see Medicare guidance here.
  • Some Medicaid plans and Commercial Health Plans may be required to provide coverage of COVID-related visits and testing with no co-pay. For example, on March 5th, California DMHC issued an All Plan Letter to commercial and Medi-Cal health plans with this guidance, available here.
  • Most insurances are expanding coverage for telehealth services. See this notice from CMS about covering all telehealth services in all areas under Medicare with permission granted to waive or reduce cost-sharing requirements.
  • An emergency ICD-10 code of U07.1 is assigned to the disease diagnosis of COVID-19 (WHO)

Pharmacy Delivery Services

  • Consider developing a list of local pharmacies about new home medication delivery policies. Several major pharmacies are waiving fees for home delivery services during the pandemic.

Vaccination Scams/Exploitation

  • As of March 5, 2020, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 and a vaccine is not anticipated for approximately 18 months. The Federal Trade Commission has identified scams related to this topic. Patients/clients should not give personal information or payment to any entity (online or in person) offering COVID-related medical services or tests not directly ordered by their physician.

Cross-Sector Resource Collections

  • The American Public Health Association's Spirit of 1848 Caucus and Human Impact Partners' Public Health Awakened network are actively compiling resources across sectors in a rapidly growing, living database.

Housing

Employment/Income Concerns

  • Some states are creating new rules about eligibility for unemployment insurance, state disability insurance, and paid family leave. Look at your state’s website or consult your medical-legal partnerships to find out what the rules are in your area. Here’s an example from California.

Utility Concerns

Social Isolation

  • Collate resources in your community that may decrease social isolation for select patient populations. For example, the Institute on Aging Friendship line may be helpful to older adults who are able to participate on a phone call and are feeling isolated/anxious due to current conditions. They provide calls in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish. Friendship Line number is 800-971-0016.

Advocacy Opportunities

Ensuring adequate resources in all areas in every community across the US to mitigate the harms to vulnerable populations will require advocacy from many stakeholders. Leaders from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others have suggested a wide range of key policy targets, including:

  • Waivers of all co-pays and deductibles for COVID-19 related testing and treatment
  • Extra funding for community health centers and public health agencies to support emergency mobilization
  • Funding to support COVID-19 outreach to non-English speakers and homeless individuals
  • Moratoriums on evictions. See this memo from the National Housing Law Project
  • Funds to compensate hourly workers without paid leave for their loss of income when sick or staying home to take care of their children because of school closures
  • Expansion of unemployment insurance
  • Efforts to ensure free meals are available to children when schools are closed
  • Universal basic income

Information current as of March 21, 2020.