COVID-19: Policy and Advocacy Updates – January 11, 2022

In this update, The Arc of Massachusetts shares important headlines and policy updates regarding COVID-19 that affect our community, as well as a recap of the advocacy work we have recently been conducting.

The Latest COVID-19 Headlines Affecting Our Community

  • The Boston Globe: “Mass. to get 26m rapid antigen COVID tests in coming months, Baker says”
    • “Governor Charlie Baker said Tuesday that Massachusetts has secured an order to get 26 million rapid antigen COVID-19 tests over the next few months.’We expect to receive rolling shipments from this contract beginning this week,’ Baker said during a State House briefing. He said his administration would detail how the tests would be distributed ‘shortly.'”
  • Kaiser Family Foundation: “White House Directs Private Insurers To Cover Most At-Home Covid Test Costs”
    • “Under guidance issued by the Biden administration yesterday, providers must shoulder the costs for up to 8 rapid antigen tests per month starting Jan. 15. Insurers can work with preferred pharmacies or retailers to directly cover over-the-counter test kits or reimburse beneficiaries after purchase.”
  • AP: “Home COVID Tests To Be Covered By Insurers Starting Saturday”
    • “Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. The Biden administration announced the change Monday as it looks to lower costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid rising frustrations. Under the new policy, first detailed to the AP, Americans will be able to either purchase home testing kits for free under their insurance or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement, up to the monthly per-person limit. A family of four, for instance, could be reimbursed for up to 32 tests per month. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit.”

The Arc’s Recent COVID-19 Advocacy Efforts

The Arc has been advocating for:

  • Rapid test distribution at no cost to providers, families, and individuals.
  • Testing when supplies are available for day and in-home supports.
  • We also would like to see staff caregivers obtain tests for home if infected at work.
  • Rapid test distribution through providers (family support, IL centers, other entities).
  • Reimburse organizations for the purchase of tests before availability.
  • Weekly updates on the congregate care dashboard on numbers infected with this recent surge (presently posted monthly).

We appreciate the communication from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services regarding our requests and information in this update.

Update from Monday, January 10, 2022

  1. State supply of tests is limited but HHS stated it would provide a limited number of test kits for residential locations. Presently states still are competing for the purchase of tests (see Globe news alert above).
  2. For providers, the rule remains NOT to use both Color (PCR) and Rapid test. If done, the agency will not be reimbursed and BinaxNOW tests should not be used for this purpose. HHS will consider specific cases or situations due to outbreak.
  3. Providers can shift between PCR tests (COLOR) and Rapid tests as the situation warrants. No longer have to stick with one type of test.
  4. Biden administration is expected to announce funding for tests for all individuals on Jan 15 (see above from KFF health news).
  5. Staff (and others) who test positive should isolate for 5 days. All should be following the general isolation and quarantine guidance so workers so they CAN return on the 6th day with a mask if they have no symptoms. A test is not required at that point. Given the lack of supply of tests, HHS guidance does not require that tests be given after days of isolation.
  6. Those exposed to someone with COVID infection but do NOT test positive and have been boosted (or completed primary series of J & J within 2 mos, OR Pfizer/Moderna within 6 months), should wear a mask for 10 days and if possible, test for virus on day 5. If you have symptoms isolate as in #5.
  7. Those exposed who are not meeting vaccination timelines in #6 or are unvaccinated, should isolate for 5 days, and mask for 10 days. Test on day 5 if possible. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay home.

Guidance states that staff should follow general isolation and quarantine protocols.

PLEASE NOTE: As of December 30, 2021, all non-health care congregate care settings/residential programs and shelters should adhere to the Isolation and Quarantine Guidance for the General Public. This recently updated guidance includes: group homes, residential treatment programs, community-based acute residential treatment programs, and clinical stabilization service programs funded, operated, licensed, and/or regulated by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Department of Youth Services (DYS), the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS), the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC).

Additionally, this guidance applies to emergency shelter programs, including individual and family homeless shelters, domestic violence and sexual assault shelters, Veterans’ shelters, including those funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development, and approved private special education schools which offer residential services and are approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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