The Federal government and other entities are adjusting to and planning for the impact of the spreading COVID-19 coronavirus. Here’s a quick look at some of the top developments of interest to the Federal IT community:

FCC Moves March Meeting Online

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced March 24 that its March 31 meeting will be held entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the FCC’s move to telework. The meeting, scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET will be open to the public via live feed on the FCC’s website, as well as its YouTube channel. The FCC is expected to vote on a number of issues, including measures to combat illegal spoofing phone calls, modify the Commission’s rules governing the use of distributed transmission systems by broadcast television stations, and a number of personnel changes.

HHS OIG Launches COVID-19 Portal

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) created a portal with all information and announcements related to COVID-19. In a statement released today, the OIG asked for feedback from any individuals or organizations who need clarification regarding the OIG’s oversight authorities during the pandemic.

Rep. Walden Urges Wireless Providers to Offer More Mobile Hotspot Data During COVID-19

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has called on wireless service providers to “temporarily make as much data available as possible, as quick as possible, to existing devices so families can access mobile broadband at home immediately during this crisis period.” In a March 24 statement, Walden, who is the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said “More than 21 million Americans do not have access to standard broadband services, and others are facing fees and data limits as they rely more on their at-home technologies for work, learning, healthcare, and entertainment.” Walden continued, “Increasing data caps for hotspots is the fastest way to connect Americans temporarily who do not have Wi-Fi at home.” Walden also stressed the need to increase broadband deployment. “We must not lose sight of the bigger problem: the need to deploy broadband in the long-term,” he said. “The broadband divide has never come more clearly into focus than now where states, including Oregon, are saying online school work won’t count in part because not all students have access to broadband.  Whether it’s our kids keeping up with school in the virtual classroom or workers staying on track remotely, we all know there’s more work ahead, and this action will have immediate impact.”

HHS OIG Warns of Medicare COVID-19 Testing Fraud

Malicious actors are scamming Medicare beneficiaries by offering COVID-19 coronavirus testing in exchange for Medicare information and other personal details, according to a fraud alert issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. Through telemarketing calls, social media, and even in-person visits, scammers are trying to use the information gained to commit medical identity theft. If the claim for a COVID-19 test is denied, Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries may be liable for the cost. The Office of the Inspector General recommends that beneficiaries remain wary of unsolicited correspondence and to have all COVID-19 testing approved by a trusted healthcare provider.

HHS OIG Issues Notice on Critical Requests

The HHS OIG issued a notice on how to contact the agency for critical requests during the COVID-19 outbreak as well as a frequently asked questions (FAQ) publication regarding its policy statement on waiving telehealth cost-sharing, work plan updates, and Corporate Integrity Agreements.

“As OIG states in the Policy Statement, OIG is committed to protecting patients by ensuring that healthcare providers have the regulatory flexibility necessary to adequately respond to COVID-19 concerns,” the FAQ states. “We will update this document if we receive additional frequently asked questions related to the Policy Statement.”

The HHS OIG headquarters also stated that its offices would be closed starting March 24, but will still be offering critical services remotely.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.