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Hospital Report

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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

CMS Offering Relief, Regulatory Flexibility in Face of Pandemic

March 31st, 2020

By Jill Drachenberg, Editor, Relias Media

Treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the healthcare system like never before. Hospitals are facing a critical shortage of personal protective equipment, supplies, treatment areas, and even personnel.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is relaxing some regulations and allowing waivers to increase hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients and help uninfected patients receive needed care. Called CMS Hospitals Without Walls, the new, temporary rules will allow hospitals to transfer patients requiring less intensive care to ambulatory surgery centers, rehabilitation facilities, hotels, and dormitories for treatment while still receiving Medicare hospital payments. Medicare also will pay for at-home COVID-19 testing of homebound Medicare beneficiaries.

“This unprecedented temporary relaxation in regulation will help the healthcare system deal with patient surges by giving it tools and support to create non-traditional care sites and staff them quickly,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a statement.

The CMS temporary rules also allow for the following:

  • Expand telehealth to include 80 additional services, including ED visits. Visits can be audio-only for patients who do not have video capabilities.
  • Allow healthcare providers to temporarily enroll in Medicare. This allows hospitals to more easily hire workers from the local community.
  • Issue waivers to expand the roles of physician assistants and nurse practitioners to order tests and medications that may require a physician order.
  • Provide remote monitoring of patient vitals, including blood pressure and oxygen saturation.
  • Eliminate CMS paperwork requirements that may take physicians away from patients. CMS also is postponing audits and extending reporting deadlines.
  • Provide Medicare coverage of respiratory devices for any medical reason, rather than only under certain circumstances.
  • Waive the requirement that certified registered nurse anesthetists must be supervised by a physician, allowing physicians to spend more time in direct patient care.
  • Expand the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program for providers and suppliers.

The temporary rules will be in place for the extent of the national public health emergency status. When the status is no longer active, CMS will evaluate how to return to the regular system.

Relias Media is committed to providing the most up-to-date coverage on the COVID-19 pandemic. Current and upcoming issues of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention and Hospital Employee Health provide in-depth coverage of how hospitals and healthcare professionals can prepare for treating patients and keeping themselves and others safe. Visit ReliasMedia.com for breaking news coverage of the pandemic.