CMS Declared Sweeping Regulatory Changes Due to the Spike in COVID-19 Patients

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made an announcement that there will be a set of sweeping regulatory adjustments and waivers to give maximum flexibility to healthcare providers when treating patients during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. The new changes will enable healthcare professionals to take action as healthcare delivery coordinators in their locations.

The temporary changes to relieve restrictions are meant to create hospitals and health systems without walls. Thus, hospitals and health systems will have less difficulty handling an expected huge increase in COVID-19 patients throughout the coming weeks.

Under regular circumstances, federal limitations require hospitals to give medical services within their present facilities, but this will not be practical with an increase in patient numbers. As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, hospitals will eventually reach capacity. If they don’t develop more sites to provide treatment to patients, they could be weighed down.

To make sure that all patients can get treatment and not one person is left behind, the CMS has eased restrictions and has issued non-permanent new rules that will allow the provision of treatment in other locations. A lot of ambulatory surgery centers have decided to cancel elective procedures throughout the public health emergency. Hospitals and health systems will be allowed to use those places together with inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, and even dormitories and hotels, and would still be qualified to get reimbursement for services under Medicare. The new places may be used when providing healthcare services to non-COVID-19 patients so that there will be additional inpatient beds for COVID-19 patients in need of intensive care and respirators.

The CMS mentioned that ambulatory surgery centers have two alternatives. They can either contract with local healthcare systems to give services on behalf of the hospital or they could enroll and bill CMS as hospitals for the duration of the public health emergency announcement, provided that is not in conflict with their State’s Emergency Preparedness or Pandemic Program. Healthcare organizations will not be allowed to operate outside of prepared plans at the local level.

To further raise capacity, the CMS has released a waiver that will permit doctor-owned hospitals to increase the number of beds without facing sanctions. Hospitals are granted to set up drive-through screening facilities for COVID-19, utilize off-campus testing sites, and coverage will be provided to laboratory specialists who need to travel to a Medicare beneficiary’s house to get samples to do COVID-19 testing. CMS is budgeting extra reimbursement for ambulances, which are needed for transferring patients to and from healthcare facilities and doctor’s surgeries to make sure they get the needed treatment. Medicare coverage for respiratory-associated devices and apparatus has now been lengthened to cover any medical reason.

Adjustments were furthermore made to aid the quick expansion of the healthcare workers. These changes consist of making Medicare enrollment simpler for providers and permitting teaching hospitals to allow medical residents to deliver services under the guidance of a teaching physician. The CMS has additionally given a blanket waiver to permit hospitals to give more benefits to aid their medical workforce, including multiple daily meals, laundry service for personal clothing, or child care services when the physicians and other personnel are at the hospital giving patient care.

Changes were likewise made to relieve the administrative burden on healthcare professionals with the CMS giving patients more importance than paperwork by getting rid of paperwork requirements to ensure that physicians have more time for managing patients.

The CMS has recently declared that there is additional flexibility for the availability of telehealth services, with repayment now being offered for all Medicare beneficiaries in all locations. Coverage is currently included for over 80 additional services offered through telehealth, so long as those services are given by physicians allowed to give telehealth services.

These new changes and waivers are merely temporary and effective during the national public health emergency for COVID-19, and after that the CMS will assess how best to return to the present system.