CMS releases new flexibility, waiver protections for providers to help handle coronavirus

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched new flexibility and waivers for hospitals and providers to help them combat the coronavirus. (Pixabay)

The Trump administration has issued blanket waivers and new flexibilities to help hospitals and facilities cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

The moves, announced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) late Friday, came several hours after President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for the coronavirus outbreak that has sickened more than 1,200 people in the U.S.

“It is vital that federal requirements designed for periods of relative calm do not hinder measures needed in an emergency,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “The nationwide waivers we are activating today will be a godsend for those on the frontlines of the fight against this new virus.”

The waivers and flexibilities CMS announced Friday include:

  • Waiving requirements that critical access hospitals limit the number of beds to 25 and length of stay to 96 hours;
  • Enabling acute care hospitals to house acute care patients in a separate unit;
  • Waiving replacement requirements when durable medical equipment gets damaged or unusable. A contractor can waive requirements such as a new physician’s order, face-to-face requirement and other documentation;
  • And allowing long-term care hospitals to exclude patients stays from the 25-day average length requirement if treatment is required in conjunction with the emergency.

CMS also sought to quickly approve waivers for states and territories for Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

RELATED: Payers, providers: HHS' interoperability timelines not realistic with coronavirus

For example, states can seek waivers for prior authorization requirements in fee-for-service programs, and they can temporarily suspend certain provider enrollment and revalidation requirements. States can also temporarily waive requirements physicians and other professionals be licensed in the state where they provide services, as long as they have equivalent licensing in another state.

CMS will also suspend certain Medicare screening requirements including site visits and fingerprinting for non-certified Part B suppliers and create a toll-free hotline for providers to enroll and get temporary Medicare billing privileges.

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