CMS to require hospitals to report critical COVID-19 data on bed capacity, PPE and cases

The Trump administration is now going to require all hospitals to submit daily critical information on COVID-19, including bed capacity and the availability of essential supplies.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) released an emergency regulation Tuesday calling for the mandatory reporting. The agency also posted new requirements for lab reporting and revised a policy for physician and pharmacist orders for COVID-19 tests.

“While many hospitals are voluntarily reporting this information now, not all are,” CMS said in a release. “The new rules make reporting a requirement of participation in the Medicare & Medicaid programs.”

The areas that hospitals must report daily include:

  • Number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19-positive patients
  • Intensive care unit beds occupied
  • Availability of essential supplies and equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment

“We believe that universal reporting by all hospitals and [critical access hospitals] is and will be an important tool for supporting surveillance of COVID-19 and for future planning to prevent the spread of the virus,” the rule said.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will specify at a later date the format that hospitals must use to submit the data, but CMS said it hopes to make submission “as user-friendly as possible.”

The emergency regulation bypasses the normal comment period needed for regulations. CMS believes this requirement is necessary for an emergency regulation because “time is of the essence in tracking the incidence and impact of COVID-19.”

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The reporting requirements will be in place for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, which was extended last month until October.

CMS said that it could impose monetary penalties on hospitals that fail to report the data.

The rule goes into effect when it is published in the Federal Register.

The hospital industry slammed the emergency regulation. 

"This disturbing move, announced in final form without consultation, or the opportunity to provide feedback through appropriate administrative procedures prior to it becoming effective, could jeopardize access to care and leave patients and communities without vital health services from their local hospital during a pandemic," the American Hospital Association said in a statement. 

Another part of the rule revises its previous policy that covers repeated COVID-19 tests for Medicare beneficiaries without a doctor’s order.

The revised policy said that each beneficiary can get one test without a physician or healthcare practitioner order, but Medicare will require an order for all other further tests.

The change can help stop “fraudsters from performing or billing for unnecessary tests.”

The rule also implements a requirement under the CARES Act that laboratories report COVID-19 results daily to HHS.

“All laboratories conducting COVID-19 testing and reporting patient-specific results—including hospital labs, nursing homes, and other facilities conducting testing for COVID-19—will be required to comply,” CMS said.

Labs have a one-time, three-week grace period to start reporting the required data.