CMS Announces Sweeping Regulatory Changes to Address the COVID-19 Patient Surge
On March 13, 2020, President Trump issued a “Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak.” Section 1 of this declaration provides, “[t]he Secretary of [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)] may exercise the authority under section 1135 of the SSA to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule throughout the duration of the public health emergency declared in response to the COVID‑19 outbreak.” On March 30, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) exercised its authority under Section 1135 when it issued an array of temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to give health care providers and suppliers flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, these actions will permit hospitals and healthcare systems to act as coordinators of healthcare delivery in their areas.
Hospitals Without Walls – Increasing Hospital Capacity
Among other actions by CMS included in the announcement, CMS is now allowing hospitals and healthcare systems to provide services in locations beyond their existing walls to address the urgent need to expand care capacity and to develop sites dedicated to COVID-19 treatment. See Taft’s overview of this new Hospitals Without Walls program and the associated CMS waivers and regulatory flexibilities here.
Expanding the Healthcare Workforce, Putting Patients Over Paperwork and Promoting Telehealth
The waivers and new rules issued by CMS extend to nearly every Medicare-enrolled provider and supplier. Certain waivers apply across a number of provider and supplier types. These include:
- Expansion of CMS’s Accelerated and Advance Payment Program – Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) will work to review requests and issue payments within seven calendar days of receiving the request. (See our previous bulletin regarding this expansion.)
- Flexibilities for provider enrollment, including 1) waiving certain screening requirements, 2) postponing all revalidation actions and 3) expediting any pending or new applications from providers.
- Extension of appeals filing timelines and the requirements for a timely request for additional information to adjudicate appeals, as well as creating flexibility in regards to the information required before processing an appeal in Medicare cases.
Other waivers and flexibilities are more narrowly targeted to give specific types of providers/suppliers additional flexibility. See Taft’s overview of these specific waivers and flexibilities here.
These waivers are effective retroactive to March 1, 2020, and they will remain in effect through the end of the COVID-19 emergency declaration. Contact a member of our Health Care & Life Sciences Group with questions about how these waivers may impact you and your organization.
Please visit our COVID-19 Toolkit for all of Taft’s updates on the coronavirus.
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