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CMS Issues Waivers, New Rules Amid COVID-19 Patient Surge

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on March 30 issued an array of new rules and waivers of federal requirements to help hospitals effectively manage potential surges of COVID-19 patients.

Specifically, the new waivers and flexibile options are designed to:

  • increase hospital capacity by triaging patients to a variety alternate locations, including ambulatory surgery centers, inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, hotels, and dormitories;
  • rapidly expand the health care workforce by making it easier for providers to enroll in Medicare and providing flexibility for medical residents to provide services under the direction of the teaching physician (including supervision virtually by audio/video);
  • temporarily eliminate certain paperwork requirements by extending reporting deadlines and suspending documentation requests, as well as waiving certain requirements related to hospital discharge planning for post-acute care services; and
  • further promote telehealth in Medicare by allowing more than 80 additional services to be furnished via telehealth, to new or established patients, and allowing evaluation by audio phone only, as well as commonly available interactive apps.

CMS also issued blanket waivers of sanctions under the physician self-referral law (Stark law) for COVID-19 purposes. For example, to accommodate patient surge, a hospital could rent office space or equipment from an independent physician practice at below fair market value or at no charge.

America’s Essential Hospitals will send members a detailed Action Update summarizing these temporary new options.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

Maryellen Guinan is a principal policy analyst at America's Essential Hospitals.

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