The United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made many changes to its rules in response to the current coronavirus pandemic. Three that directly impact healthcare include:
- Telehealth. Although CMS has covered telehealth services in the past, it has agreed to increase the types of services it will now cover due to COVID-19. Examples of newly covered services include group psychotherapy, end stage renal disease visits, speech and language comprehension, neuropsychological testing evaluations, therapeutic exercises, physical therapy evaluations, emergency department visits, initial pediatric critical care visits, initial day of hospital care for neonatal care and assessments and care plan for cognitive impairment visits.
- Healthcare providers. The federal agency has also expanded the services hospitals can provide to physicians and other staff. This now includes the ability to offer childcare services and laundry, both of which will help to better ensure physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers can provide care while reducing the risk of transmission to their families and loved ones.
- Capacity. CMS has also temporarily waved rules that require facilities provide services within their buildings. This allows hospitals to also provide services in ambulatory surgery centers and hotels. The change increases the likelihood that hospitals will be able to separate patients and reduce the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus.
At this time the changes are only temporary. The CMS has stated that the changes will expire with the end of the national emergency.
A misinterpretation or failure to follow the rules could result in a federal investigation. Those who are the subject of an investigation are wise to seek legal counsel to advocate for their interests during the investigation.