COVID-19: CMS Rules Suspended to Augment Frontline Staff at Healthcare Facilities

April 14, 2020
Grace Halsey

The changes waive a variety of supervision and certification requirements, streamlining hiring and placement.

Temporary suspension by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services (CMS) of several rules will help healthcare facilities augment frontline staff managing the surge of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2.

In a press release CMS states the changes affect doctors, nurses, and other clinicians nationwide, and waive a variety of supervision and certification requirements so that practitioners can be hired quickly and work to the fullest extent of their licenses.

“It’s all hands on deck during this crisis,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “All frontline medical professionals need to be able to work at the highest level they were trained for. CMS is making sure there are no regulatory obstacles to increasing the medical workforce to handle the patient surge during the COVID pandemic.”

For healthcare professionals, the CMS rules suspension means:

 -- Doctors can now directly care for patients at rural hospitals, across state lines if necessary, via phone, radio, or online communication, without having to be physically present. Remotely located physicians, coordinating with nurse practitioners at rural facilities, will provide staffs at such facilities additional flexibility to meet the needs of their patients.

 -- Nurse practitioners, in addition to physicians, may now perform some medical exams on Medicare patients at skilled nursing facilities so that patient needs, whether COVID-19 related or not, continue to be met in the face of increased care demands.

 -- Occupational therapists from home health agencies can now perform initial assessments on certain homebound patients, allowing home health services to start sooner and freeing home-health nurses to do more direct patient care.

 -- Hospice nurses will be relieved of hospice aide in-service training tasks so they can spend more time with patients.

The changes are effective immediately and, according to the release, address supervision, licensure and certification, and other limitations in healthcare facilities including critical access hospitals, rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and hospice.

These actions follow the CMS announcement on March 30 of a myriad of regulatory waivers and new rules that will allow healthcare systems to deliver services at other community-based locations in order to accommodate COVID-19 patients needing acute care in their main facilities.

See below for other CMS temporary waivers and suspensions.

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