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CMS puts a hold on paperwork requirements, expands access to telehealth

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 01, 2020
CMS is making regulatory changes to assist hospitals in their care of patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has temporarily suspended paperwork requirements for hospitals and is upping access to telehealth services in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. agency is enabling hospitals to do away with written policies on processes to provide clinicians with more time to provide patients with a copy of their medical records so that they can spend more time with patients. It also has increased access to crucial pieces of equipment for Medicare patients and is allowing hospitals to block civilian visitations with COVID-19 patients in isolation to prevent the spread of the virus.

“People with Medicare now have broader access to respiratory devices and equipment such as non-invasive ventilators, multi-function ventilators, respiratory assist devices, and continuous positive airway pressure devices,” said CMS in a statement. “Medicare will now cover respiratory-related devices and equipment for any medical reason determined by clinicians so that patients can get the care they need; previously, Medicare covered them under certain circumstances.”

The agency will continue oversight activities but is suspending the practice of requesting additional information from providers, healthcare facilities, Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans, and States. It also is reprioritizing scheduled audits in Medicare Advantage, Part D plans and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for Elderly organizations to increase focus on patient care.

Changes are also being made in the agency’s telehealth policy, with CMS now funding more than 80 additional services when furnished via telehealth. These include emergency department visits, initial nursing facility and discharge visits, and home visits, which must be provided by a clinician that is allowed to provide telehealth.

Providers can evaluate beneficiaries who have audio only phones, and patients can use commonly available interactive apps with audio and video capabilities to communicate with their clinicians. CMS is allowing telemedicine to cover many many face-to-face requirements so clinicians can consult patients in inpatient rehabilitation facilities, hospice and home health.

“This means they can receive care where they are: at home or in a nursing or assisted living facility,” said the agency. “If they have COVID-19, they can remain in isolation and prevent the spread of the virus. If they aren’t infected, they can get care without risking exposure to others who may be ill.”

Medicare beneficiaries deemed not suitable to leave home by a doctor, due to a medical contraindication or suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will be considered homebound and qualify for the Medicare Home Health Benefit, which allows them to receive services at home.

Doctors can provide virtual check-in services or brief check-ins by audio or video device to both new and established patients under the temporary CMS policy changes, as well as remote patient monitoring services to patients regardless of whether they have coronavirus or a chronic condition.

CMS is also modifying the calculation of the 2021 and 2022 Part C and D Star Ratings to address expected disruptions in data collection and the measurement of scores posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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