Coronavirus: CMS suspends rules to boost frontline staff at healthcare facilities

April 13, 2020

The move is aimed at helping the fight against the global pandemic.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has temporarily suspended a number of rules aimed at boosting frontline staff at healthcare facilities battling the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to a news release.

The release says the changes will affect doctors, nurses, and other clinicians across the country by reducing supervision and certification requirements allowing practitioners to be hired quickly and work to the fullest extent of their licenses through new waivers.

“It’s all hands on deck during this crisis,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma says in the release. “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.

The changes CMS has implemented will result in:

·      Doctors being able to directly care for patients at rural hospitals across state lines if necessary, via phone, radio, or online communication without having to be physically present through coordination with nurse practitioners at the facilities allowing additional flexibility

·      Nurse practitioners and physicians being able to perform some medical exams, COVID-19 related or not, on Medicare patients at skilled nursing facilities

·      Occupational therapists from home health groups will be able to perform initial assessments on certain homebound patients so that home health services can star sooner and freeing home-health nurses for more direct patient care

·      Hospice nurses will be relieved of hospice aide in-service training so they can spend more times with patients

These changes apply immediately and 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, the release says.

This bevy of rule suspensions follow actions taken by the agency March 30 aimed at increasing hospital capacity, expanding the healthcare workforce, putting patients over paperwork, and promoting telehealth services. A more complete view of these previous moves can be found here.

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