Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an additional round of regulatory waivers and rule changes to support the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The changes include new rules to expand COVID-19 diagnostic testing, increase care capacity and the healthcare workforce, and further promote telehealth services.

  • Medicare no longer requires an order from the treating physician or other practitioner for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to get COVID-19 tests and certain laboratory tests required as part of a COVID-19 diagnosis. CMS will also pay hospitals and practitioners to assess beneficiaries and collect laboratory samples and make separate payments for standalone COVID-19 testing. Medicare and Medicaid are covering certain serology (antibody) tests and will cover laboratory processing of certain FDA-authorized tests that allow beneficiaries to self-collect samples at home.
  • CMS now permits hospitals relocating provider-based hospital outpatient departments to off-campus locations to obtain a temporary exception from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 Section 603 payment limitations and permit those facilities to receive continued payment under the Outpatient Prospective Payment System. CMS notes that hospitals may relocate outpatient departments to more than one off-campus location, or partially relocate off-campus while still furnishing care at the original site.
  • CMS has clarified that hospitals may bill as the originating site for telehealth services furnished by hospital-based practitioners to Medicare patients registered as hospital outpatients, including when the patient is located at home.
  • CMS has indicated that it will not reduce Medicare payments for teaching hospitals that shift residents to other hospitals to meet COVID-19 staffing needs.
  • CMS will now cover more than 80 additional services when furnished via telehealth, including emergency department visits, initial nursing facility and discharge visits, and home visits. CMS has expanded the list of services that providers may perform via audio-only telephone.  CMS is also waiving limitations on the types of clinicians that may provide Medicare telehealth services, including physical therapists and speech language pathologists.

The CMS press release detailing the waivers and rule changes may be found here, and the text of the interim final rule may be found here.

Previous Health Law Pulse blog posts covering waiver and workforce flexibilities may be found here and here.

Norton Rose Fulbright attorneys will continue to provide relevant updates for healthcare providers on the Health Law Pulse during the COVID-19 public health crisis.