COVID-19 continues to create obstacles and challenges for healthcare compliance professionals. Thriving in this environment means being agile and adaptive.
The AHA’s Requests
Last week, the American Hospital Association (AHA) asked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to keep relaxed regulations in place. Specifically, the AHA is interested in keeping flexibility around telehealth, quality and compliance measures, and bed capacity.
The telehealth changes are ones that have been on the horizon for some time. Essentially, the AHA is asking CMS to continue to allow hospitals to provide a wide range of telehealth services, without limitations as to profession or geographic location. The AHA is also asking for flexibility on billing and payments related to telehealth to be made permanent.
More interestingly, the AHA has also asked that CMS extend regulatory relief related to some quality and patient safety regulations. These include expanding the use of verbal orders, and extending the reuse of PPE.
The AHA has also asked that CMS provide hospitals with a transition period, to allow them to more easily move from pandemic response to ordinary practice. This includes a request for temporary waivers for sanctions and penalties related to HIPAA , and flexibility on audit requirements. And, it includes a request that certain rules and requirements be delayed or suspended.
The Response From CMS
Three days after the AHA released this letter, Michael Caputo, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), tweeted this :
— Michael R. Caputo (@SpoxHHS) June 29, 2020
The public health emergency is currently set to expire on July 25. However, as of this writing, HHS hasn’t officially announced how long the extension will be
This means that we don’t yet know what will happen when the emergency finally does end. Will HHS give a transition period, as the AHA has requested? Will HHS continue to allow flexibility about telehealth, which they have previously indicated they would?
Staying up to date on this fluid situation is going to be a key task for compliance in the coming weeks.
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