CMS announces temporary waivers that include expansion of telehealth coverage

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a series of temporary regulatory waivers and new rules designed to help the U.S. healthcare system respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal agency announced.

The actions cover increasing hospital capacity, expanding the healthcare workforce, cutting back on paperwork requirements and promoting telehealth.

“CMS will allow communities to take advantage of local ambulatory surgery centers that have canceled elective surgeries, per federal recommendations,” according to a CMS press release. “Surgery centers can contract with local healthcare systems to provide hospital services, or they can enroll and bill as hospitals during the emergency declaration as long as they are not inconsistent with their State’s Emergency Preparedness or Pandemic Plan.”

The agency went on: “Local private practice clinicians and their trained staff may be available for temporary employment since nonessential medical and surgical services are postponed during the public health emergency.

“CMS’s temporary requirements allow hospitals and healthcare systems to increase their workforce capacity by removing barriers for physicians, nurses, and other clinicians to be readily hired from the local community as well as those licensed from other states without violating Medicare rules.”

More than 80 Medicare services have been added to the list eligible to be covered via telehealth. “CMS is making it clear that clinicians can provide remote patient monitoring services to patients with acute and chronic conditions, and can be provided for patients with only one disease,” the CMS release added.

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